Trains 1830 to 1900

Railways meant the end for canals and coaches. Railways were to transform Britain in the nineteenth century. Wagons pulled along on tracks had existed for some while, but these wagons had been pulled by horses. Advances in railways took place throughout the nineteenth century but there are a number of key dates in the history of railways :

1804 : Richard Trevithick built a steam locomotive for his iron works at Penydarren in Wales. It was essentially built for a bet but it did manage to pull ten tonnes of iron. However, like most first models, it was highly unreliable. What he did, encouraged others to improve on his design.

1811 : John Blenkinsop invented a steam engine which had cogs on one of its wheels. These gripped an extra rail laid down on the normal rail line and gave his engine more grip.

1813 : The “Puffing Billy” was built by William Hedley to pull coal wagons at the Wylam Colliery in Northumberland. It was so reliable that it was used for fifty years.

A man called George Stephenson lived in Wylam. His father looked after the pumping engine at the colliery. By the time George was fifteen, he was working on the same engine as his father. George Stephenson was fascinated by steam engines and in 1821 he was made engineer for the colliery. The owners of the colliery decided to build a rail line from Stockton to Darlington so that they could move their coal to a large market with more ease. Stephenson was given to job of building this line.

1825 : the Stockton to Darlington rail line was opened. Two locomotives were used (the “Experiment” and “No 1”) and they could pull 21 coal wagons 25 miles at 8 miles per hour. This was unheard of at the time and soon the line was in profit. Passengers were soon carried but steam trains did not operate on the line for passengers until 1833. In many senses, 1825 is seen as the start of the Age of the Railways.

The opening of the Stockton to Darlington railway

1826 : George Stephenson was given a much bigger task  – to build a railway between Manchester and Liverpool. However, the company financing the scheme was not convinced that steam trains would worked properly on this rail line. They organised a competition to find out what train and which type of train would be best for their line. The competition was to be held at Rainhill near Liverpool.