The Puffing Devil by Richard Trevithick. What did the first steam car look like?

Exactly 220 years ago, on December 24, 1801, & nbsp; frightened onlookers jumped out onto the streets of the industrial town of Camborne in the south-west of England. They looked in amazement at the self-propelled & nbsp; carriage with huge rear wheels, between which was located & nbsp; a boiler spewing steam. Shaking on bumps, 'carriage' moved through the streets. This was the first ever demonstration of a steam car. It was created by Richard Trevithick mechanical engineer.

More steam & mdash; & nbsp; less construction

Models of steam wagons Trevithick, who worked as an engineer at the mine, has been building since 1797. He was fascinated by the idea of ​​improving the steam engine. At that time, there were already models of transport that moved due to the energy of water vapor, but they were extremely bulky. The pressure in the boiler was slightly higher than atmospheric pressure, the engine had to be made very large, which increased the size of the entire structure.

Photo of a portrait of Richard Trevithick, engineer, 1816. Photo: Public Domain

How to make the machine compact was, in general, clear: it was necessary to increase the steam pressure in the boiler, and & nbsp; significantly. & Nbsp; The difficulty, however, was that the machine could explode. Trevithick increased the steam pressure four to five times and created a much smaller engine for the same power. This angered his fellow engineers, including James Watt. “ Only a killer who doesn't care about human life can insist on using steam at 7-8 atmospheres, '' & mdash; the eminent Scotsman wrote.

Richard Trevithick ignored these fears and in practice showed that increasing the pressure in the boiler does not lead to an explosion, but rather reduces the size of the steam engine. In 1800, he designed a 1.7-atmosphere engine for a mine hoist. And a year later he built and tested a ferry car & mdash; a self-propelled carriage, where a pressure of 2 atmospheres was used. & nbsp;

She made a splash on the streets of Camborne, where the young inventor lived. The carriage-like car was designed for eight passengers (so it can be considered not just a car, but a bus) and was driven by a steam engine with a single horizontal cylinder and a high-pressure boiler. The design had a platform at the back & mdash; there was a & nbsp; fireman & nbsp; and tossed coal into the furnace. The car puffed, & nbsp; rumbled & nbsp; and frightened the crowd of locals, who nicknamed it & nbsp; the Dragon of Trevithick. The inventor himself called his creation the Puffing Devil. (which, in principle, reflected the same impression).

Unfortunately, history has not preserved images of the first ferry car. Legend has it that one day Richard Trevithick went into a pub, where he sat with friends, and the water in the Puffing Devil's cauldron, left at the entrance, boiled away, after which the car burned out in a few minutes.

The engine was sent to mill

The engineer was not at all embarrassed by this loss. On March 24, 1802, he received a patent for a high-pressure steam engine & mdash; Trevithick and two of his relatives were identified as authors. The inventor had a second wagon on its way, this time & mdash; with a boiler pressure of 3 atmospheres and rail travel. In fact, it was the world's first rail steam locomotive. It was intended for the transportation of ore through the territory of the iron foundry company and was named after her & mdash; Coalbrookdale.

There is also little information about this machine & mdash; no documentary evidence of its operation has survived. Therefore, the first real steam locomotive is the third vehicle built by Richard Trevithick & mdash; Penidarren. He had a pressure of 3.3 atmospheres in the boiler. February 21 & nbsp; 1804 Penidarren for the first time held a train on & nbsp; locomotive & nbsp; traction, & nbsp; carrying 5 wagons, 10 tons of iron and 70 people as passengers. & nbsp; So it became clear that steam traction is a promising idea, but it was necessary to improve the design of railway tracks.

A copy of the world's first railway locomotive Penidarren. Photo: Public Domain

In addition, the engineer did not abandon the intention to make a carriage on a steam engine for city streets. In those same years, he created and patented a self-propelled vehicle known as the London Steam Coach. It was tested in the British capital: the car was running with 7-8 passengers, reaching speeds of up to 15 kilometers per hour. At the same time, the streets had to be closed so as not to create emergency situations. Despite this, an accident occurred: the carriage crashed into the fence of the house, after which the tests were completed, and the steam engine was sent to the mill.

By the way, for several decades, public opinion prevented the use of steam transport on city streets: both horse companies (why would they have such a competitor?) And those who were responsible for the condition of the roads (for the pavements of that time, excessive load). And & nbsp; horses & nbsp; were frightened by rumbling and puffing carriages, becoming uncontrollable. It got to the point that in 1865 a law was passed in & nbsp; Great Britain & nbsp; according to which a man had to walk in front of each self-propelled vehicle waving a red flag and blowing a signal pipe. After that, engineers involved in the development of steam transport turned their attention to railways.

'Catch me who can'

And Richard Trevithick was noted for another project. In 1808, he built & nbsp; on the outskirts of London, a circular railroad, & nbsp; fencing it with a high fence. & Nbsp; The locomotive driving on it accelerated to 30 & nbsp; kilometers per hour and was & nbsp; called “ Catch me who can ''; ('Catch Me Who Can'). It was an attraction that transported people for fun. Anyone could ride it for a fee or just gaze at the outlandish vehicle.

Trevithick hoped that large industrialists would be interested in his scientific and technical research and finance the continuation of the work, but this never happened. In the end, the inventor went broke and left for South America. He returned to his homeland in 1827 and six years later died in poverty.

By that time, a public railway was already operating in Great Britain, along which steam locomotives traveled. But it was built without the participation of Richard Trevithick, the inventor of the Puffing Devil.


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