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The Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR), which opened in 1825, was the first permanent steam locomotive public railway. The line was 26 miles long, and was built between Darlington and Stockton-on-Tees and from Darlington to several collieries near Shildon in north-eastern England. The line was initially built to connect inland coal mines to Stockton, where coal was to be loaded onto sea-going boats.
1821 October. Notice requesting proposals for supplying 1,200 tons of malleable iron rails and 300 tons of cast iron chairs for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Applications to Francis Mewburn. 
1821 November. Notice requesting proposals for supplying cast iron rails and other materials. 
Inspired 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 England.
Although Edward Pease receives the main credit, he could not have done it without the support of other men, mostly like him being part of the Society of Friends. These included Leonard Raisbeck, Thomas Meynell, Thomas Richardson, William Chaytor Benjamin Flounders, Jonathan Backhouse the Treasurer and Francis Mewburn the company solicitor.
However, George Stephenson had been perfecting his engines at Killingworth for about seven years, and had built the Hetton Colliery Railway. With a deputation from Killingworth, 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 movable engines". This latter clause narrowly escaped being struck out of the bill due to officials not understanding the meaning. The bill also included provisions for transporting passengers though, at the time, they were regarded as little more than a sideline.
He 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 in 1820.
George and Robert Stephenson, with Edward Pease and Michael Longridge (owner of Bedlington Ironworks) together set up a company at Newcastle-on-Tyne, to manufacture locomotives, which became Robert Stephenson and Co.
The S&DR line was twenty six miles in total, with two cable-worked inclines at the western end, joined by a short horse-worked section. From Shildon the line was 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. The bridge was also commemorated on the Bank of England five-pound note. SD&R's track gauge was required to accommodate the horse-drawn wagons used in the older wagonways serving coal mines. This influence appears to be the main reason that 4 ft 8.5 inches was subsequently adopted as standard gauge.
In 1823 a cast iron bridge was erected over the Gaunless river at West Auckland. It was replaced in 1901. (See photograph on this page).
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" used coupling rods rather than gears between the wheels, the first to do so.
1825 May 13th. Timothy Hackworth joins the company as Engineer. Other company officers at this time were John Dixon and Thomas Storey, Surveyors and Richard Otley as a Land Surveyor and Company Secretary
1825 September 27th. The official opening of the single track 25 mile line. The first steam-hauled passenger train ran and carried up to 600 passengers. The driver was George Stephenson and the fireman were his brothers Jemmy Stephenson and Ralph Stephenson. The train consisted of the engine, tender, six wagons carrying coals and flour, an elegant covered coach for the dignitaries and then 21 for ordinary passengers and finally six carriages of coal - a total of 28 carriages. The first passenger train was not fast, taking two hours to complete the first 12 miles of the journey. Most of the passengers sat in open coal wagons but one experimental passenger coach, resembling a wooden shed on wheels and called "The Experiment," carried various dignitaries.  
In 1825 the most active persons of the Committee which had 14 members at the time of the opening were Edward Pease, Joseph Pease and Henry Pease his sons, Thomas Meynell, Thomas Richardson and William Kitching 
1825 December. Favourable comments concerning the reduction in coal prices and the carrying of passengers. 
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.
The line's first engine was Locomotion No. 1, which opened the line, followed by three more named Hope, Black Diamond and Diligence. 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.
In 1826 Robert Wilson and Co of Newcastle, produced a locomotive 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 Robert Wilson and Co: Chittaprat. After suffering a collision it was not rebuilt.
These early locomotives were slow and unreliable and Timothy Hackworth set out to produce an improved design and in 1827 introduced the Royal George, salvaging the boiler from the Wilson Chittaprat 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.
In 1830 other engines used were the Liverpool built by James Kennedy; the Planet by Robert Stephenson and Co and the Globe engine named from the dome on the top of the boiler designed and built by Timothy Hackworth
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 wagon loads 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.
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.
In 1840 they were running three trains a day from St. Helens, Auckland to Darlington and three from Darlington to Stockton. From Stockton to Middlesbrough there were 12 trains a day
In 1840 a number of drivers refused to take their engines out and were fined ten shillings each by Joseph Pease. They included Thomas Law, John Morgan, Ralph Morgan, Henry Joicey, James Joicey, Robert Malcolm and William Coulson. 
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 his revolutionary 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.
Henry Pease projected the line across the mountain ridge that separates Durham from Lancashire and Cumberland.
1861 Opening of the line across Stainmoor, called ‘the backbone of England’, the summit of which was 1374 feet above sea level. The line joined the London and North Western Railway at Tebay, and was soon extended at its eastern limit to Saltburn-on-Sea
1863 Built Railway Works in Darlington which became known in the town as the North Road Shops
1863 The S&DR was absorbed into the North Eastern Railway
1923 The North Eastern became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. Much but not all of the original S&DR line is still operating today.
S&D Railway Locomotives in 1875
'There are none of the Stockton and Darlington railway engines built between 1825 and 1839 available for exhibition. The records of the company show that between 1825 and 1830 there were no fewer than eleven new engines built chiefly at Stephenson's Works, Newcastle.
In 1831, five new engines were added, making the total number of engines then in the possession of the company eighteen.
In 1832 and 1833, the Lord Brougham, the Shildon, and Lord Durham were added to the list ; in 1834, the Majestic, and in 1836 the Enterprise and Swift - the two latter having been built by Alfred Kitching (sic).
'Up to June, 1868 , the total number of engines built for the Stockton and Darlington Railway was 220. Between March, 1863, when operations were first commenced, and The present time; the North-road Engine Works have produced 102 locomotive engines, the great majority of which have been of the largest size. The total number of engines now belonging to the Darlington section is about 290, of which about 260 are regularly in use.'