Stockton and Darlington Railway
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The Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) in north-eastern England was the world's first publicly subscribed passenger railway. Opened in 1825, it was built between Witton Park and Stockton-on-Tees via Darlington and connected to several collieries near Shildon. 26 miles (40 km) long, it was also the world's longest railway line at the time.
Planned to carry both goods and passengers, the line was initially built to connect inland coal mines to Stockton, where coal was to be loaded onto sea-going boats. Over the next 38 years the S&DR steadily expanded into a substantial network serving south and west Durham, Cleveland and Westmorland and running trains across Cumberland to within a few miles of the west coast. It was taken over by the North Eastern Railway in 1863, but by agreement continued to operate independently for a further 10 years. Much of the original 1825 route is now served by the Tees Valley Line, operated by Northern Rail.
Planning and construction 
The necessity of an efficient transport network for County Durham had been realised as far back as 1767 by George Dixon and other coalmine operators. Loads of coal and iron ore had been moved by horse and cart over great distances to the nearest port. Various schemes were proposed, the most practical having been a system of canals. This was shelved because of the enormous cost and rivalry between various towns, all of whom wanted to be included in the route.
Conceived by wealthy local wool merchant Edward Pease, the S&DR was authorised by Parliament in 1821 and was initially intended to be an ordinary horse-drawn plateway, which were then commonplace in the United Kingdom. However, George Stephenson had been perfecting his engines at Killingworth for about seven years and had built the Hetton colliery railway. With the help of his manager from Killingworth colliery, Nicholas Wood, he persuaded Edward Pease, on the day that the Act received Royal Assent, to allow him to resurvey the route and work it, at least partly, by steam.
Accordingly, a new Act of Parliament was obtained approving Stephenson's changes to the route and a clause added to permit the use of "loco-motive or moveable engines". This latter clause narrowly escaped being struck out of the bill because of officials not understanding the meaning. The bill also included provisions for transporting passengers although, at the time, they were regarded as little more than a sideline. John Lambton, later Earl of Durham, inserted a stipulation limiting the charge for coal to Stockton-on-Tees for shipment to ½d per ton per mile compared with 4d for land sale to protect his own exports from Sunderland. Ironically this formed a vital element in the success of the railway.
Stephenson had given up on the "steam springs" that were proving unsuccessful at Hetton, but retained other improvements, such as the direct connection of the pistons by crank rods, though the wheels were coupled by gears. He also made improvements to the track to overcome the problems with settling of the stone blocks on which they were laid and used T-section malleable iron in fifteen foot lengths, for the rails, pioneered by John Birkinshaw at Bedlington Ironworks in 1820.
Initially Stephenson's son Robert assisted him, but then went to join William James in surveying a proposed new line between Liverpool and Manchester. George and Robert, with Edward Pease and Michael Longridge (owner of Bedlington Ironworks) together established a company at Newcastle-on-Tyne, to manufacture locomotives, which became Robert Stephenson and Company.
Running from Sir William Chaytor's Witton Park Colliery in the west (a director of the railway), after coal trucks had descended the Stephenson-designed Etherley Incline Railway, they crossed the River Gaunless and then descended the Brusselton Incline into Shildon. From here, the 26 miles (42 km) were relatively level through Darlington to Stockton. The line's structures included one of the first railway bridges. Designed by architect Ignatius Bonomi, the so-called 'first railway architect', the Skerne Bridge in Darlington is the oldest railway bridge still in use today. From 1990 until 2003, the bridge appeared on the reverse of Series E £5 notes issued by the Bank of England which featured George Stephenson. The bridge is shown with a train hauled by Locomotion No 1 crossing it.
S&DR's track gauge was required to accommodate the horse-drawn wagons used in the older wagonways serving coal mines. Originally designed to a 56 inch width, an additional half-inch was later added to reduce friction. This influence appears to be the main reason that 1435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) was subsequently adopted as standard gauge.
Opening and early operations 
Steam locomotives were then a new and unproven technology and were slow, expensive and unreliable. The initial impetus for steam power had come during the Napoleonic Wars, when horse fodder had become very expensive and had still not settled down, while improving transport and mining methods was making coal more plentiful. However, many people weren't convinced that steam engines were a viable alternative to the horse. So at first, horse traction predominated on the S&DR, until steam could prove its worth.
