I was appalled to read the review of Anthony Burton's book on Richard Trevithick in the Foresight column (NCE 10/17 August) which revealed the typical schoolboy history that has so denigrated the great engineers such as Watt, Trevithick and Stephenson.
For the record Richard Trevithick's contribution to the human condition was the development of the use of high pressure steam. He reduced the size of workable prime movers from 1,500t for the average beam engine to less than 1t, making them highly portable and able to be attached to the smallest machine tool.
In 1801 he mounted one of these machines on wheels to produce the world's first passenger carrying road locomotive and followed up with the tramroad and edge rail locomotives. When he demonstrated a railway locomotive in London he lost money because nobody came to see it, as the public could see no purpose in travel!
The Trevithick Society is in the final stages of building a full size working replica of the road locomotive and will demonstrate it for the 200th anniversary, along with a conference planned in Cornwall provisionally entitled 'Steam propulsion, past, present and future'.
Geoff Smith-Grogan (M), Trevithick Society