HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, visits Severn Valley Railway

imageThe SVR is currently celebrating 50 years since a small group of young rail enthusiasts gathered in their local pub and decided to reopen the line which was closed in 1963. As part of the celebrations, HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, visited the Severn Valley Railway On Monday 13 April and rode on the footplate of GWR 7812 Erlestoke Manor from Kidderminster to Bewdley. She is A self-confessed fan of steam locomotives and was accompanied by A welcome party of local dignitaries and SVR representatives including theLord Lieutenant of Worcestershire.

At Bewdley she met an enthusiastic group of SVR Pioneers and a range of SVR staff, including staff, Drivers, enthusiastic young volunteers and four founding Members who discussed landmarks in the Fifty year history of the Heritage Railway. She then unveiled a plaque celebrating 50 years of the Severn Valley Railway and signed the visitors book. For the return journey to Kidderminster she was able to admire the views of the picturesque Severn Valley from the comfort of the SVR’s Observation Saloon and was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Carriage Works in Kidderminster where she met some of the young apprentices from the Heritage Skills Training Academy.

Richard Trevithick

Coalbrookdale Engine

Coalbrookdale Engine

Cornish Inventor and Mining Engineer Richard Trevithick was born 13 April 1771 in Tregajorran, Cornwall and his most significant success was the high pressure steam engine and he also built the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive. On 21 February 1804 the world’s first locomotive-hauled railway journey took place as Trevithick’s unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway of the Pen-y-darren Ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. Trevithick was an engineer at a mine in 1797 and with the help of Edward Bull pioneered the use of a High Pressure Steam Engine, but ran afoul of Matthew Boulton & James Watt, who were working on a similar device and held a number of Patents. He improved boiler technology allowing the safe production of high pressure steam, able to move pistons in steam engines  instead of using atmospheric pressure.

William Murdoch also demonstrated a model steam carriage to Trevithick in 1794. In fact, Trevithick lived next door to Murdoch in Redruth in 1797 and 1798. Oliver Evans in the U.S. Was working on something similar and Arthur Woolf was also experimenting on a similar engine whilst working as the Chief Engineer of the Griffin Brewery. However Trevithick actually made high pressure steam work, eliminating the need for a condenser, and allowing the use of a smaller cylinder, saving space and weight. Making the engine more compact, lighter and small enough to carry its own weight even with a carriage attached. Trevithick started building his first stationary models of high pressure steam engines, then attached one to a road carriage. Exhaust steam was vented via a vertical chimney, thus avoiding a condenser and any possible infringements of Watt’s patent, with linear motion being converted into circular motion via a crank instead of a beam.

Trevithick built a full-size steam road locomotive in 1801 in Camborne. He named the carriage ‘Puffing Devil’ and, on Christmas Eve it successfully carried seven men from Fore Street up Camborne Hill, past Camborne Cross, to the nearby village of Beacon with his cousin and associate, Andrew Vivian, steering. This is inspired the popular Cornish folk song “Camborne Hill”. However, a steam wagon built in 1770 by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot may have an earlier claim. During further tests, Trevithick’s locomotive was prone to break down and on one occasion the Boiler was allowed to run dry and the machine exploded. Trevithick did not consider this a serious setback, but rather operator error. In 1802 Trevithick took out a patent for his high pressure steam engine.

London Steam Carriage

London Steam Carriage

To prove his ideas, he built a stationary engine at the Coalbrookdale Company’s works in Shropshire in 1802. The Coalbrookdale company then built a rail locomotive for him, but little is known about it, including whether or not it actually ran. To date, the only known information about it comes from a drawing preserved at the Science Museum, London, together with a letter written by Trevithick to his friend, Davies Giddy. The design incorporated a single horizontal cylinder enclosed in a return-flue boiler. A flywheel drove the wheels on one side through spur gears, and the axles were mounted directly on the boiler, with no frame. Unfortunately  The Puffing Devil could not maintain sufficient steam pressure and would have been of little practical use. In 1803 he built another steam-powered road vehicle called the London Steam Carriage, which attracted much attention from the public and press when he drove it that year in London from Holborn to Paddington and back. It was uncomfortable for passengers and proved more expensive to run than a horse-drawn carriage and so the project was abandoned.

