Friday, June 08, 2007

World's first passenger railway uncovered

Down to the work on the Eastern Transport Corridor, where the road-building team have painstakingly uncovered part of the old 1825 Stockton to Darlington trackbed.

About 5 feet below the surface of the bridleway is a line of dressed stone which probably carried the railway line at some point after 1825. Broken stones with drilled holes containing fragments of wood and metal represent the earliest phase of the railway, which was taken up and replaced by the dressed stone now in situ.

Archaeologists will be digging trenches on Tuesday and Wednesday to explore the remains further, and make better sense of what's been discovered.

This represents a pivotal moment not only in the history of the town, but also of the Industrial Revolution as a whole. Whilst much of the trackbed will have to be preserved and reburied, I hope that we can incorporate some of it into a display on the cyclepath along the Eastern Transport Corridor. Now it's over to the archaeologists to tell us what we have here.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you have discovered the trackbed of the D & S Railway. I have been saying for a long time that we have a potential World Heritage Site here.

My Cousin from Toronto in Canada came over two or three years ago and wanted to see the route. I took him to the part at Red Hall and we were both shocked and appalled at the neglected state.

One of the newspapers in Canada I think it was the Toronto Globe and Mail came over to find the route of the D & S Railway but had to give up because they could not find it and they wrote a very scathing article about how we neglect our heritage which is true.

Anonymous said...


Sorry I fiorgot to add my name to the above posting

Alan Macnab

The Darlington Tory said...

Now it has been uncovered it should become a world heritage site.
We have never made enough of this connection to the railways, it is shortsighted on the part of the council.

But with all the political parties in the town they cannot or will not see the pontential, and act for today instead of tommorrow.

As much of this track bed should be preserved, an adjacent track should be laid with a working 'Rocket' ferrying tourists up and down, and the original should be the centre piece of the revamped museum.

Further the set of terrace near the museum should be bought up and made into a living history museum.

Yes it will cost money but it would bring more people to Darlington than any new town centre or shopping mall.

One day our politicians may become proud of heritage.


Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

Darlington Tory

I have written to the Echo and am about to post on the Liar website. I will notify English Heritage as well.

How about forming a group to preserve this area?
What do you think. Sorry to hijack your blog site Nick.

The Darlington Tory said...

Alan, you can count me in, this site is far to important to allow a road over it.

The tourism potential is immense.

Please keep me informed.


Darlington Councillor said...

Firstly, Dave, I'm loathe to take a history lecture from someone who thinks that we should have a replica of the Rocket running up and down the trackbed. The Rocket was Stephenson's entry to the Rainhill trials in 1929, and to my knowledge never came to Darlington. The world's first passenger locomotive was the Locomotion which is preserved in our railway museum.

I'd cordially suggest you pop up there and learn about the history of the railways here in Darlington before posting again on this subject.

Alan - Durham County Council's original Cross Town Route obliterated the route of the old Stockton and Darlington line. Our Eastern Transport Corridor in contrast runs alongside it, and a cycle/footpath will follow the greater part of its route.

It would seem that the original trackbed was broken up (these are the shattered blocks in my picture) by the Victorians and replaced by the dressed stone blocks at a later date.

It simply isn't practical to use this trackbed for the cycleroute (for one thing it's several feet deeper than would be necessary) but depending on the assessment by the archaeologists, I hope we can use some of the material to re-create a feature about the history of the line.

Then the Stockton and Darlington line will be a tourist attraction of which we can be justly proud.

The Darlington Tory said...

Nick, I am fully aware of my railway history, I was suggesting that the rocket is more well known than the locomotion and more readily recoginisable, though I would absolutlely no qualms using the Locomotion as opposed to the Rocket, my mistake I should have been clearer on that point.

My post was certainly not a lecture, but an idea of what can be done if there is a will to do it.

I do not believe it would not take a great deal to see the potential and benefits Darlington could gain from such an enterprise

Darlington Councillor said...

Hmmm. Of course I believe you, Dave, but when you said...

"an adjacent track should be laid with a working 'Rocket' ferrying tourists up and down, and the original should be the centre piece of the revamped museum"

..that would involve somehow persuading the Science Museum to let us have their Rocket when there's no historical link with the town. We already have the Locomotion, of course. Your thinking seemed very, very muddled.

Back to basics, Alan and Dave. The road and the cycleway have been designed to respect the original line of the 1825 Stockton and Darlington trackbed. It would appear that the original stone sleepers have been broken up (although I'll be very interested in the findings of the archaeologists) but it's very good that we have some surviving fragments.

I'm sure that we can celebrate the heritage of the 1825 line through displays en route without abandoning the Eastern Transport Corridor, at a ruinous cost to the Borough, as both of you seem to want.

Like you both, I'm passionate too about the industrial history of the town, and I'll continue to blog about developments regarding the site.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

Thanks for that Nick.

You have stated that the road and cyle way will respect the original line. I am pleased to hear this.

It would be great if Sedgefield, Darlington and Stockton Councils came together to preserve the original route, where possible, and perhaps turn it into a long distance footpath or cycleway and pursue World Heritage status for the line and then we will see tourism increasing which will have a significant effect on the local economy.

What do you think?

miketually said...

"We have never made enough of this connection to the railways"

Yes, it's hardly ever mentioned...


Darlington Councillor said...

Lol, Mike.

Alan - thanks for your comment. Just to be clear, the cycleway generally respects the line of the old trackbed, but obviously not it's depth (and hasn't done so for years, it would seem).

When the cycleway is completed (remember there will be a purpose-built bridge over the A66 allowing cyclists and horses over), the intention is that it will link with Sustrans' National Cycle network. At the moment, you can go as far as MSG (I think, not beyond). No doubt Sustrans will continue with their discussions with ourselves and Stockton BC with a view to completing the link. As far as I'm aware, Sedgefield's element of the line is still in use (there is no redundant trackbed, but if I'm wrong, by all means corect me).

I'll raise the issue of World Heritage site status. I suppose the most likely comparison is with Ironbridge outsude Telford, which is also listed because of its Industrial Revolution importance. I've been there a couple of times, and it's fair to say that there is a lot more "above ground" remains than we have here in Darlington. I think this has been looked into before, but I'll check.

In the end, we will have to be guided by what the archaeologists tell us after they have fully investigated the site, and when I know more, I will of course blog again on this.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

Thanks again Nick. Aaah not horses.

Hope you are not eating whilst reading this. Green Lane has several piles of horsey left overs at the moment. Must have had the entire Household Cavalry down there. Still they say it's good for the roses.

Oh heck I will probably incur the wrath of the horsey people now. At least bikes don't leave a mess.

miketually said...

Ah, horse apples... I try to avoid them where possible and, if I can't, try to keep my mouth shut...

Still, without horses we wouldn't have any bridleways.

ian holme said...

It is true to say that the ONLY thing that Darlington is nationally famous for is its railway history.

It is also true to say that nothing relating to this has been incorporated into the ped heart.
At least with the old layout we had the model/sculpture of locomotion on the High Row.
Perhaps in time something fitting and appropriate could be introduced that would be instantly recognisable by visitors to the town.