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NICK EVANS large oil on board - expansive and powerful depiction of a mining community with houses, smoking chimneys, colliery and a mass of men alongside sheep surrounding a locomotive ridden by gentlemen in top-hats, entitled verso 'Trevithick Engine 1804', signed and dated 1978, 122 x 122cms
Provenance: private collection Cardiff
Auctioneer's Note: on 21 February 1804, the world's first ever railway journey ran 9 miles from the ironworks at Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal, South Wales. It was to be several years before steam locomotion became commercially viable, meaning Richard Trevithick and not George Stephenson was the real father of the railways. In 1803, Samuel Homfray brought Richard Trevithick to his Penydarren ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Homfray was interested in the high pressure engines that the Cornishman had developed and installed in his road engines. He encouraged Trevithick to look into the possibility of converting such an engine into a rail-mounted locomotive to travel over the newly laid tramroad from Penydarren to the canal wharf at Abercynon. It would appear that Trevithick started work on the locomotive in the autumn of 1803 and, by February 1804, it was completed. Tradition has it that Richard Crawshay, owner of the nearby Cyfarthfa ironworks, was highly sceptical about the new engine, and he and Homfray placed a wager of 500 guineas each with Richard Hill (of the Plymouth ironworks) as to whether or not the engine could haul ten tons of iron to Abercynon, and haul the empty wagons back. The first run was on 21 February, and was described in some detail by Trevithick, 'yesterday we proceeded on our journey with the engine, and we carried ten tons of iron in five wagons, and seventy men riding on them the whole of the journey... the engine, while working, went nearly five miles an hour; there was no water put into the boiler from the time we started until our journey's end... the coal consumed was two hundredweight".
Unfortunately, on the return journey a bolt sheared, causing the boiler to leak. The fire then had to be dropped and the engine did not get back to Penydarren until the following day. This gave Crawshay reason to claim that the run had not been completed as stipulated in the wager, but it is not known if this was ever settled!
The engine was, in fact, too heavy for the rails. Later, it would serve as a stationary engine driving a forge hammer at the Penydarren works.
Comments: frame slightly tired and scuffed but in otherwise good order, one of the most powerful Nick Evans work to come to auction showing a seminal moment in industrial history which took place in south Wales
Please note that this lot may be subject to Droit de Suite at 4% of the hammer price (Please see terms / enquire)
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