Pen-y-Darren

Pen-y-Darren

In 1802 Trevithick built one of his high pressure steam engines to drive a hammer at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. With the assistance of Rees Jones, an employee of the iron works and under the supervision of Samuel Homfray, the proprietor, he mounted the engine on wheels and turned it into a locomotive. In 1803 Trevithick sold the patents for his locomotives to Samuel Homfray. Homfrey was so impressed with Trevithick’s locomotive that he made a bet with another ironmaster, Richard Crawshay, for 500 guineas that Trevithick’s steam locomotive could haul 10 tons of iron along the Merthyr Tydfil Tramroad from Penydarren to Abercynon , a distance of 9.75 miles (16 km). Amid great interest from the public, on 21 February 1804 it successfully carried 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men the full distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes, an average speed of approximately 2.4 mph (3.9 km/h). As well as Homfray, Crawshay and the passengers, other witnesses included Mr. Giddy, a respected patron of Trevithick and an ‘engineer from the Government’. The locomotive was relatively primitive comprising of a boiler with a single return flue mounted on a four wheel frame. At one end, a single cylinder with very long stroke was mounted partly in the boiler, and a piston rod crosshead ran out along a slidebar, an arrangement that looked like a giant trombone. As there was only one cylinder, this was coupled to a large flywheel mounted on one side. The rotational inertia of the flywheel would even out the movement that was transmitted to a central cog-wheel that was, in turn connected to the driving wheels. It used a high pressure cylinder without a condenser, the exhaust steam was sent up the chimney assisting the draught through the fire, increasing efficiency even more. The proprietor of the Wylam colliery near Newcastle, heard of the success in Wales and wrote to Trevithick asking for locomotive designs. These were sent to John Whitfield at Gateshead, Trevithick’s agent, who built what was probably the first locomotive to have flanged wheels. Unfortunately Trevithick’s machine was too heavy for the wooden track.

Catch-me-who-Can

Catch-me-who-Can

Then In 1808 Trevithick publicised his steam railway locomotive expertise by building a new locomotive called ‘Catch me who can’, built for him by John Hazledine and John Urpeth Rastrick at Bridgnorth in Shropshire, This was similar to that used at Penydarren and named by Mr. Giddy’s daughter. This was Trevithick’s third railway locomotive after those used at Pen-y-darren ironworks and the Wylam colliery. He ran it on a circular track just south of the present day Euston Square tube station in London, Admission to the “steam circus” was one shilling including a ride and it was intended to show that rail travel was faster than by horse.  So Recently a group of dedicated people down at the Severn Valley Railway decided to build a replica of Catch-Me-Who-Can.

In 1805 Cornish Engineer Robert Vazie, excavated a tunnel under the River Thames at Rotherhithe and had serious problems with flooding getting no further than sinking the end shafts. So Trevithick was consulted and paid £1000 (the equivalent of £67,387 as of 2014 to complete the tunnel, a length of 1220 feet (366 m). In August 1807 Trevithick began driving a small pilot tunnel and By 23 December after it had progressed 950 feet (285 m) progress was delayed after The tunnel was flooded twice and Trevithick, was nearly drowned. Progress stalled and the project was never actually completed until 1843 when Sir Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a tunnel under the Thames. Trevithick’s used a submerged tube to cross the Detroit River in Michigan with the construction of the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, under the engineering supervision of The New York Central Railway’s engineering vice president, William J Wilgus. Construction began in 1903 and was completed in 1910. The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel which was completed in 1930 for automotive traffic, and the tunnel under the Hong Kong harbour were also submerged tube designs. Trevithick’s high-pressure steam engines had many applications including cannon manufacture, stone crushing, rolling mills, forge hammers, blast furnace blowers and traditional mining. He also built a barge powered by paddle wheels and several dredgers.

In 1808, Trevithick entered a partnership with West Indian Merchant Robert Dickinson, who had supported Trevithick’s patents. Including the ‘Nautical Labourer’; a steam tug with a floating crane propelled by paddle wheels. He also patented Iron tanks in ships for storage of cargo and water instead of in wooden caskS, these were also used to raise sunken wrecks by placing them under the wreck and creating buoyancy by pumping them full of air. In 1810 a wreck near Margate was raised in this way. Trevithick worked on many other ideas on improvements for ships: iron floating docks, iron ships, telescopic iron masts, improved ship structures, iron buoys and using heat from the ships boilers for cooking. In May 1810, he caught typhoid and nearly died and in February 1811 he and Dickinson were declared bankrupt. Around 1812, Trevithick designed the ‘Cornish boiler’. These were horizontal, cylindrical boilers with a single internal fire tube or flue passing horizontally through the middle. Hot exhaust gases from the fire passed through the flue thus increasing the surface area heating the water and improving efficiency. These types were installed in the Boulton and Watt pumping engines at Dolcoath and more than doubled their efficiency.

