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Restored locomotives of the railway age celebrate 150 years of progress

Posted in Anniversary, Historical articles, History, Railways, Transport, Travel on Thursday, 31 May 2012

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This edited article about the railway age originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 715 published on 27 September 1975.

Stockton and Darlington railway, picture, image, illustration

George Stephenson’s succesful locomotive carrying passengers on the inaugural run on the Stockton and Darlington railway

The fastest diesel train in the world made its slowest ever journey on Sunday, 31st August, when it formed the tailpiece of a parade which may never be repeated.

More than thirty historic steam locomotives from preservation centres all over Britain, headed by a full-size working replica of George Stephenson’s Locomotion No. 1, ran under their own power over part of the original 1825 route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The rear position of the cavalcade – travelling at under ten miles an hour to allow a good view for the crowds – was taken by British Rail’s HST (high speed train), holder of the 143 mph world record for diesel traction on rails.

The grand cavalcade marked 150 years of railways. On only two occasions has anything quite like it been seen before, in 1875 and 1925. The parade started at Shildon, Co. Durham, and ended four miles away at Heighington, where the original Locomotion first took to the rails all those years ago.

All this was a part of British Rail’s celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the world’s first locomotive-hauled passenger railway on 27th September, 1825.

Celebrations have been building up through the year to the actual anniversary day, and a special celebration train showing the railways of Britain “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” is on a ten thousand mile countrywide tour. There should be details in your local newspaper saying when the train will be in your area. Some places will not see it until the end of the year.

The train’s exhibits include a model which shows for the first time the shape and livery of the production series of the latest inter-city express, the 125 mph HST and a full-scale copy of part of a passenger saloon of the Advanced Passenger Train (APT). This recently travelled at 151 mph during a five-mile stretch between Didcot and Reading in Berkshire.

With scale models, films, photographs and special sound and lighting effects, the exhibition shows how the development of railways over a century-and-a-half has provided a secure foundation for the railways of today and of those to come.

This has been done by having an introductory area devoted to the past and the age of steam. Next one learns about the scope of present-day services, such as the HST, designed to whisk you between cities at up to 125 mph. And you will be able to go into the APT’s “mock-up” passenger saloon to see how you will be travelling in a few years’ time.

The exhibition also shows other things that British Rail hopes to do in the future in engineering and design. There are also sections devoted to rail freight and shipping, hovercraft, hotels and catering.

Being given its first showing on the train is a new British Transport film called “Locomotion”, made specially for the anniversary. Among other things, it includes sections from more than sixty old railway films, which should make it fascinating to see.

On the anniversary day, the Duke of Edinburgh formally opened the new National Railway Museum at York. This replaces two other museums. The Duke was then attending a pageant in Preston Park, Stockton, to commemorate the laying of the first rail of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Other highlights of the celebrations include special package tours, steam-hauled chartered trains and a special issue of four stamps by the Post Office.

Finally, Blackpool will also mark the occasion. One quarter of the world-famous illuminations on the Golden Mile at this famous resort will be devoted to the history of railways.

Historical note: The Stockton and Darlington Railway began as a colliery tram-road. When it was opened on 27th September, 1825, it had 26 miles of track. The success of this railway led to the building of the Liverpool and Manchester line and eventually to the complex network of lines that now serve most parts of Britain.

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