HomeThis week in historyFirst train journey ever on 21st February 1804

First train journey ever on 21st February 1804


Nearly 200 years ago a new era in history was heralded when the first train took its maiden voyage. The early prototype was developed by the English engineer Richard Trevithick. The railway journey began at the ironworks of Penydarren, South Wales and was over nine miles long. It had 5 wagons and carried 10 tons of iron and 70 men. It took a total of 4 hours and 5 minutes for the locomotive to complete the trip. With a speed of 2.4 mph (3.9 km/h) the average human would’ve outpaced the train (3-4 mph).

The steam engine was not originally intended to be a train. In fact, it had been commissioned by the owner of the ironworks, Samuel Homfray, to drive hammers at the mines. Trevithick showed Homfray another use for the steam engine. He mounted the engine onto the wheels to illustrate how it could be turned into a locomotive. Impressed, Homfray bet another ironworks proprietor, Richard Crayshaw, that his new machine could pull 10 tons of iron. Homfray won the bet- though the train managed to break the cast iron tracks on its return trip, due to its heavy weight. The steam engine only had one journey as a train before being retired from the railway. It was kept for its initial job of driving hammers though.

It took another twenty years for the first official passenger train. On 25 September 1825 a line opened taking a total of 550 coal workers from Shildon, UK to Stockton-upon-Tees, UK. More advancements later followed. Click here for a history of the train.

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