DARLINGTON’S history went global yesterday afternoon – 200 years to the day that the concept of the modern railway was created in what is now a kebab shop.

The town’s mayor, Cllr Chris McEwan, was joined on a Zoom call from the Head of Steam museum by railway representatives from Sri Lanka, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and Ireland as he introduced them to the forthcoming bicentenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

The virtual global gathering was compered by The Northern Echo’s Chris Lloyd, and it took place almost to the hour that Edward Pease, the father of the railways, first met George Stephenson, the father of the locomotive, in what is now a kebab takeaway in Northgate.

That meeting resulted in Mr Pease being convinced that steampower, and not horses, should be the motive force on the planned railway.

“I strongly believe that nearly 200 years ago, we did something here in Darlington, south Durham and the North-East which had a transformational impact on the world,” said Cllr McEwan, “and so I wanted to reach out to cities and railway institutions around the world to get them onboard our journey to 2025.”

Joining the call, which featured a re-enactment of the famous meeting by Julian Cound and Christopher McCann of Darlington Operatic Society, was a representative from the world’s oldest railway museum, in Nuremburg in Germany, and from the newest – a model railway museum established in Malahide, near Dublin, in 2020.

People from Portugal’s railway museum in Entroncamento and from the Dutch museum in Utrecht also joined in, as well the chief of staff of the mayor of Colombo in Sri Lanka where the British built a railway to transport tea in 1864.

On Sunday, the mayor cycled along the route of the line from the Head of Steam, past the Skerne bridge – “the £5 note bridge” – and the Arnold Road tunnel and out to Middleton St George. He was accompanied by people from Bikestop, the social interest company.

And after the global Zoom event, he encountered members of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway who had following in George Stephenson’s footsteps from 200 years ago and walked from Stockton to Mr Pease’s house, which has recently been acquired by Darlington council.