Ask any group of people ‘who invented the railway’, and a large proportion will say,’George Stephenson’ .
For example, here is what ask Jeeves as to say:
George Stephenson is credited to have invented the railway.
However, this is yet another of those over simplified facts that are a scourge of our mass knowledge of history. George Stephenson’s Stockington and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, by which time Richard Trevithick had run the first steam locomotive (1804), and carried the first fare paying passengers with the Catch-Me-Who-Can locomotive in London (1808), in the vicinity of Euston.
So, whilst George Stephenson may have produced the first successful railway, he does not hold the title of being its inventor. That must lie with Richard Trevithick.
And what does this have to do with William West? The clue is on page 14 of ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer‘.
It is an interesting link between Trevithick and Mr.West, that the latter well remembered holding a candle to the great Cornish Engineer while the Catch-Me-Who-Can was in the process of construction;and was very proud of recalling the incident.
As a young boy West sat on Trevithick’s shoulder, has he worked away, designing the world’s first passenger locomotive.