Durham County Advertiser 1 October 1825 transcribed by Peter Bainbridge

Archives Of The S&DR

Opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway

 The formal opening of that stupendous work, which effects a communication between the port of Stockton and the coal field in the interior parts of this county, took place on Tuesday last, agreeably to the notice which has of late appeared in our columns.

The weather was most propitious.

So early as half-past five o’clock in the morning, a number of waggons, fitted with seats for the reception of strangers, and others for the workmen, were fully occupied, and they proceeded (drawn by horses) along the Railway, from Darlington towards the permanent steam-engine, situate below Brusselton Tower.  About the same time in the morning, several of the members of the Railway Company and their friends set out in post-chaises and other carriages towards the same point, near to which it had been determined the procession for Stockton should be formed.  These latter drove to West Auckland, where a sense of gaiety and bustle was witnessed, surpassing, perhaps, any thing that ever occurred in that place before. Gentlemen’s carriages, post-chaises, gigs, jaunting cars, waggons, and carts, filled with company, were seen entering the village from all directions, while equestrians, mounted on spirited steeds, and others on broken-down hacks and stupid donkies, added to the general effect, which was still further increased by a vast concourse of pedestrians, who pressed forward, eager to behold a sight altogether new in that part of the country.

About 8 o’clock, 13 waggons, 12 of them laden with 2 tons of coal each, and the other with sacks of flour, the whole covered with people, were drawn up the inclined plane at Brusselton in admirable style, amidst the cheers of the assembled thousands.  This inclined plane is 3000 yards, or above a mile and a half long yet, by means of the two powerful steam-engines, erected at its top (each being of 30-horse power) the waggons with their immense load were drawn up in 8 minutes, by a patent rope, in one piece, which extends the whole length.  These engines drew forth expressions of admiration from every one who inspected them, so beautiful is their construction, and so completely did they execute their work.  After remaining a short time at the top of the inclined plane, the waggons descended the other side of the hill from the permanent engine, and took their station on the level below, where the procession was set out.  A considerable time, of necessity, elapsed before the arrangements could be completed, and the numerous company accommodated with seats (although tickets had been liberally given, appointing their possessors to different waggons), and the hour of ten arrived before all was ready for a start.  About this time the locomotive engine, or steam-horse as it was more generally termed gave “note of preparation” by some heavy aspirations, which seemed to excite astonishment and alarm along the “Johnny Raws” who had been led by curiosity to the spot, and who, when a portion of the steam was let off, fled in affright, accompanied by the old women and young children who surrounded them, under the ides, we suppose, that some horrible explosion was about to take place; they afterwards, however, found courage sufficient to return to their posts, but only to fly again when the safety-valve was opened.  Every thing being now arranged, the welcome cry of “all ready” was heard, and he engine and its appendages moved forward in beautiful style and in the following order :-

  • The Company’s Locomotive Engine.
  • The Engine’s Tender, with water and coals.
  • Five waggons, laden with coals, one with flour, and one containing surveyors, engineers, & c.
  • The Committee and other Proprietors, in the coach belonging to the Company.
  • Six waggons, with strangers.
  • Fourteen waggons, with workmen and others.
  • Six waggons, laden with coals.

The whole of the above were attached to the Locomotive Engine.  The followed 24 waggons filled with workmen and others, drawn by horses.

Flags with the following inscriptions were displayed on four of the waggons:-

  • 1st. A large white flag, inscribed – “Stockton and Darlington Railway opened for public use, 27th September, 1825.”
  • “Periculam Privatum Utilitas Publica.”  Beneath this inscription a landscape was painted, having in the foreground a representation of the Locomotive Engine drawing several waggons of coals.
  • 2d. A flag inscribed – “Periculam Privatum Utilitas Publica,”  which may be rendered into English thus Private Risk for Public Utility.
  • 3d. “Prosperity to the Stockton and Darlington Railway.”
  • 4th. “May the Stockton and Darlington Railway give public satisfaction, and reward its liberal promoters.”

