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Wylam Waggonway

Tyne and Wear

Mining, Railways

Wylam is the place of an impressive array of firsts in railway history.

It is the birthplace of the pioneering railway engineer George Stephenson, whose vision, confidence and drive to prove the locomotive was a practical option for railway traffic, helped to initiate Britain’s modern railway system and led to a nationwide laying of railways and building of locomotives.

In 1804, Wylam Colliery ordered one of the first steam rail locomotives to transport coal down its waggonway to the staiths on the Tyne. A few years later the village was the setting for William Hedley’s historic experiments locomotive design. These resulted in the construction of Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly - now among the earliest preserved locomotives.

In Northumberland the pattern of railways closely follows earlier waggonway routes, a section of which survives near George Stephenson’s cottage. The Newcastle-Carlisle railway, built in 1834-39, was the first railway to cross England, the first to use standard gauge and the longest railway in the world at the time of its construction. It was also the first to provide proper passenger facilities at stations (including Prudhoe, Wylam, Corbridge, Hexham, Haltwhistle) with Wylam now thought to be one of the oldest passenger stations in the world still in regular use.

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