Chapter 17

After eight years of operation, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which celebrates its 175th anniversary next month, fully embraced steam power. The 17th part of our history overcomes the obstacles to tell how the time had come for steam power to triumph over horsepower, for t'iron hosses to consign the equine brutes to the past.

After five years of life, the Stockton and Darlington Railway was influential in the North-West of England, where the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830; and in the US, where the Baltimore railway started in 1829.

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It was beginning to look like a success in its own backyard, too. By 1832 it owned 19 locomotives, all reliable thanks to the skills of Timothy Hackworth, the locomotive manager.

All of its planned branchlines were open, connecting collieries to the new docks at Port Darlington. A steady, lucrative flow of coal was leaving for London, and in 1831, when a miners' strike shut down pits around the Tyne and the Wear, the Tees became the only coal-exporting river in the North-East.

Francis Mewburn, the railway solicitor, estimated that this industrial action advanced the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) by 20 years.

To allow even more traffic on the line, in 1831-32 the track was doubled between Brusselton and Stockton and a more powerful stationary engine was installed at the top of Brusselton Incline.

But there was still a big problem - horses, and the people who owned them.

The S&DR was a "public way". The railway company owned the tracks, and anyone who paid was able to use them - as long as they abided by certain conditions.

The S&DR ran most of the coal trains and left the passenger trains in the hands of outside contractors.

Usually these were publicans whose inns were near the line and acted as stations. Unable to afford expensive locomotives, the publicans relied on horses to pull their coaches.

This created anarchy on the line.

"Two of the horse leaders who left Shildon on March 1, 1832, drunk, after driving recklessly along for some miles and committing several breaches of the bye-laws, met the William IV engine ascending the line," wrote WW Tomlinson in his 1915 history of the railway.

"They refused to go into the siding and not only laid a rail and chair before the engine with the object of throwing it off the line, but they got onto the footplate and collared the enginemen."

In a collision with a steam engine, a horse invariably came off worse and many were killed or lamed.

"Not infrequently, the horse leaders left their horses and waggons standing on the line for a considerable time while they were drinking in a public house adjoining the line," says Tomlinson.

"On one occasion, the Globe engine ran into waggons which were standing without a light at Aycliffe Lane."

And there was nothing the horse handlers liked better than a good punch-up with a rival coachman.

"Two of the leaders on June 30, 1832, stood their horses and waggons at the top of Darlington Run and went into the lane to fight," records Tomlinson.

In August 1833, the horse operators handed the S&DR the excuse it needed. The contractors were guilty of under-recording the trips they made to avoid paying tolls. The committee decided they had to go.

In October, the S&DR bought out the contractors for £316 17s 8d. The concept of the "public way" came to an end. Now the railway was in complete charge of everything that ran on it.

It was a move the railway pioneers had been planning for some time. In 1829 they had instructed Hackworth to start making a speedy passenger steam loco. Engines which hauled coal trains were heavy and slow-moving, partly because there was no point in having a fast engine if horses kept getting in the way.

In response, Hackworth designed the Globe, an engine named after either its peculiar copper steam dome, or the Shildon pub where the enginemen drank.

The Globe, built at Robert Stephenson's works in Newcastle, had light wooden wheels and was able to touch speeds of 50mph. Its driver stood in the wooden tender behind, because it had no footplate. But its most revolutionary feature was its cranked axle, which allowed it to travel smoothly at high speeds. This axle is highly-prized among those who promote Hackworth's claims to greatness.

The Globe cost £515 to build, and was painted blue and black with decorative features in green and yellow. Its first journey, driven by Johnny Morgan, was to open the Middlesbrough extension to Port Darlington on December 27, 1830.

After the buy-out of the horsemen in 1833, the Globe went into full-time passenger service until January 1838, when it ran out of steam near the Exchange buildings in Middlesbrough and exploded.

It was not repaired, but by then steam had triumphed over horses.

On September 26, The Northern Echo is planning to publish a 24-page supplement which will contain most of this series

Bitter contest with rival

ONE of the great spurs to the Stockton and Darlington Railway's (S&DR) development in the early 1830s was the imminent arrival of a competitor - and fear that Stockton might again try for dominance over Darlington.

Since 1818, Stockton entrepreneur Christopher Tennant had campaigned to have his town connected to the Durham coalfield by canal. Darlington's railway pioneers sank his scheme.

Yet Stockton was never satisfied with the railway, mainly because it reached the town by a circuitous route.

When the S&DR opened in 1825, Tennant found himself running 40 wagons a day along it to his lime kilns at Thickley.

He reasoned that if there were a direct line from Stockton to the coalfield, it would be quicker and cheaper.

He set his plans on paper and called them the Clarence Railway, after the Duke of Clarence, later William IV.

In 1827, Tennant approached the S&DR and asked if it would be willing to join with the unbuilt Clarence and develop Haverton Hill, on the banks of the Tees, as a deep port.

The S&DR declined because it wanted to protect its coal-exporting monopoly, but also because there was antipathy between the Darlington pioneers and the Stockton contingent.

That bad feeling worsened as Stockton representatives on the S&DR resigned when the railway announced it was pushing on to build Middlesbrough in late 1827.

Tennant pushed on too. He took his plans to Parliament and, extraordinarily, the S&DR joined forces with the Marquis of Londonderry to thwart him.

Londonderry owned pits around the Wear and the Tyne, and was developing Seaham Harbour to export his coal to London. He had been a bitter opponent of the S&DR in the early 1820s and yet, less than a decade later, he was in cahoots with the railway to stop another entrant into the market.

But just as the S&DR had been able to push aside the Marquis' objections in 1822, so the Clarence was granted Parliamentary permission on June 1, 1829.

The Clarence had grand plans to link Durham City and collieries north of Bishop Auckland to the Tees. Although the line was completed in December 1834, its proposed branchlines never materialised. It got stuck at Byers Green, Ferryhill and Broomhill, and went no further.

This meant it had little direct access to the coalfield, and had to content itself with joining the S&DR at Simpasture, north-west of Aycliffe.

Any coal starting on the S&DR's upper reaches but using the Clarence was charged a crippling fee.

The Clarence struggled to survive. In 1842, Tennant sold it to new owners, and in 1865 it merged with the North Eastern Railway