Apr 26, 2023

Stockton and Darlington Railway Archive Available to the Public Online

The Stockton & Darlington Railway, in England, was the first railway in the world to operate freight and passenger service with steam traction. 

In 1821 George Stephenson, who had built several steam engines to work in the Killingworth colliery, heard of Edward Pease’s intention of building an 8-mile (12.9-km) line from Stockton on the coast to Darlington to exploit a rich vein of coal. Pease intended to use horse traction. Stephenson told Pease that a steam engine could pull 50 times the load that horses could draw on iron rails. Impressed, Pease agreed to let Stephenson equip his line.

The National Railway Museum has acquired and digitised a newly-discovered archive from Leonard Raisbeck, a largely forgotten early railway pioneer.

Born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1773, solicitor Leonard Raisbeck played an important role in planning and organising the new railway. He worked closely with chief financial backer Edward Pease and famous engineer George Stephenson, but has not been remembered to the extent that his more well-known counterparts have.

The collection of 258 documents has never been available for public viewing before. Following a major project, it becomes the museum’s first archive to be fully digitised, giving people free access to every page (front and back), online. It is only the second large archive in the Science Museum Group to be fully digitised, after the papers of Charles Babbage.

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