THE story of a 200-year-old railway made of iron and steam is to be told in a film made for the age of the download and the stream.

Barclays Bank is to be the headline sponsor of a film entitled Iron & Steam: The Dawn of the Stockton & Darlington Railway which is being made with the backing of Stockton and Darlington councils.

It will be shown in conventional community venues and will be available to buy on DVD, plus edited lesson-length versions will be available to schools, but it is also hoped to have the film on Amazon Prime for download and streaming in time for the railway’s bicentenary in 2025.

The project was launched yesterday at the Head of Steam museum in Darlington by County Durham film-makers Mark Thorburn and Marie Gardener, of Lonely Tower Films.

The Northern Echo: Marie Gardener and Mark Thorburn who are making the Iron & Steam film

Marie Gardener and Mark Thorburn, who are making the film

The S&DR is regarded as “the railway which got the world on track” because it brought all of the latest technology of the day together along with the keenest engineering minds which were allied to the finance and vision to make the railway open to the public along an industrial length.

“It is a complex story, and a complex visitor attraction, across 26 miles,” said Reuben Kench, chair of the Stockton & Darlington Rail Heritage Partnership. “You can’t instantly encapsulate it in a few sentences because the characteristics that made it a world first are a combination of things that were made possible by partnership.

The Northern Echo: The launch of ‘Iron & Steam - the dawn of the Darlington & Stockton Railway’ at Head of Steam, pictured Reuben Kench from the Stockton & Darlington Rail Heritage Partnership Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTReuben Kench, of Stockton council, at the launch of Iron & Steam at the Head of Steam museum in Darlington. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

“The film will help to make that more fully understood. We want everybody to feel that they are part of the story and the film will be tremendous in helping generate that sense of excitement. It will tell the complex story dramatically and in an entertaining way.”

Film director Mark Thorburn said: “It is a global story and 2025 presents an opportunity for the entire region to showcase what was achieved here. Whether you have roots in the region going back generations or arrived here yesterday to make your home, this is your story.

“We hope the film will help people have pride in their history and heritage.”

The Northern Echo: Caroline Hardie of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway filmed at the Skerne Bridge

Caroline Hardie, of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, filmed at the Skerne Bridge, the oldest continuously operated railway bridge in the world

The film-makers have already conducted interviews with members of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and experts from the National Railway Museum, and have also been over to Manchester to film in the archives of Barclays bank.

Barclays is an amalgamation of Victorian Quaker banks, including Backhouses Bank, which was the North East’s most dependable bank whose leading lights arranged the finance for the railway.

For yesterday’s launch, Barclays loaned a painting by a Darlington Backhouses’ clerk, Samuel Tuke Richardson, showing how the railway’s opponents in 1819 tried to bankrupt the bank, but head banker Jonathan Backhouse managed to ride out the financial storm, even when a wheel came off his carriage on Croft bridge while he was transporting heavy gold bullion.

The Northern Echo: The launch of ‘Iron & Steam - the dawn of the Darlington & Stockton Railway’ at Head of Steam, pictured Sue Theobald Barclays Darlington branch manager and Karen Swainston Head of Corporate relations at Barclays Picture: SARAH

Sue Theobald and Karen Swainston, of Barclays bank, with the painting from the bank's archive, which is to feature in the film

“The direct connection we have with the origins of the Stockton & Darlington Railway is something we are truly proud of,” said Darlington manager Sue Theobald whose branch on High Row is in Backhouses’ headquarters. “We were there in 1825 and we will be there in 2025 helping to celebrate the bicentenary.”

Barclays has agreed to lend the painting to the Head of Steam museum in 2025. The film should be ready for its world premiere in 2023 as the build-up to the bicentenary intensifies.


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