Resource Type: Image | Posted on 4th November 2011 by Liam Physick

Catch-me-who-can was the rather provocative name of the world’s first steam locomotive to successfully run on rails. It was invented by the Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick. Trevithick had invented three previous locomotives, Puffing Devil (1801, the first example of steam-powered transport), the London Steam Carriage (1803), and the Pen-y-Darren locomotive (1804), but these all ran on roads: additionally, the Coalbrookdale company had built a railway locomotive for Trevithick but it is not known whether or not it ever ran, and very little is known about it. Catch-me-who-can, named by the of daughter Trevithick’s friend and fellow engineer, Davies Giddy, was built in 1808: unlike his previous locomotives, not only did it run on rails, but the cylinder was mounted vertically and drove the wheels directly with the rods, without flywheel or gearing. Trevithick ran Catch-me-who-can at a “steam circus” between 8th July and 18th September 1808 on a track in Bloomsbury, just south of present-day Euston Square underground station. Spectators were admitted on payment of one shilling and were offered the chance to ride the locomotive: the first time a locomotive had hauled fare-paying passengers. The aim was to show that locomotives could travel faster than horses, but the top speed was 12 mph, and it was too heavy for the cast-iron rails and the soft ground on which the event took place: Trevithick was forced to finish the event after Catch-me-who-can derailed due to a broken rail. The event attracted little interest and, disillusioned, Trevithick designed no more locomotives. Nevertheless, he had shown that steam locomotives on rails were feasible. In 2008, 200 years after the building of the original, a replica of Catch-me-who-can was built by the charity Trevithick 200, and has been steamed more than once


Tagged under: steam locomotives, rails, catch-me-who-can, richard trevithick, pen-y-darren locomotive

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

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