TRAVEL NORTH - 16: In the Beginning there was the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR)

Beginnings

'Wylam Dilly', (pron. 'Willam') one of Timothy Hackworth's early locomotives built under contract
'Wylam Dilly', (pron. 'Willam') one of Timothy Hackworth's early locomotives built under contract | Source
Soho Cottage at the site of Hackworth's Soho Works - originally he built his loco's and wagons under the auspices of the S&DR, then he set up independently - Shildon Works were still building wagons into the mid-1980s
Soho Cottage at the site of Hackworth's Soho Works - originally he built his loco's and wagons under the auspices of the S&DR, then he set up independently - Shildon Works were still building wagons into the mid-1980s | Source

George Stephenson's name is linked with many railway routes around Britain, son Robert spread his wings. Yet their greatest mark is the first public railway, the Stockton & Darlington, with George's railway building expertise and Robert's locomotives being built at Forth Street in nearby Newcastle-upon-Tyne. With time Robert would eclipse his father with contracts and commissions across Europe and the New World - and would rescue friend Richard Trevithick in South America

Lives of the Engineers, George and Robert Stephenson

The last of NER Class in late British Railways' livery. Owned by the National Railway Museum, she is currently non-operational and can be seen at Head of Steam, Darlington in LNER livery as No. 901
The last of NER Class in late British Railways' livery. Owned by the National Railway Museum, she is currently non-operational and can be seen at Head of Steam, Darlington in LNER livery as No. 901
Class Q7 0-8-0 No.901 at Head of Steam, North Road Station, Darlington in her LNER guise. Her boiler ticket ran out a few years ago, will we see her run again?
Class Q7 0-8-0 No.901 at Head of Steam, North Road Station, Darlington in her LNER guise. Her boiler ticket ran out a few years ago, will we see her run again? | Source
Timothy Hackworth's original 'Sans Pareil' at Shildon's Soho Works site. The replica can be seen along the tracks at 'Locomotion' (see below)
Timothy Hackworth's original 'Sans Pareil' at Shildon's Soho Works site. The replica can be seen along the tracks at 'Locomotion' (see below) | Source
Shildon, NELPG's J72 on a demonstration goods shuttle
Shildon, NELPG's J72 on a demonstration goods shuttle | Source

Housed at North Road Station to the north-west of Darlington is an exhibition titled ''Head of Steam', a worthwhile destination for railway enthusiasts

It was through Darlington on September 27th, 1825 that the first train trundled on the infant Stockton & Darlington Railway, headed by George Stephenson on 'Locomotion No1*'. Starting at Shildon the train did not halt at North Road.

The first station here was built in 1827, a three-storey building with a low platform accessed from the eastern side of the Durham turnpike. It was later extended in 1833 to take up the growth of passenger traffic. This structure was given over to warehousing after 1842 when the new North Road Station was built on its present site. It was extended a number of times during the later 19th Century and took the form you see now. In peak times there were eighty employees at North Road,. The station served several lines - to Shildon, Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle and Stainmore - and later gave access to Scotland via the main line when Bank Top Station was opened about a mile and a half to the south-east. Originally the line ran from North Road across to Fighting Cocks on the east side of the Great North of England Railway (GNER), the spur built off this branch to Bank Top Station in the centre of town. Folk east and west of the GNER a chance to visit Newcastle-on-Tyne or York for the first time without a long journey along substandard, undulating cart wheel-rutted roads by stage or mail coach.

Locomotives passed here on their way to North Road Works, and from the 1840s rail travel had become popular across the class divide. North Road Station in the north of Darlington had its own police superintendent to keep order in the 1860's. First Class passengers had their own entrance to avoid making contact with the lower orders. There were also better class catering and toilet facilities for them. A special waiting room was opened for Ladies.

Staffing was strictly regimented, with up to seven grades of employees. Trainees began as 'artificers and miscellaneous', leading up to 'managerial'. Physical standards, - height, physique - were important and 'those with red hair need not apply'. With regards to staffing, there is a ghost. On a cold night in the 1850s a night watchman named James Durham took it on himself to go down to the porters' cellar to warm himself. Just as he sat down he was shocked by the sight of a man and angry black dog coming at him from the coalhouse next door. The man aimed a blow at Mr Durham and the dog made to bite him. He hit back but his fist went right through the fellow. The 'assailant' returned to the coalhouse with his dog. Mr Durham saw no-one in the coalhouse when he looked, and there was no other way out. It turned out that early in 1845 Thomas Winter, a booking clerk at North Road shot himself and his corpse was laid in the porters' cellar. Mr Winter had also owned a big black dog. There have been no sightings recorded since. You can see into the cellar by the wooden footbridge and read more about him in a booklet by Irene MacLeod and Olive Howe.

