In 1804 Richard Trevithick was employed by Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam Colliery in Northumberland. A five-mile wooden wagonway had been built in 1748 to take the coal from Wylam to the River Tyne. Blackett wanted a locomotive that would replace the use of horse-drawn coal wagons. The Wylam locomotive was built but weighing five tons, it was too heavy for Blackett's wooden wagonway.
The colliery village of Wylam is situated on the north bank of the Tyne, about eight miles west of Newcastle. The traveller sees the usual signs of a colliery in the unsightly pumping engines, and slag; whilst a neighbouring iron-furnace in full blast throws out dense smoke and loud jets of steam.