The first locomotive to run on the S&DR was Locomotion No 1, built at the Stephenson works though, in the absence of Robert, Timothy Hackworth had been brought in from Wylam. (On Robert's return he took charge of maintenance at the S&DR's Shildon's Soho works.) Locomotion No 1 used coupling rods rather than gears between the wheels, the first to do so.
The official opening of the line was on 27 September 1825. The first passenger train took two hours to complete the first 12 miles (19 km) of the journey and most of 600 passengers sat in open coal wagons while one experimental passenger coach, resembling a wooden shed on wheels and called "The Experiment", carried various dignitaries. By contrast W. Fallows reported to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1863 that, for the inaugural run, a locomotive pulling 33 waggons (five laden with coal, one of flour, one of "surveyors, engineers, &c.", six with "strangers", fourteen with "workmen and others" and last of all, another six of coals) passed from one end of the line to the other. Fallows added that "The whole train moved at a rate of 10-12 miles per hour, with an estimated weight of 86 tons. It was computed that about 700 people were drawn in this train, a number which created the greatest astonishment.". Upon its arrival at Stockton, the train was greeted by a crowd of 40,000 and a 21-gun salute.
An experimental regular passenger service was soon established, initially a horse-drawn coach with horse provided by the driver. While passenger carrying was contracted out, locomotive coal trains were either paid by the ton, contractors providing their own fuel, which meant they tended to use the cargo, or by fixed wages, which meant they did not bother to economise.
Three more engines were built similar to Locomotion then, in 1826, Stephenson introduced the "Experiment" with inclined cylinders, which meant that it could be mounted on springs. Originally four wheeled, it was modified for six. Not all engines came from Stephenson. In 1826 also, Wilson, Robert and Company, of Newcastle, produced one for the line which, rather than use coupling rods, had four cylinders, two to each pair of wheels. Possibly because of its unusual exhaust beat, it became known as Chittaprat. After suffering a collision it was not rebuilt. These early locomotives were slow and unreliable and Hackworth set out to produce an improved design and in 1827 introduced the Royal George, salvaging the boiler from the Wilson engine. He also invented a spring-loaded safety valve, because drivers had been tying them down to prevent them opening when the loco went over a bump.
Steam traction was expensive in comparison to horse drawn traffic, but it soon proved that it was viable and economic. Steam locomotives could haul more wagons and haul them faster, so in a typical working day the expensive steam engine could haul more coal than the cheaper horse. It soon became apparent that mixing faster steam-hauled and slower horse-drawn traffic was slowing the operation down and so as steam technology became more reliable, horse-drawn traffic was gradually abandoned.
At first, the organisation of the S&DR bore little relation to that of most modern railways and was run in the traditional manner of the wagonways of the time. The S&DR merely owned the tracks and did not operate trains; anyone who paid the S&DR money could freely operate steam trains or horse-drawn wagonloads on the line. This separation of track from trains resembled the canals, where canal companies were often forbidden from operating any boats. There was no timetable or other form of central organisation. Trains ran whenever they wanted and fights often broke out when rival operators came into conflict over right-of-way on the tracks.
This chaotic situation was tolerable on completely horse-drawn traffic wagonways, but with faster steam trains it soon became unworkable, as the faster speeds meant a collision could have serious consequences. With the advent of steam, new operating methods had to be developed.
The S&DR proved a huge financial success and paved the way for modern rail transport.
The expertise that Stephenson and his apprentice Joseph Locke gained in railway construction and locomotive building on the S&DR enabled them a few years later to construct the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first purpose-built steam railway and also the Stephensons' Rocket locomotive. The company also proved a successful training ground for other engineers: in 1833 Daniel Adamson was apprenticed to Timothy Hackworth and later established his own successful boiler-making business in Manchester.
Conventional railway 
By 1833, the S&DR had become entirely steam-operated and it gradually began to resemble a modern railway. The S&DR company became the sole train operator on the line, parallel double tracks were built for trains travelling in opposite directions, timetables were established and a crude signalling system was established to prevent collisions. These methods of operation became standard on railways across the world.
The S&DR backed a number of extensions to its core railway.
Bishop Auckland and Weardale Railway 
Bishop Auckland gained its first rail link in 1842, when the S&DR backed Bishop Auckland and Weardale Railway (BA&WR) gained the powers via an Act of Parliament to build a railway line from the S&DR's station at Shildon via Bishop Auckland and Witton-le-Wear into Crook, County Durham. After opening a temporary station at South Church, after completion of the Shildon tunnel the BA&WR errected a permenant station within the town of Bishop Auckland. All operations were sub-leased as agreed to the S&DR.
