George Stephenson

Father of the railways

Basic Information

Name: George Stephenson

Place of birth: Wylam, Northumberland

Life span: 9 June 1781- 12 August 1848

Famous for building the first railway line in Britain.

Education: No formal education. Self taught learning to read and write.

George Stephenson's life and invention

Born into a poor working class family, Stephenson had no formal education so he ended up teaching himself to read and write.

His first job was as an engineer in a coal mind and later he worked in many pits in the north east of England. He became an excellent engineer specializing in steam driven machinery. His ability was developed by practical work and common sense and not from books.

Although he didn’t design the first steam engine he was able to improve on it. In 1814 he made his first engine “Blucher”. His first steam railway line was built from Hetton to Sunderland. Following that his most important development in steam was a twenty-five mile railway between Stockton and Darlington. This received great publicity because the steam engine “Locomotion” travelled at 24 miles per hour carrying an 8-ton load of coal and flour. The train also had a passenger coach. The gauge of this railway was four feet eight and a half inches, a standard that was adopted worldwide.

Realising the potential of steam railways and ambitious link was proposed between Liverpool and Manchester. After initially blocking the project the government approved it putting Stephenson in charge. To keep the railway line as flat as possible it required many bridges, viaducts and tunnels which added to the cost. His prize winning locomotive, “ The Rocket” was chosen to power the railway and it was eventually opened in 1830 to great acclaim and Stephenson had been instrumental in speeding up the industrial revolution and can truly be called The Father Of The Railways.

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