220 years later

In May 1996 I visited Ironbridge power station, where a replica of Trevithick’s 1802 steam locomotive was being demonstrated. The replica was built by apprentices at the GKN works at Hadley, in Telford, and was in action on plateway rails (steel angle) laid on the sleepers, between the rails of the power station’s oil siding. There is some uncertainty about the original – Trevithick’s 1804 Penydarren locomotive is generally acknowledged as being the world’s first steam railway locomotive. It seems that a locomotive was built in 1802, but whether it steamed successfully seems to be lost in the mists of time. The replica seemed to work OK, apart from needing to be bump-started if it was allowed to stop on top (or bottom) dead centre…

The power station has since closed and been demolished – all that remains is the 400kV switchgear house, and the railway tracks which brought the fuel.  Yesterday afternoon I visited the site to view, learn about, and have a ride on a rail vehicle at the very opposite end of the time scale – the ‘Revolution VLR’ (Very Light Rail), a new and very ‘green’ vehicle which could be in the vanguard of a revival in the fortunes of local rail services. The former oil siding is now in use as a demonstration track for this remarkable railcar. There will be more about this most interesting afternoon on “Geoff’s Rail Diaries”; in the meantime here are a couple of photos which bridge a 220-year span over powered rail transport.

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