Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Robert Davidson

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of Aberdeen and spent a part of his life in Edinburgh and Glasgow. He was a member of the Society of Arts at Edinburgh, and lived at Ravelrig, Midlothian.

Of Ravelrig; resigned The Speculative Society, 1799 ; advocate, 1798 ; d. 1866.

1837 Propelled a car on the unfinished Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway by electric traction. 'construction of the first locomotive carriage from 1837, and in 1839 he finished the first carriage which was capable of running with two persons along a coarse wooden floor. The expense of his experiments till 1840 were entirely defrayed by himself, but at this date the Royal Scottish Society of Arts voted him a few pounds to be employed in determining certain points connected with electro-magnetic machines, and several gentlemen undertook to defray the expense which might be incurred in the construction of a railway carriage capable of being propelled by the agency of electro-magnetism. This gave rise to a large and massive carriage which in September, 1842, was tried on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway' [1]

1842 'A trial on this very ingenious machine, constructed by Mr. Davidson, was made last month on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway in the presence of a large number of gentlemen, many of whom are eminent for their scientific knowledge. The carriage was impelled along the railway about a mile and a half, and travelled at a rate of upwards of four miles an hour, a rate which might be increased by giving greater power to the batteries and enlarging the diameter of the wheels . . . . [more] [2]

In order to investigate the viability of Robert Davidson's locomotive, electrical engineer Ron Jarvis has constructed working models of the locomotive, motor, magnets and batteries, and reported his findings in his book 'Art and Old Iron'.[3]


  • NB according to the description given in The Engineer 1909/02/12, this vehicle was driven by primary batteries


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1909/02/12
  2. The Railway Times of 10th September 1842
  3. 'Art and Old Iron: A Three Dimensional View of the Industrial Revolution, by Ron Jarvis, Beverley Books, 2001