Shildon, Country Durham

The town of Shildon, some 18km north of Darlington and 20 km from Durham, played a major role in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. It was from Shildon that the world's very first self-propelled passenger railway operated. After the establishment of a railway to transport coal mined in the area, demand led to a passenger service beginning from the town on 27 September 1825. It set the pattern followed by railways the world over.

The first train of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, Locomotion No.1 began its journey outside the Mason's Arms public house. There is an argument that the Mason's Arms could be classified as the world's first railway station. In the early stages of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, tickets were sold at the bar. Between 1833 and 1841 the company hired a room in the pub for use as a booking office.

The railway workshops established at Shildon, and later at Darlington, provided employment for a number of Appleby family members, and began the family tradition of working on the railways that would continue after James Appleby and his wife came to Australia with their son Percy William in 1884. Along with his half brother, Samuel Lewins, James found work on the New South Wales Railways as a coppersmith when the family settled in Bathurst in 1886.

History of Shildon

At the dawn of the 19th century, around the time the Applebys made their move from Kirkby Malzeard to County Durham, Shildon was a few houses on a cross road. The Industrial Revolution and the coming of the railways saw the town grow. In 1801 the population was recorded as being 100 people. Their occupations were noted as being in agriculture, coal mining and the growing textiles industry. In 1818 notice was given in the London Gazette '... that application is intended to be made to Parliament in the next session, for an Act for making and maintaining a 'rail-way or tram-road from the River Tees, at or near Stockton, in the county of Durham', with Shildon listed as one of the towns on the planned route.

John Dixon, assistant to George Stephenson recalled the town before the railways came. "I have known Shildon for fifty years when there was not a house of any sort at New Shildon, much less a Mechanics Institute. When I surveyed the lines of the projected railway in 1821, the site of this New Shildon Works was a wet, swampy field - a likely place to find a snipe, or a flock of peewits. Dan Adamson's was the nearest house. A part of Old Shildon existed, but 'Chapel Row', a row of miner s houses, was unbuilt or unthought of."

The volume of coal being produced by coal mining outstripped the capacity of the traditional method of transporting coal, on horse-drawn wagon ways. Steam power was introduced through the use of static steam engines. These were, in turn, superseded by steam locomotives. Coal would be pulled by static engines over Brusselton Incline into Shildon where the wagons would be attached to a locomotive. The population grew with this industrial expansion, rising from 115 in 1821, to 2,631 in 1841 up to 11,759 by the end of the century. Records show in 1851 the town had 447 houses that were inhabited and 26 uninhabited.

Demand led to a passenger service beginning from the town on 27 September 1825. The first train, Locomotion No.1, ran from its northern terminus at Shildon along 27 miles of track to its terminus at Stockton. Recruited to the railway by George Stephenson in 1824, Timothy Hackworth went on to become superintendent in 1825. He was charged with building locomotives for the company. Timothy Hackworth moved into Hackworth House (formerly Soho House) with his family in 1831. There he supervised the construction of what became the Soho Engine Works close to the property. In 1833 Hackworth renegotiated his contract with the Stockton and Darlington Railway to take over the works himself. This became the Soho Locomotive Building Company.

The oldest part still surviving is the Soho Shed. The grade II listed building was built in 1826 as a warehouse for an iron merchant. The North Eastern Railway was the occupant from 1863 before becoming a paint shop for trains in the 1870s. In the 20th century it was used as a boxing gym and rehearsal space for the Shildon Works Silver Band. The shed still has two engine pits and the remnants of a 19th-century heating system. The engine shed along with Hackworth House was refurbished in 1975.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway expanded their works on the western side of the Mason's Arms Crossing. This expansion alongside the nearby Soho works led to a surge in population as people came to the town for work. The pace of growth quickened further with the opening of Shildon Colliery to the south of the Soho Works in 1873. In 1855 the Soho Works were bought by the Stockton and Darlington Railway and made an extension of their works. Now merged with the North Eastern Railway in 1863, locomotive production was shifted to their North Road Works in Darlington. The Shildon Works continued but the focus was shifted to the construction of railway wagons.

A strike in 1911 saw violent scenes in the town and British troops deployed to maintain order. A driver of a mineral train was stoned and dragged from his engine. He was pursued by an angry mob and had to be rescued by soldiers. Mineral wagons had their bottom doors undone and the contents allowed to fall out. Wagons in the sidings had their brakes undone and freewheeled for miles, railway signal cables were damaged and the cavalry had to be called. At one stage soldiers had to mount a bayonet charge in order to clear a bridge. The New Shildon Strike Committee condemned the government for deploying the army and called for their withdrawal.

Moving further into the 20th Century the Shildon Works became the largest wagon works in the world by 1976, employing 2,600 people. The works built 1,000 wagons a year and repaired more besides. The 27 miles of sidings made Shildon home to what was believed to be the largest sidings in the world. This was until the construction of the Chicago marshalling yards in 1927. The railway works closed on 29 June 1984, with the loss of 1,750 jobs.

The Soho works laid derelict since the 1940s and were scheduled for demolition in the 1970s when many of the buildings fell into disrepair. However, the buildings were saved when they were restored and opened to the public as part of the Timothy Hackworth Museum. The museum was opened on Thursday 17 July 1975 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

National Railway Museum, Shildon

The National Railway Museum at Shildon, also known as Locomotion, tells the story of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The museum is sited near Timothy Hackworth's Soho Works on the world's first passenger railway. The town was to become a major centre for British railway engineering thanks to the Shildon wagon works, which closed in 1984. The museum is arranged as stops along the 1 km demonstration line with station direction board signs and information points on the trail between the car parks and the main collection building. The museum has a six-spur apron in front of the main shed and another short length of track for showing off resident locomotives and visiting trains.

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