The scene, on the moving of the procession, sets description at defiance: the welkin rang with loud buzzes, while the happy faces of some, the vacant stare of others, and the alarm depicted on the countenances of not a few gave variety to the picture.  Astonishment, however, was not confined to the human species, for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air seemed to view with wonder and awe the machine, which now moved onward at the rate of 10 to 12 miles an hour, with the weight of not less than 80 tons attached to it.  A number of gentlemen mounted on well-trained hunters, were seen in fields on both sides of the railway, pressing forward o’er hedges and ditches, as though they were engaged in a fox chase, yet they could not at this time keep up with the procession.  One of the waggons having, soon afterwards, slipped off the rail-road, owing to a defect in its wheels, some little delay took place, and this having occurred a second time, the faulty waggon was removed out of the line, in effecting which a man, who was standing near, received a somewhat severe, though accidental, blow on the side, as it was turned off into a passing track.  A further delay of more than half an hour was occasioned by some oakum having got into the feed-pump of the engine, after which the procession moved forward towards Darlington, which it reached about 12 o’clock, there being at that time in and on the waggons attached to the Locomotive Engine (part of which, as we have before stated, were loaded with coals, & c.) no less than 533 persons.  The crowds which had been witnessed in progress towards Darlington, seemed to be almost forgotten when the procession approached that town, there being not less, we suppose, than 10 or 12,000 persons there assembled, who gave vent to their feelings by loud and reiterated cheers.

The boiler of the locomotive engine was replenished with water from the Company’s reservoir, near Darlington, and a stoppage of half an hour, or upwards, in consequence took place.  Six of the waggons laden with coals, and twenty-four with workmen, here separated from the others, and proceeded down the branch to the town of Darlington, where the coals were distributed to the poor, and the workmen entertained with dinner and ale.  The remainder of the procession, comprising six waggons of coal, one waggon of flour, the Company’s coach, twenty waggons containing strangers and workmen, and Mr. Meynell’s band of music, occupying two waggons, the whole drawn by the locomotive engine, proceeded onward, followed by some other waggons drawn by horses, and filled with company, towards Stockton, which they reached (after taking in a further supply of water at Goosepool), about a quarter before four o’clock.  As this procession approached Stockton, a most lively scene presented itself to those who occupied the coach and waggons, the bridge and the neighbouring roads and fields being literally crowded with spectators, who testified their satisfaction by approving shouts, and by the waving of hats and handkerchiefs.  The crowd upon the railway in the immediate vicinity of the town was alarmingly great.  The road beyond that allotted to the waggons being very narrow, and the engine and its appendages moving on the descent at the rate of 15 or 16 miles an hour, the most serious apprehensions were entertained that some accident must happen, for it was found to be quiet impossible to restrain the enthusiasts of the multitude.  These fears were unfortunately to be well founded, for a keelman named John Stevens, who clung for some time to the waggon immediately in front of the coach, at length stumbled and fell, and one of the wheels of the coach passed over one of his feet, which was dreadfully crushed, and it is believed amputation must be resorted to to save his life.            On reaching the Company’s wharf at Stockton, a salute of 7 guns was fired, and the band, which had played a variety of tunes on the way from Darlington, immediately struck up “God save the King,” which was followed by three times three Stentorian cheers.  The members of the Company and their friends then descended from the coach and waggons, and preceded by the band and the men appointed to take charge of the waggons, (each of whom wore a blue ribband over the shoulder), walked in procession two and two to the Town’s House.  It was ascertained that nearly 700 persons were in and upon the waggons attached to the locomotive engine, when it entered Stockton.  The distance from Brusselton engine to Stockton is twenty and a half miles, and the entire length of the line from Witton Park Colliery nearly 25 miles, being, we believe, the largest Rail-road in the kingdom.  The whole population of the towns and villages within a few miles of the Rail-way, seemed to have turned out on this occasion, and we believe we speak within the limits of the truth, when we say that not less than 40 or 50,000 persons were assembled to witness the proceedings of the day.