Again in 1812, he installed a new ‘high-pressure’ experimental steam engine also with condensing at Wheal Prosper. This became known as the ‘Cornish engine’ and was the most efficient in the world at that time. Other Cornish engineers contributed to its development but Trevithick’s work was predominant. In the same year he installed another high-pressure engine, though non-condensing, in a threshing machine on a farm at Probus, Cornwall. It was very successful and proved to be cheaper to run than the horses it replaced. It ran for 70 years and is exhibited at the Science Museum. Trevithick attempted to build a ‘recoil engine’ similar to the aeolipile described by Hero of Alexandria in about AD 50, this comprised a boiler feeding a hollow axle to route the steam to a catherine wheel with two fine-bore steam jets on its circumference. The first wheel was 15 feet (4.6 m) in diameter and a later attempt was 24 feet (7.3 m) in diameter. To get any usable torque, steam had to issue from the nozzles at a very high velocity and in such large volume that it proved not to operate with adequate efficiency. Today this would be recognised as a reaction turbine.

Around 1811 a miner, named Francisco Uville bought one of Trevithick’s Hight Pressure Steam Engine for draining water from his silver mine at Cerro de Pasco, Peru. In 1813 Uville set sail again for England and, having fallen ill on the way, broke his journey via Jamaica. When he had recovered he boarded the Falmouth packet ship ‘Fox’ coincidentally with one of Trevithick’s cousins on board the same vessel. On 20 October 1816 Trevithick left Penzance on the whaler ship Asp accompanied by a lawyer named Page and a boilermaker bound for Peru where he travelled widely, acting as a consultant on mining methods. The government granted him certain mining rights and he found mining areas, but did not have the funds to develop them, with the exception of a copper and silver mine at Caxatambo.

After serving in the army of Simon Bolivar he returned to Caxatambo but was forced to leave the area and abandon £5000 worth of ore ready to ship. Uville died in 1818 and Trevithick soon returned to Cerro de Pasco And After leaving Cerro de Pasco, Trevithick passed through Ecuador on his way to Bogotá in Colombia. He arrived in Costa Rica in 1822 to build  mining machinery. However transporting ore and equipment, using the San Juan River, the Sarapiqui River, and the railway proved treacherous And Trevithick was nearly killed on at least two occasions – he nearly drowned, and was nearly devoured by an alligator.He made his way to Cartagena where he met Robert Stephenson who was on his way home from Colombia. And Stephenson gave Trevithick £50 to help his passage home. He arrived at Falmouth in October 1827 with few possessions other than the clothes he was wearing, unsurprisingly Trevithick never returned to Costa Rica. In 1829 he built a closed cycle steam engine followed by a vertical tubular boiler. In1830 he invented an early form of storage room heater, which comprised a small fire tube boiler with a detachable flue which could be heated either outside or indoors with the flue connected to a chimney. To commemorate the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 he designed a massive column to be 1000 feet (300 m) high,  100 feet (30 m) in diameter at the base tapering to 12 feet (3.6 m) at the top where a statue of a horse would have been mounted. but it was never built. he was also invited to work on an engine of a new vessel at Dartford, Which involved a reaction turbine.

Sadly Richard Trevithick died penniless on April 22 1833 while lodging at the Bull Hotel, Dartford After being taken ill with pneumonia and had to retire to bed Following a week’s confinement in bed he died on the morning of 22 April 1833. Trevithick was buried in an unmarked grave in St Edmunds Burial Ground, East Hill, Dartford. The burial ground closed in 1857, with the gravestones being removed in the 1960s. A plaque marks the approximate spot believed to be the site of the grave. The plaque lies on the side of the park, near the East Hill gate, and an unlinked path.

Bishop Thomas Percy

imageBishop Thomas Percy was born 13 April 1729. He was ordained Bishop of Dromore, County Down, Ireland, and was also Chaplain to George III. Percy’s greatest contribution is considered to be his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), the first of the great ballad collections, which was the one work most responsible for the ballad revival in English poetry that was a significant part of the Romantic movement.

