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Richard Trevithick   1771-1833

By H. Wieand Bowman and Robert J. Gottlieb

Richard Trevithick is given credit for the first self-propelled road passenger vehicle as well as the first full-scale railway steam locomotive.. In 1801 at Camborne, England, he completed and tested a seven-passenger car called The London Steam Carriage, operating on a single cylinder with a spur gear and crank axle to transmit the piston motion to the drive wheels. The car made one mile on its first day and completed a six-mile trip during its final demonstration several weeks later. Describing a trial trip on Christmas Eve of that year, a witness said that Trevithick drove his machine up a hill half a mile, carrying eight people “faster than a man could walk.” But Trevithick could get no one interested enough to invest money in development and finally scrapped the machine, selling its engine to a man who used it to power a mill.

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