Sunday, 21 March 2010
SHILDON The Cradle of the Railways
This stone stands at the very place that Locomotion 1, a steam engine designed and built by George Stephenson, was linked to the carriages carrying the first passengers to travel by steam train....in the world. There were an awful lot of coal wagons attached to the train as well, because the owners didn't want to waste the cost of the journey! Apparently the couple of passenger wagons were packed like sardine tins and many other passengers hung to the fenders, bogeys and other railway bits.The train went from Shildon, through Heighington, Darlington, Preston Park and on to Stockton. It was commonly known as the Stockton&Darlington Railway because people from those two places had invested in it. But it started way up in the fells north of Shildon.
The Durham Walkers are stopped at the entry to the Shildon Tunnel on our 6 mile Sunday Saunter to celebrate the first day of spring. Ian, who led the walk, is a goldmine of information on the railways and coalmines of the area and a pleasure to listen to.
This plaque gives you the dates and details. It is to be found along the path close to where this early railway crosses the Roman road (Deer Street) from York to Edinburgh, via Hadrian's Wall.
In very early days, ponies hauled the wagons along a railway. Sleepers across the line would have tripped them up so sandstone blocks, shown here, held the rails and the ponies trod a safe path between them. If the gradients were too steep for ponies, great, winding engines were used to haul the wagons up the inclines. These stone sleepers are on the Shildon side of the Brusselton Incline. At the eastern end of this line is Shildon. It had been a major British railway centre since the start....but in 1984 the great engine sheds were closed. The miles of sidings were removed and over 2000 jobs were lost overnight. And a great deal of history.
York is a grand city. It has millions of tourists a year and has been awarded the "National Railway Museum" and all the perks that go with it. But it was not the cradle of the railways. Shildon, as some sort of consolation prize, has been awarded the overflow. It is called Locomotion. It's a great place to visit and is free and unhurried. Enjoy it but don't have the soup at the cafe.
Happy First Day of Spring to all of you in the northern hemisphere!!!