After WWII both railway and coal mining went into a decline, and in the 1960s Dr Richard Beeching brought out his two-volume 'The Re-shaping of Britain's Railways', to stall the financial decline of Britain's railway network. A great number of services were affected thtoughout mainland Britain including much of North Road's traffic. The only service to survive the cut-backs was to Bishop Auckland. North Road was downgraded to 'unstaffed halt' status. The buildings were vandalised and an essentiai element of the history of Britain's, no the world's railways rapidly deteriorated.

In 1969 a campaign was set in motion by a local businessman Herbert Wolfe. The Norhern Echo, the north's main newspaper, began the transformation of the south side of North Road Station into a museum, whilst the remaining platform was retained for services to Bishop Auckland. Opening day was 27th September, 1975 on the 150th anniversary of the opening of the S&DR.

The museum is at the heart of an area rich in railway history. A few yards away is the original Merchandising Station (Goods Depot) of the S&DR that dates back to 1833. There is a Merchandising Manager's office from 1839, a Lime Depot (1840), S&DR Carriage Works (across the small field, dating back to 1853, with the site of Kitching's foundry where many of the company's locomotive fleet were built). Eastward is the Skerne bridge (1825) and beyond that - near the College of Haughton Road - is probably the earliest engine shed dating from around 1841 and built for the Great North of England Railway (later York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway, later again part of the North Eastern Railway). North of the museum is the site of North Road Works where Morrison's supermarket now stands. Around the corner from the front of the station (south side) leading to the Durham road (A167) is Macnay Street, named after the secretary of the S&DR Thomas Macnay. The S&DR was taken over by the NER in 1863, its shareholders receiving favourable terms.

Darlington was an important local market town and trading centre from mediaeval days. St Cuthbert's Church in the town centre dates from the 12th Century. A textile industry flourished along the Skerne banks, and later brick-making appeared. The town centre was 'compact', not extending beyond the Skerne or far up the Durham Turnpike (now A167). John Dobbin's painting of the first train on September 27th, 1825, painted from memory years later, shows the scene from the present junction of John Street and High Northgate and the rural outlook is plain to see. The railway transformed Darlington's geography and its industries for the next 140 years or so.

Before looking around the station look briefly into the Edward Pease Room. Here you will see pictures and artefacts linked with the founding of the railway and the Quaker Pease family. The sofa is probably where George Stephenson and Edward Pease sat in 1821, discussing the merits of a steam powered railway as opposed to the canal originally planned for the link with Stockton Wharf.

Of all the exhibits, take note of the line of locomotives beginning with the four-coupled 'Locomotion No.1', originally named 'Active', next in line is 0-6-0 'Derwent', the earliest surviving locomotive purpose-built for the S&DR; follow on to Henry Tennant's 2-4-0 express locomotive No.1463 built for the North Eastern Railway (NER). The NER did not believe in naming engines as many companies did, including the S&DR. Last in line is Vincent Raven's NER Class T3 0-8-0 in its mixed goods livery. Built before Grouping from 1919 these magnificent machines were put on heavy goods and mineral traffic. No.901 is in her NER livery, one of the National Collection's fleet and until recently maintained by the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG). She was taken into the LNER fleet in 1923 as Class Q7, and survived until 1962 under the same classification in British Railways' service, the last of her class (and outlasted by the earlier Raven NER Class T2 0-8-0, LNER/BR Q6, last of class withdrawn in 1967 at the end of steam in the North East - Steam in the North West lasted until 1968).

On the north wall is a long 4mm scale model of the line in its early years (around 1829) built by Darlington MRC, not excactly historically correct in the architecture of some of thr buildings but instructive in its geography. The site of the early North Road Station is clear between the Durham road and the Skerne (a tributary of the Tees), and Stockton's coal handling facilities and station are well modelled with a scale model of a Whitby 'Cat' at the dockside under the coal loading derrick.

