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Posted By Robert. Stephenson


The Stanhope & Tyne Railway was conceived in 1831 to link Crawleyside with Waskersley. The men behind the railway included William Wallis and William Harrison (and other members of the Harrison family, including T.E. Harrison who was assistant engineer to Robert Stephenson). The railway lacked Parliamentary powers and was constructed via way-leaves. Work commenced at Stanhope in 1832, reached Carr House on 15 May 1834 and was completed on 10 September 1834. The Crawleyside incline was mostly at 1 in 8; the Weatherhill incline at 1 in 12 to 1 in 32 (the beam engine from this is preserved at the NRM); the long Meeting Slacks incline at 1 in 41 to 1 in 47. Waskersley became the centre of operations. Beyond were the self-acting Nanny Mayers incline (1222 yds at 1 in 12) and the extremely steep (up to 1 in 3) inclines to cross Hownes Gill. This caused a serious bottleneck and the line ran into financial difficulties. The company had to be wound up at a general meeting on 29 December 1840. A new company was formed, with Parliamentary powers (23 May 1842) - the Pontop and South Shields Railway - and the Stanhope & Tyne ceased to exist on 5 February 1841. The debts were to plague Robert Stephenson. The closure of the western section was a disaster to the Derwent Iron Company which bought and worked the Stanhope line from 1842.

New lines were known as the Weardale and Derwent Junction Railway. These lacked Parliamentary powers and ownership passed to the Stockton & Darlington Railway. Lines included the 1 in 13 Sunniside incline down to Crook. Deviations were constructed at Meeting Slacks in 1846/7; the Hownes Gill viaduct on 4 July 1858; and from Burnhill to Whitehall Junction on 4 July 1859. The Sunniside incline was found capable of being operated by locomotives, but the long Crook to Tow Law deviation opened in 1867. Engines were replaced at Crawleyside in 1866/7, but the Weatherhill engine was not replaced until 1919 when a marine compound engine was linked to locomotive boilers.

The Rookhope Railway was built from 1846 by the Weardale Iron Company via way leaves. From a junction with the Stanhope & Tyne at Parkhead it reached 1670 feet (the highest point on a standard gauge line in Britain. It included very steep gradients to reach the lead mines at Rookhope.
Posted By Robert. Stephenson

George Stephenson: Success at the Rainhill Trials and Competing Railway Interests, 1829

Date: November 1829

Description: As well as the competition which new railways would bring to the canals, as an investor in the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, the Marquis of Stafford faced competition from other railway companies who wished to build new lines and extend the railway network.

The letter featured above was written to James Loch by George Stephenson (1741-1848), the engineer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company. George Stephenson was involved in the development of locomotive engines in the 1820s and was extremely influential in the expansion of the railways following the success of his locomotive Rocket at the Rainhill locomotive trials in October 1829. Professor Eric Richards writes that the success of the Rainhill trials created ‘infectious enthusiasm’ and a ‘flurry of activity and confidence’ in the development of the railways.

Owing to his success at Rainhill, Stephenson was consulted on a number of new railway developments, railway promoters keen to engage the services of this pioneering engineer. The letter featured above conveys the atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm for developing railways in the late 1820s. Stephenson refers to a project to construct ‘a line of railway’ between Manchester, Stockport and Whaley Bridge. Stephenson informs Loch that his ‘ideas’ had been ‘adopted by Subscribers’ to the project and that he had been ‘elected’ as the engineer ‘to give occasional assistance’.

However, as the engineer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, Stephenson appears to have been concerned about becoming involved with other schemes. His letter suggests an anxiety that his involvement with the new project would conflict with his role as ‘a servant of the Marquiss on the Liverpool Railway’. He asks Loch ‘do you imagine this line will interfere with the Marquiss of Stafford’s interest?'. He adds ‘if I judge rightly it will rather be a benefit than otherwise’. Stephenson also asks whether he should advise his son from withdrawing as engineer to the company planning ‘the Warrington and Newton Railway’ for the same reasons.

M. W. Kirby remarks on the significance of Stephenson’s involvement in the development of the railways and writes that ‘the true dawn of the “railway age” of the nineteenth century may be said to date from 15th September 1830’ when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened.

For biographical information about Stephenson and his involvement in the Rainhill trials, see M. W. Kirby ‘Stephenson, George (1781-1848)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Jan 2008 []

For in-depth contextual analysis of correspondence relating to the development of inland transport during this period, see Professor Eric Richards The Leviathan of Wealth: The Sutherland Fortune in the Industrial Revolution (Routledge, 1973) which has formed the absis for interpretation of the letters featured here.

Posted By Robert. Stephenson
Stephenson’s Rocket was the inspiration behind three pieces of artwork which have been designed to revamp a Rainhill grot spot.

Housing association Riverside has worked with artist Nicola Taggart to transform the piece of waste land from an eyesore prone to anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, into an eye-catching community resource for residents to enjoy.

In addition to a clay sculpture, a mosaic and a painting, the spot which is located on the corner of Rainhill Road and Warrington Road, has benefitted from improved landscaping.

The project is part of a wider scheme to develop green spaces in the North West and beyond, thanks to a successful bid by Riverside, Places for People and Peabody who have secured £15,669,990 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme.

Artist Nicola said: “The artwork is very much a community effort, drawing on the history of the area. We held a consultation event to encourage residents to express their ideas and develop a sense of pride and ownership.”

Carol Reddecliff, Riverside’s Neighbourhood Community Investment Officer, added: “The site was once a blot on the landscape. People used to dump waste and it became overgrown and stagnant. Now everyone can enjoy the space.”

Stephenson’s Rocket, the most advanced steam engine of its day, was built for the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829.
Posted by Riverside for Riverside
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