This coach, named “The Experiment,” is fitted up on the principle of what are called the long-coaches, the passengers sitting face to face along the sides of it.  It is calculated to carry 16 or 18 inside, and is intended to travel daily for public convenience between Darlington and Stockton.


A very elegant dinner was provided at the Town House, Stockton, for the Proprietors and their friends, and about 5 o’clock 102 gentlemen took their seats around the festive board.  Thomas Meynell, Esq. of the Friarage, Yarm, was in the chair, supported on his right by Wm. Wright, Esq. of Kelvedon, Essex, and on his left by William Thomas Salvin, Esq. of Croxdale.  The vice-chair was occupied by John Wilkinson, Esq., Mayor of Stockton.

Immediately after the removal of the cloth, the chairman proposed the health of the King, which being drunk, the band, stationed in the adjoining room, struck up “God save the King.”

The next toast was “the Royal Family” followed by “Hail, Star of Brunswick” by the band.

The following toasts were then given in succession:-

“Success to the Stockton and Darlington Railway,“ with three times three – Tune “the Railway.”

“Duke of York and the Army.” – “Duke of York’s march.”

“Duke of Clarence and the Navy.” – “Rule Britannia.”

“The Ladies,” with three times three. – “Here’s a health.”

“Custos Rotulorum of the County.” – “Appropriate music.”

“Lord Lieutenant of the County.” – “Old Towler.”

“Members for the County.” with three times three – “Scots ????

 The Mayor, in returning thanks for the honor conferred upon himself and the other Members of the Corporation, begged to assure the Chairman and the company present, that every measure calculated to improve the port and trade of Stockton would at all times meet with the cordial support of that body.  Great improvements, he observed, had of late years been made in the navigation of the river, and still greater improvements were in contemplation, which, if carried into effect, would be productive of the greatest possible advantage to the port.  A very complete survey had been made by a justly celebrated engineer, who had suggested two different plans to accomplish the desired object – one of these was, by the erection of jetties in certain situations, the other by the cutting of a canal to pass close by Newport, which would shorten the distance between Stockton and the Tees Mouth about three miles, and enable vessels of 250 or 300 tons burthen to come up to the staith of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company.  In alluding to these projected improvements, he felt much pleasure in stating, that “the Tees Navigation Company,” who, by Act of Parliament, were not permitted to receive more than 10 per cent. on their capital, were at present in the receipt of a surplus of from 7 to £800 a year, which they had liberally offered to pay over to the Commissioners who might be appointed under any new act for carrying the proposed cut or canal into effect.  (Applause)  Within the next month, he taunted they would see in the public papers a notice of an intended application to Parliament, to enable them to carry the proposed improvements into execution, and in less than five years he hoped to have the pleasure to meet the same company he now saw around him, in that room, to celebrate the completion of the plan.  (Loud applause)

The Chairman next proposed, “Success to the projected Liverpool and Manchester Railway,” with three times three, which having been drank with great applause, Mr. Hamper of Birmingham, rose, and having expressed regret at the absence of his friends, who had just left the room, said, he should not fail to make known to them the kind wishes which the Chairman and the company had just expressed for the success of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway.  Much, he observed, had been said against rail-roads by those who were interested in canals, and much sophistry had been used to prejudice the public mind against them; he however felt satisfied, that the triumph of art which he had had the pleasure to witness on that day, would speedily dispel the clouds which had hitherto darkened the prospect.  It had been an argument with those who opposed the introduction of rail-roads, through interested motives, that there is no necessity for them, canals answering every purpose for the transit of goods – that the present system is so excellent that we need no improvement.  They, in fact, desire that the Book of Science shall be closed, considering that our present stock of knowledge is sufficient; and he supposed they would have us send out and supersede Capt. Parry, and all others who were engaged in scientific pursuits.  But he would say to such persons – the mind is not to be fettered, man is not to place a padlock on that gift of Providence; the old maxim, which they would still lay down, that the mind of man is not to travel beyond the circumference of his wig, has long since exploded, and improvement, he trusted, would continue to advance with each succeeding year.  He considered it kind in the company to express their sentiments in favor of the projected Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool Railway, and he should be glad to meet them at Birmingham, when, as Chairman of the Company, he should preside on the opening of that rail-road.  The people of Birmingham, he knew, were accused of many limitations, yet he assured them that they know not what counterfeit hospitality is.  (Loud applause)

