The Northumbria Railway Heritage Trail

The Northumbria Railway Heritage Trail

The Northumbria Railway Heritage Trail

The Northumbria Railway Heritage Trail

Northumbria saw much of the early work on the railways and the most famous pioneer of them all, George Stephenson, was born in June 1781 in the small village of Wylam, just eight miles from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The rough trackway outside his house, then a wagon-way laid with wooden rails, was used by William Hedley in 1813 to test his locomotives, one of which was the Puffing Billy. In 1814 George Stephenson designed his own first ‘travelling engine’ for the colliery at Killingworth. Within ten years Stephenson has set up his own workshop at Forth Street in Newcastle and was commissioned to build locomotives for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company. The rest is history. On 27 September 1825 the first public passenger train in the world was drawn by Stephenson’s locomotive, named Locomotion, from Witton Park through Shildon and Darlington to Stockton. The Railway Age had arrived.

Where do you find Railwayana?

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Museum of Science and Engineering, a few minutes walk from Newcastle station, is a good place to start. It has an outstanding collection devoted to engineering, mining and transport, and particularly railways, including Killingworth Colliery 0-4-0 Billy, built in 1826.

George Stephenson’s Birthplace at Wylam (Wylam station is served by Newcastle-Carlisle trains); Wylam Railway Museum, Falcon Centre portrays the work of famous local pioneers George Stephenson, Timothy Hackworth and William Hedley.

Darlington Railway Museum. Stockton and Darlington railway Locomotion 1825, Derwent 1845 and other locomotives and rolling stock, as well as relics of the Stockton and Darlington and North-Eastern Railway companies. The station itself dates from 1842. Darlington is a major junction on the East Coast main line, and North Road the first station out on the only remaining branch to the west, to Bishop Aukland. But to the east there is a fascinating system to various coastal places like Whitby, Saltburn and via the coast through Stockton all the way to Newcastle. Blyth Railway Museum; Bowes Railway, Springwell Village, Gateshead, with its unique demonstration of Stephenson’s Rope Haulage system; Monkwearmouth Station Museum, Sunderland, a classical station with restored booking office, footbridge and sidings with rolling stock, are all worth seeing.

Also see Preston Hall Museum, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, with its Head Wrightson vertical-boilered 0-4-OT locomotive, built in 1870; Ryhope Engines Museum; Tanlield Railway, Andrews House, Sunniside, Gateshead – the oldest existing railway in the world – with regular steam-operated passenger trains; Timothy Hackworth Museum, Soho Street, Shildon, house of a lesser-known engineer of those times; Washington ‘F’ Pit Industrial Museum, Albany District 2, Washington, Tyne and Wear; Newcastle-upon-Tyne High Level Bridge, combined rail and road bridge designed by Robert Stephenson and Thomas Harrison, opened in 1849; Ousebourn and Wllhington Viaducts on the Newcastle and North Shields Railway, designed by John and Benjamin Green; Penshaw-Victoria Viaduct, built of firebrick and stone over Wear Gorge, believed to have the largest arch in Europe; Sunderland-Wearmouth Railway Bridge, and the Tanlield-Causey Arch, regarded by many as the world’s first railway bridge and a unique example of early Georgian engineering.