Georgian Steam and Rail



    Pedestrian curricles | Gas Lighting | Georgian Ballooning | Regency Roads |
    E-mail me | Join the Regency Ring | Back to the Regency collection


    Brief History and Description

    1690

    - Denis Papin, a French physicist and inventor, built the first piston engine used for pumping water.

    1698

    - Thomas Savery, an English engineer, developed a steam engine for the same purpose. Savery's engine used two copper vessels filled alternately from a boiler with steam. Following Savery was Thomas Newcomen, another Englishman, who designed an atmospheric engine which used a counterweighted piston and a vertical cylinder. Although Newcomen's version created the pump, it continued to lack efficiency.

    1758

    An Act of Parliament established the Middleton Railway, Leeds, which is the oldest Railway in the world. It also played host to the first commercially successful, revenue earning, steam locomotives which entered service there in 1812.

    1769:

    - Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot builds a steam carriage.

    1774:

    Englishman James Watts builds first "modern" stationary steam engine.

    1776:

    English tram road is laid down with cast iron angle bars on timber ties

    1784:

    Murdoch (Watt associate) steam engine model runs 6 to 8 mph.

    1789:

    Englishman William Jessup designs first wagons with flanged wheels.

    1800:

    Oliver Evans, an American, creates the earliest successful non-condensing high pressure stationary steam-engine.
    Phineas Crowther of Newcastle-upon-Tyne patented an improved type of vertical engine in 1800. It had no beam. Quite soon it became widely used as a colliery winding engine.
    James Watt's patent expires.

    1802

    - At Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, a steam railway locomotive was built, possibly to Richard Trevithick's design.
    William Symington built a stern wheel steam paddle tug, which underwent successful trials on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Named "Charlotte Dundas", it was afterwards laid aside. Its engine had a Horizontal cylinder.

    1804:

    Colonel Stevens, an American, built a small steamboat with a propeller or "screw" for propulsion instead of paddle wheels. weight: 4,000 lbs.
    Matthew Murray of Leeds, England invents a steam locomotive which runs on timber rails. This is probably the first railroad enginve. Seen by Richard Trevithick before he builds his locomotive also in 1804 (the Wylam, see below).
    Trevithick's "Wylam" locomotive (see picture on left) at Pen-y-Darren. This was the first locomotive up and running at the Penydarn ironworks in South Wales. It was 40 psi steam locomotive, travelled over nine miles at a speed of five mph, pulled a ten ton load, five wagons and 70 men. This had a horizontal cylinder as did the William Symington's steam paddle tug.

    1807

    Robert Fulton, an American, launched his paddle steamer "Clermont", the world's first steam ship to provide a regular passenger service in America.

    1808

    Trevithick's "Catch-me-who-can"(see picture to right) at Euston. It ran on a circular track at Torrington Square off Gower Street in London in 1808 (near the present day Euston Station). Trevithick charged one shilling for a ride on the "Catch-Me-Who-Can". There was a lack of enthusiasm from the public who thought it looked dangerous and wouldn't ride on it, he was forced to drop his fares. It weighed 10 tons and travelled at 15 mph but the weight of the locomotive caused the rails to break and he was forced to bring the experiment to an end.

    1810

    sickness and bankruptcy forced Trevithick and his family to leave London and return to Cornwall he continued to develop new machines.

    1811

    , Richard Trevithick introduced his "Cornish" boiler. It was stronger and more efficient than any boiler in use up to that time, and could withstand steam pressures up to 60 pounds psi (4 bar).
    Arthur Woolf returned to his home county, Cornwall, with a patent for a "compound" engine very similar to the Hornblower engine of 1781. The pursuit of higher steam pressures had begun. The compound engine in time became very widely used.

    1812

    Blenkinsop's rack locomotive.

    1813:

    Englishman William Hedley builds and patents 50 psi railroad locomotive which could haul 10 coal wagons at 5 mph, equal to 10 horses. Hedley's "Puffing Billy" and "Wylam Dilly". see Hedley to the below.

    1815

    Stephenson's "Blücher", it pulls 30 tons at 4 mph, but is not efficient.

    1815:

    Stephenson's second engine: 6 wheels and a multitubular boiler.

    1822:

    Stephenson builds the worlds first commercial rail line, the Stockton and Dallington

    Visit these Steaming sites

    The Kew Steam Museum
    A history of the Steam engine

    Trivia on Rail carriage gauge

    Just a piece of trivia for people that are fascinated by Trivia - all rail carriages were built on a scale of 4 feet eight and half inches wheel gauge and still are. This was because the people who made the carriages for the railway were the same ones that made the coaches that travelled on the roads - and that was the gauge all their tools were designed for.

    There was no variation in this scale, you see all the coachbuilders had developed tools at that gauge because they had to build coaches that would run on the terrible European roads. These roads up until the beginning of the nineteenth century were really dirt and mud with little or not surface so they were badly rutted. In a never ending circle all the ruts were 4 feet eight and a half inches apart, because all coaches were built on that scale. Carriages were made to that specication because if they didn't fit the ruts in the road they might become damaged.

    That gauge was first developed because the Romans who built the first major roads (and also created the first major ruts. All roman chariots were built, you guessed it, at 4 feet eight and half inches wide. And why was that? Because that was the ideal distance to cover the two horses rears that drew their chariots. So four feet eight and half inches is basically two horse ass lengths.

    How Steam Works making an engine go

    This has been taken from This great web site - so visit it to find out more about early steam engines "Every steam engine needs a boiler to make steam from water. In order to generate steam fast enough to supply the engine, most boilers have tubes, either fire tubes or water tubes. These provide a large area of heating surface. Early boilers and engines had to change about 30 pounds of water to steam every hour to supply one horsepower. Modern types do better, altough efficiency varies widely according to type.

    Fuel consumption can be reduced by preheating water, and air for the fire, with heat from exhaust steam. Considerable advantage is obtained from superheat. Since increased temperature is needed to produce steam when the overlying pressure is high, early boilers could barely keep high-pressure steam saturated, that is, free from condensed water vapor, as it expanded and cooled while working trought the engine. By passing steam trought tubes surrounded by fire, it can be superheated several hundred degrees. Then its expansion while working the engine will not cause condensation ad loss of power. Since most water contains minerals which form scale in or around boiler tubes, a water purifier may be needed. A boiler alsoneeds an "injector" of some kind to force water in agianst back pressure from steam.

    Finally every boiler need a "water gauge", to warn when water falls below a safe level, and a "safety valve". This usually has a spring which holds a valve closed tightly against normal steam pressure. If pressure rise unduly, it force the valve open, releasing steam and relieving the excess pressure. Modern boilers and engines use steam pressures of hundreds, of ever thousands, of pounds to the square inch. Railroad locomotives and low-speed ship engines commonly use pressures from 250 pounds upward.

    Large turbines, suche as those in electric-power generating stations, use pressures of from 1,400 to 2,000 pounds or more."

    Return to Regency Collection