Take your time around the premises and exhibits. You can walk along by the cafe and out onto the museum's platform to see the railway vehicles awaiting restoration outside the Merchandising Warehouse (currently preservation workshop), but you are avised not to leave the platform.

Refreshments are available from Reception when the cafe is closed, and museum staff are friendly and helpful. Don't hesitate to ask questions, and there are books, postcards, models or souvenirs you can buy.

Fancy some more railwayana? Take the train to Shildon or drive along the A167, over the A1(M) at Junction 59, onto the B6444 around the south side of Newton Aycliffe and turn right on the A6072 for Shildon. follow the brown 'loco' signs for the Hackworth Museum car park. A footpath links this collection of buildings to the bigger 'Locomotion' exhibition hall, or take a Brakevan ride that passes the earliest locomotive coaling facilities in the world. 'Locomotion'; is the 'overspill' for the national collection in York with special reference in most cases to the North East. There are numerous activities for children here, and a model railway again, operated at fixed times by the Shildon MRC. A snowplough formerly stored at Percy Main (along the North East Coast north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne) has been restored to its NER condition, and there are several items of rolling stock that are of local interest. Close to the main entrance is a narrow gauge locomotive built in Britain for an African railway. On the left as you enter also is the shop, selling models, toys and souvenirs. On the far right along the wall from the toilet facilities is a friendly cafe that provides hot and cold food and refreshments. Take a little time to do the questionnaire. you might win a prize.

* 'Locomotion' was not the locomotive's original name. When first built at the Forth Street Works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, she was named 'Active'. There may have been disagreement over the naming, but the end result was 'Locomotion' took the weight of the inaugural train un-assisted from Shildon to the original terminus at Stockton-on-Tees' riverside. It would become a goods depot when the Leeds Northern Railway built its Stockton station some way away from the river.

In a Who's Who of 19th Century engineering one of the names has to be that of Timothy Hackworth, whose Soho Works at Shildon forged the way. Robert Stephenson's Forth Street Works produced Locomotion for the inaugural run on September 25th, 1825. Soho Works produced locomotives and wagons to Hackworth's designs and is open to the public as a museum, along with Timothy Hackworth's residence close by. Not far away is the North's most recent railway museum, Locomotion (overspill of the National Railway Museum)

Timothy Hackworth and the Stockton & Darlington Railway

S&DR 200 - looking to 2025

In 2015 reading through my copy of 'NELPG NEWS', periodical of the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group based at Darlington and Grosmont, I spotted a gem of information in respect of the S&DR's 200th Anniversary in September, 2025.

"This year marks the 190th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, and a group is working to co-ordinate a series of events to mark the anniversary. Looking further ahead to the 200th anniversary in 2025, the three local authorities (Darlington, Durham and Stockton) and the National Railway Museum came together on 5th March, 2015 to formally launch their collaboration in preparing for this major event. It was also reported that the Friends of [the] Stockton & Darlington Railway are planning a two day conference on the 16th-17th June [2015]. There will be guided walks and speakers discussing World Heritage Status, heritage-led re-generation and the history of the S&DR. Discussions with the Pease family continue about the future of Pease House [business centre of the Peases in the 19th Century]. If this proposed project is to go ahead, thoughts are that a Trust will need to be set up to raise the necessary funds..."

The representative bodies are waiting to hear about the next meeting of the Railway Heritage Committee. Consultation on the draft vision has been delayed due to national and local elections early in May, 2015.

Darlington and Shildon - connected by railway history

The exterior of the Head of Steam exhibition at North Road, reached by footpath from the railway station platform - free parking also available close by - and sited opposite the A1 Locomotive Trust/NELPG works (both organisations share the same site
The exterior of the Head of Steam exhibition at North Road, reached by footpath from the railway station platform - free parking also available close by - and sited opposite the A1 Locomotive Trust/NELPG works (both organisations share the same site | Source
Location of Head of Steam exhibition at North Road, Darlington - within a mile of Bank Top Station and reached by train within minutes - take the same service onward to Shildon
Location of Head of Steam exhibition at North Road, Darlington - within a mile of Bank Top Station and reached by train within minutes - take the same service onward to Shildon | Source
The North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group is based in the old S&DR carriage works, close to the S&DR North Road Station, 'Head of Steam' - at present a display in the signal cabin in the station traces the group's history
The North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group is based in the old S&DR carriage works, close to the S&DR North Road Station, 'Head of Steam' - at present a display in the signal cabin in the station traces the group's history | Source
Connected museums, Hackworth Museum and Locomotion (NRM) at Shildon - with intermediate features
Connected museums, Hackworth Museum and Locomotion (NRM) at Shildon - with intermediate features | Source