“The Coal Trade,” with three times three, was next given from the Chair, which being drank, the band played the popular tune “Weel may the Keel row.”

“The Tees Navigation Company.”

The Mayor now rose, and begged to propose the health of a gentleman who had been most anxious to promote the undertaking, the completion of which they had that day met to celebrate, and who had always been ready to forward every measure which tended to benefit the neighbourhood in which he lived – he meant their worthy Chairman.  The toast was drank three times three.

The Chairman, in returning thanks, said he was greatly obliged to the Company for the honour they had done him, and he made in favour of the Railway, he felt amply repaid by the prospects of success which the proceedings of that day had afforded.

“The Lead Trade, and other Mining Interests of the County,” with three times three.

“The absent Members of the Railway Company,” with three times three. – Tune, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?”

The Chairman in introducing the next toast, “The Solicitors to the Railway Company,” expressed his regret that both were absent, one from indisposition, (Mr. Raisbeck had a short time before left the room in consequence of illness), and having paid a well merited compliment to both proposed – “Success to the Leeds and Hull Railway,” with three times three.

A gentleman, connected with the projected undertaking, whose name we could not learn, returned thanks.  He considered, that facility of communication by means of railways had been fully established by the experiment of to-day, and he trusted that the spirited promoters of the Stockton and Darlington Railway would find their reward in an increase of commerce and population.  (Applause)

 (A gentleman present now offered to purchase any number of shares at a premium of £20; another gentleman said he’d give £30.)

The next toast was “the Coal Owners of the district who are connected with the Stockton and Darlington Railway,” with three times three.

Mr. George Dixon, of Bishop-Auckland, in behalf of himself and the other coal proprietors returned thanks.  He felt satisfied that if the railway proprietors and the shipping company would go hand-in-hand, the town of Stockton must derive very important advantages from the communication now opened with the collieries, and he doubted not that in a short time it might compete with Newcastle and Sunderland, as a shipping port for coals.  Much would of course depend on the charges made by the Railway Company, and he would caution them against fettering the trade.  If their charges were moderate, he did not despair to witness the overthrow of the monopoly of the Tyne and Wear, and to see Stockton rival Newcastle and Sunderland on the coal trade.  (Applause)

 The next toast was “the Plough, the Loom, and the Bull, and may the Railway contribute to their prosperity,” with three times three, after which the Chairman gave “George Stephenson, Esq. the Company’s surveyor,” drank also with three times three and loud plaudits.  (Mr. Stephenson, who had been present most of the evening, had quitted the room before his health was drank.)

Mr. Meynell now left the chair, and the Mayor was loudly called upon to succeed him in that honourable post; the company were thus kept together for some time afterwards, but all finally separated before 11 o’clock.

The dinner and the wines were excellent, and the dessert comprised all the choicest fruits in season.

The whole proceedings of the day (save and except the accidents we have mentioned) gave general satisfaction, and we know that some persons who previously entertained a prejudice against railways, and particularly against locomotive engines, have entirely changed their sentiments from having witnessed the procession on Tuesday.  A great number of carriages and horses were on the road near to Yarm and close to the railway, yet we did not observe that the horses were much alarmed with the noise or appearance of the engine.  A windmill by the side of a turnpike road is, we conceive, quite as likely to frighten horses.

Durham County Advertiser 1st October 1825