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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 February, 2004, 18:17 GMT
Steam train anniversary begins
Pete Waterman with the Richard Trevithick freight engine
Pete Waterman unveiled a freight engine named after the inventor
A south Wales town has begun months of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the invention of the steam locomotive.

Merthyr Tydfil was the location where, on 21 February 1804, Richard Trevithick took the world into the railway age when he set one of his high-pressure steam engines on a local iron master's tram rails.

The seven-tonne locomotive hauled 10 tonnes of iron, 70 passengers, and five wagons from the ironworks to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal at Abercynon, reaching a top speed of almost 5mph during its nine-mile journey.

Rail enthusiast and pop producer Pete Waterman marked the event on Saturday with the launch of the town's Trevithick Bicentenary.

It was here in Wales, the leading heavy industrial region in the world at that time, that he found the backing to develop his experimental steam locomotive
Rhodri Morgan

Watched by Wales' First Minister Rhodri Morgan, he performed the naming ceremony on a freight locomotive which bears the title the 'Richard Trevithick'.

The day's events also included the re-dedication of the Trevithick monument at Pantmorlais and anniversary walk along the route of the Trevithick's journey 200 years ago to Navigation Basin, Abercynon.

Mr Morgan said: "Cornwall rightly celebrates its famous son Richard Trevithick - a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution and one of the greatest engineers that ever lived."

He said: "It was here in Wales, the leading heavy industrial region in the world at that time, that he found the backing to develop his experimental steam locomotive.

"He was encouraged to build his high pressure steam locomotive by Samuel Homfray, proprietor of the Penydarren Ironworks - a leap of faith when his ideas had already been rejected as 'too risky' by many leading scientists of the age."

The Trevithick 2 coin
The coin was designed at the Royal Mint, Llantrisant

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council is planning to mark the bicentenary of the event with a series of events and exhibitions from February to September 2004.

The festivities continue on Saturday evening when televison personality Rolf Harris unveils a steam exhibition at a gala dinner in Cyfarthfa Castle.

The Royal Mint at Llantrisant, south Wales, is marking the anniversary by featuring the inventor on its new 2 coin.

Trevithick's name is on the outer rim of the coin, together with the date of the locomotive's maiden journey and the words, "invention", "industry", and "progress".




SEE ALSO:
Coin remembers historic journey
08 Jan 04  |  Wales
First 'car' journey re-run
24 Dec 01  |  England
Roadsigns are 200 years late
06 Nov 01  |  England


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