Originally the S&DR built a branch from Bowesfield across the Tees near Stockton, downriver to a new site to ship their coal from around Shildon. The site was Newport with its own terminus station, which later became part of the new town of Middlesbrough. A new branch with a new station was built past Newport along the Tees Bay to Redcar. The lines around the south bank of the Tees were extended south-eastward to Guisborough and further east to Edward Pease's dormitory town of Saltburn. Middlesbrough became a railway hub with a grand new station designed by North Eastern Railway architect Thomas Prosser in 1877. Steel works were built in a ribbon development along the Tees, and it became Europe's.fastest-growing town...

The Stockton & Darlington Railway and the Foundation of Middlesbrough

Locomotion, Shildon, a look at the variety of motive power on show

I asked one of the staff to remove the identity ticket from the nearest wheel of this replica if Timothy Hackworth's locomotive 'Sans Pareil' (see original above, near top of page). The locomotive was Hackworth's entry to the Rainhill Trials
I asked one of the staff to remove the identity ticket from the nearest wheel of this replica if Timothy Hackworth's locomotive 'Sans Pareil' (see original above, near top of page). The locomotive was Hackworth's entry to the Rainhill Trials | Source
North Eastern Railway Class M No.1621 basks in the light of the large windows and overhead lighting
North Eastern Railway Class M No.1621 basks in the light of the large windows and overhead lighting | Source
Class Electric 1, No.1 used to operate at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the Redheugh Incline from the riverside to the main line station level. Two were built, one one preserved
Class Electric 1, No.1 used to operate at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the Redheugh Incline from the riverside to the main line station level. Two were built, one one preserved | Source
Another electric locomotive, this one third rail powered belonged to the Waterloo & City Line between Waterloo and Bank Station in the City of London (the line still operates) ,
Another electric locomotive, this one third rail powered belonged to the Waterloo & City Line between Waterloo and Bank Station in the City of London (the line still operates) , | Source
A motorised Whickham Gangers' Trolley. 'Gangers' were men who had responsibility for a length of track, either on a branch or main line
A motorised Whickham Gangers' Trolley. 'Gangers' were men who had responsibility for a length of track, either on a branch or main line | Source
A small two-stroke motor powers the trolley, seen here with the housing removed
A small two-stroke motor powers the trolley, seen here with the housing removed | Source
Out in the yard, the Class C 0-6-0 (LNER/BR J21) 65033 in early BR black awaits restoration in the workshop. This engine has been operating passenger trains at Beamish Open Air Museum up the road near Durham
Out in the yard, the Class C 0-6-0 (LNER/BR J21) 65033 in early BR black awaits restoration in the workshop. This engine has been operating passenger trains at Beamish Open Air Museum up the road near Durham | Source
4771 V2 2-6-2 'Green Arrow', named for the pre-War (WWII) fast freight service of the same name that ran on the LNER's East Coast Main Line
4771 V2 2-6-2 'Green Arrow', named for the pre-War (WWII) fast freight service of the same name that ran on the LNER's East Coast Main Line | Source
A look from the access steps to the cab of 4771 - access into the cab is reserved for pre-arranged visits
A look from the access steps to the cab of 4771 - access into the cab is reserved for pre-arranged visits | Source
A look up at the smokebox of 4771 with the nearside cylinder and brass nameplate - behind is the Deltic in original blue livery with 'speed whiskers'
A look up at the smokebox of 4771 with the nearside cylinder and brass nameplate - behind is the Deltic in original blue livery with 'speed whiskers' | Source
A BR Class 08 0-6-0 shunter (originally from Ipswich Docks) also awaits restoration
A BR Class 08 0-6-0 shunter (originally from Ipswich Docks) also awaits restoration | Source

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Jason Matthews profile image

Jason Matthews 3 years ago from North Carolina

Awesome hub! Voted up!


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Welcome Jason. Glad you like it. Another forty more in this series to work through - when you're ready. There's also the RITES OF PASSAGE series on modelling railways, if you're interested in that side of railways, twenty-one of them, if my memory serves me right.

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