He was born as Thomas Percy in Bridgnorth, the son of Arthur Lowe Percy a grocer and farmer at Shifnal who sent Thomas to Christ Church, Oxford in 1746 following an education firstly at Bridgnorth Grammar School followed by nearby Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire. He graduated in 1750 and proceeded M.A. in 1753. In the latter year he was appointed to the vicarage of Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire, and three years later was instituted to the rectory of Wilby in the same county, benefices which he retained until 1782. In 1759 he married Anne, daughter of Barton Gutterridge.

Dr Percy’s first work, ‘Hao Kiou Choaan, or The Pleasing History’, was published in 1761. This is a heavily revised and annotated version of a manuscript translation of the Haoqiu zhuan (好逑傳), and is the first full publication in English of a Chinese novel. The following year, he published a two-volume collection of sinological essays (mostly translations) entitled ‘Miscellaneous Pieces Relating to the Chinese.’ In 1763, he published Five Pieces of Runic Poetry, translated from the Icelandic. The same year, he also edited the Earl of Surrey’s poems with an essay on early blank verse, translated the Song of Solomon, and published a key to the New Testament. His Northern Antiquities (1770) is a translation from the French of Paul Henri Mallet. His edition of the ‘Household Book’ of the Earl of Northumberland (1770) (The Regulations and Establishment of the Household of Henry Algernon Percy, the Fifth Earl of Northumberland, at his Castles of Wresill and Lekinfield in Yorkshire. Begun anno domini M.DXII) is of the greatest value for the illustrations of domestic life in England at that period.

These works are of little estimation when compared with the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). In the 1760s, he obtained a manuscript of ballads (the Percy Folio) from a source in Northumberland. He had in mind the idea of writing a history of the Percy family of the peerage (the Dukes of Northumberland), and he had sought materials of local interest. He had sought out old tales from near Alnwick, the ancestral home of the Northumberland Percy family, and he had come across many ballad tales. In 1763, Percy, aiming for the market that Ossian had opened for “ancient poetry” (see James MacPherson), published Five Pieces of Runic Poetry from Icelandic, which he translated and “improved.” Percy was a friend of Samuel Johnson, Joseph and Thomas Warton, and James Boswell. In 1764, Dr Johnson and others encouraged Percy to preserve the poetry he was finding at home. Percy therefore took the ballad material he had from his folio and began searching for more ballads, in particular. He wanted to collect material from the border areas, near Scotland. In 1765, he published the Reliques to great success. Appointed a chaplain to the king in 1769, Percy was formally admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge that year, and received a doctorate of divinity from Cambridge in 1770.

Still not having secured an adequate living, Thomas Percy continued with his project of commemorating the Alnwick area, and so he composed his own ballad poem on Warkworth Castle, then a ruin, which the Dukes of Northumberland controlled and which the Duchess of Northumberland favored for its sublime views. Combining the vogue for the “Churchyard Poets” and the ballad vogue that he himself had set in motion, Thomas Percy wrote The Hermit of Warkworth in 1771. Samuel Johnson famously composed three ex tempore parodies of this verse in the 1780s. When an admirer too often told Johnson of the beautiful “simplicity” of the ballad verse form, Johnson pointed out that the line between simplicity and simple mindedness is narrow: just remove the sense.

The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry set the stage not only for Robert Burns, but also for Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads. The book is based on an old manuscript collection of poetry, which Percy claimed to have rescued in Humphrey Pitt’s house at Shifnal, Shropshire, “from the hands of the housemaid who was about to light the fire with it.” The manuscript was edited in its complete form by JW Hales and FJ Furnivall in 1867-1868. This manuscript provides the core of the work but many other ballads were found and included, some by Percy’s friends Johnson, William Shenstone, Thomas Warton, and some from a similar collection made by Samuel Pepys. Percy “improved” 35 of the 46 ballads he took from the Folio. In the case of The Beggar’s daughter of Bednal Green (Bethnal Green), he added the historical character of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Evesham. In this version the ballad became so popular that it was used in two plays, an anonymous novel, operas by Thomas Arne and Geoffrey Bush, and Carl Loewe’s ballad “Der Bettlers Tochter von Bednall Green”. A fuller account of the history of the ballad can be found in “The Green” by A. J. Robinson and D. H. B. Chesshyre. Percy sadly passed away on 30 September 1811.