Weardale Extension Railway 
In 1844, after the West Durham Railway extended from a junction with the Clarence Railway at Byers Green to Crook, the S&DR extended the BA&WR from Bishop Auckland along the river valley to Witton-le-Wear, and then into Crook. In 1845, the S&DR came to an agreement with the Derwent Iron Company to sub-lease the southern section of the former Stanhope and Tyne Railway. It extended the line from Crook to Waskerley and then to Blackhill. That line was opened as the Weardale Extension Railway (WXR).
Weardale Railway to Stanhope 
In July 1845 Parliament passed the Wear Valley Act, which allowed the extension of the BA&WR from a junction at Witton-le-Wear to Frosterley, and a small branchline across the river to Bishopley. With all works again undertaken by the S&DR, this line opened on 3 August 1847. After these works had been completed, the BA&WR amalgamated with the WXR. All service were operated by the S&DR, which officially took over the new company in January 1857.
In 1862, an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the S&DR backed Frosterley & Stanhope Railway to extend the line to Stanhope, thus allowing trains to transport limestone from the Newlandside Estate on the south side of the town.
Founding of Middlesbrough 
The S&DR had been developed to transport coal from West County Durham to the River Tees, based on the investors assumption that Stockton as the then lowest bridging point would be suitable to take the largest ships at the required volume. However, as the trade developed, and with competition from the newly operating Clarence Railway which had established a new port on the north side of the river at Port Clarence, a better solution was required on the southside of the river.
In 1828 the influential Quaker banker, coal mine owner and S&DR shareholder Joseph Pease sailed up the River Tees to find a suitable new site down river of Stockton on which to place new coal staithes. As a result, in 1829 he and a group of Quaker businessmen bought 527 acres (213 ha) of land described as "a dismal swamp", and established the Middlesbrough Estate Company. Through the company, the investors intended to develop both a new port, and a suitable town to supply its labour.
On 27 December 1830, the S&DR opened an extension across the river to a station at Newport, almost directly north of the current Middlesbrough railway station. The S&DR quickly later renamed this new station and associated six-coal staithe dock facility as Port Darlington, hoping to market the facility further. So successful was the port, a year after opening the population of Port Darlington had reached 2,350.
However, with Port Darlington overwhelmed by the volume of imports and exports, in 1839 work started on Middlesbrough Dock. Laid out by Sir William Cubitt, the whole infrastructure was built by resident civil engineer George Turnbull. After three years and an expenditure of £122,000 (equivalent to £9.65m at 2011 prices), the formal opening took place on 12 May 1842. On completion, the docks were bought by the S&DR.
Later history 
Much but not all of the original S&DR line is still operating today, together with the later lines to Saltburn and Bishop Auckland, but the rest of the substantial network the S&DR built up has been closed and dismantled.
See also 
- Shildon Locomotion Museum
- Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
- June 2007 in rail transport - original stone blocks discovered
- Horse drawn railway
- Efforts that kept the mines afloat (From The Northern Echo)
- Smiles 1862, p. 116
- "Withdrawn banknotes reference guide". Bank of England. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
- Smiles, Samuel (1862). Lives of the Engineers III. p. 116.
- W. Fallows (August and September 1863). "On the Origin of the Stockton and Darlington Railway". Report of the Thirty Third Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science: 153.
- Body 1988, p. 43
- Butt 1995, p. 35
- "Bishop Auckland". Disused Stations. 20 March 2013.
- "Cargo Fleet". Dusused Stations. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- Paul Delplanque (17 November 2011). "Middlesbrough Dock 1839-1980". Middlesbrough Gazette. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "FIRST RAILWAY.". The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) (Qld.: National Library of Australia). 9 December 1924. p. 10. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- Pomeranz, Kenneth and Steven Topik (1999). The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture and World Economy, 1400 to the Present. M.E. Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, NY. ISBN 0-7656-0250-4.
- Ransom, P.J.G., (1990) The Victorian Railway and How It Evolved, London: Heinemann.
Further reading 
- A Place In History — A Scarsdale Books (Publishing Services) book on the history of Darlington Railway Centre and Museum.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Stockton and Darlington Railway|
- Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
- The History of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (North East History)
- The Stockton and Darlington Railway: The Birthplace of the Railway
- The Bishop Line to Bishop Auckland