Keys to the Past

Glossary

Stockton and Darlington Railway

This is best known as the first public railway. However, its history is more detailed than that alone. Interest in linking the two towns had been made in 1818AD. A meeting led by Quaker Edward Pease, though favouring a canal, commissioned a survey by George Overton to make a feasibility study to examine the options. The interests to be served were to be local and industrial - principally at this stage coal. Overton reported favouring a railway's construction for the cost of £124, 000 including branches for Yarm, Croft and Piercebridge.
A company was set up and the capital raised by the sale of £100 shares after the board was won over by Overton for a railway. The land built on was actually purchased in contrast to the waggonways. Parliamentary approval was sought and gained, after initial delays, after further capital was provided as The Stockton and Darlington Railway Act. Still with eyes on industrial usage tolls were to be charge for Iron, Coal, Lead, wood and other merchandise dependent on the finished/unfinished nature of the material. At this stage horses were expected to be used.

George Stephenson was invited to develop the line. Stephenson re-surveyed the proposed route in October 1821AD, reducing it by three miles and providing easier gradients. Winding engines were to be employed at Etherley and Brusselton. A further Act of Parliament was sought and gained. Construction began in May 1822AD using iron rails from Bedlington ironworks, Northumberland, between Witton Park and Stockton. It was finished by 27th September 1825AD when a trial run was made using 12 coal wagons and one of flour, at an average speed of 10-12 miles per hour.

The 'railway' included inclines, horse-drawn traffic as waggonway and sections where railway trains/locomotives were employed. There was concentration on commercial activities before railway engine drawn passenger traffic for which the line is best known. The line was mainly commercial in its activities carrying limestone, coal, ganister, Iron to and from its extensions from the 1830s onwards. These extensions were in the Wear Valley area, Shildon area, to Barnard Castle, the Middlesbrough docks and staithes and Saltburn-by-the-Sea, (Cleveland). As often happened the company joined with others and reached the Lake District via Barnard Castle as the Stockton and Darlington, and South Durham and Lancashire Union.

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