On opening day the Company's rolling stock consisted of one locomotive, one passenger coach, and 150 wagons.
"Locomotion" was brought from Newcastle by road and placed on the rails at Heighington (Formerly, Aycliffe Lane), a short distance from Shildon. The station buildings carried the number "G2". From this view the building looks to be small, however the view is deceiving, for due to the falling ground, the photograph in fact shows the upper storey, which was used as the offices. "Locomotion" was taken back to Shildon to be attached to the train.
From daybreak, thousands of people collected on the slopes of the ridge at Brusselton to see the working of the sixty h.p. stationary engine.
Shortly after 7o'clock, twelve wagons of coal were led from the Phoenix Pit to the foot of the Etherley Ridge and drawn up the North Bank by the stationary engine situated at the top. They were lowered down the Etherley South Bank to the road at St. Helens, Auckland, where they were joined by another wagon filled with sacks of flour. The wagons were then led by horses across the flat to the foot of Brusselton West Bank. At 8 o'clock, the loaded wagons, further burdened by several people, were drawn up the incline, and thence lowered down the eastern side of the ridge, to the awaiting "Locomotion" and 21 wagons fitted with seats and the passenger coach "Experiment".
"The formal opening of that stupendous work, which affects communication between the port of Stockton and the coal field in the interior parts of this county, took place on Tuesday last, ageeably to the notice which has late appeared in our columns. The weather was most propitious... Gentlemen's carriages, post-chaises, gigs, jaunting cars, waggons, and carts, filled with company, were seen- entering the village from all directions, while equestrians, mounted on spirited steeds, and others on broken-down hacks and stupid donkeys, added to the general effect, which was still further increased by a vast concourse of pedestrians, who pressed forward, eager to behold a sight altogether new in that part of the country."
Durham County Advertiser - 1st October 1825
Although provision was only made for 300 passengers, upwards of 500 people boarded the train.
This is the famous site where she was attached to the train, the "Masons Arms Level Crossing", after the trucks were lowered down the Brusselton South Incline. As a result of the many checks that were carried out, the train was delayed by one hour and at 10.00a.m. It left New Shildon on its memorable journey. The original hostelry was used as the railway booking office in the 1830's. A plaque commemorating the occasion was attached nearby.
But was it the site from which "Locomotion" started her famous journey? Most historians, let us believe that this is the case, however, according to actual records, the carriages were "... then lowered down the plane(Brusselton), on the east side of the hill, a further distance of 880 yards, in five minutes. At the foot of the plane the locomotive engine was ready to receive the carriages." Certainly, "Locomotion" would not have been directly at the foot of plane, as it would have been necessary to have all the carriages on level ground, however even allowing for such a distance it would not have placed "Locomotion" at the point of the Masons Arms Level Crossing. The starting point is likely to have been some few hundred yards before this crossing.
ut does it matter?, you may well ask! Perhaps not! Some historians, however have committed themselves by saying the journey started at West Auckland, presumably using the argument that the last few carriages, which would be at the foot of the Brusselton Incline would have been situated in the parish of West Auckland. "Locomotion", however was in Shildon and I believe that is all that matters. I leave the reader to ponder and make his or her own decision.But what of hope on this momentous occasion?- Hope played no part in this story, you may say! You are right, of course, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. "Hope" was the sister locomotive to "Locomotion", she had an accident in 1827 and exploded in 1828, thereafter, disappearing into obscurity. So near, yet so far from being written into history!
In 1821, the Company adopted a corporate seal, depicting a horse pulling wagons along a railway line and
a motto 'Periculum privatam utilitas publica'. meaning private risk for public service. The choice of trademark and motto displayed publicly that the Company favoured the use of horses.
The first rail of the line was laid in ceremonial style on 24th May, 1822 at Stockton by the Chairman of the Company, Thomas Meynell. The civic dignitaries turned out, bells were rung and ships sirens could be heard from the river. A procession through the streets was followed by the firing of a salute as Thomas Meynell laid the first stretch of rail. On this auspices occasion, Mr. Meynell refrained from making a speech.
"Yesterday being the day for laying the first part of the Stockton and Darlington Rail-road, the morning was ushered in at Stockton by the ringing of the Church bells and the display of flags, which floated on the ships in the harbour, the Town Hall, and many private houses...On the rails being placed, a royal salute was fired from several cannon, stationed in a field near the spot, and the band struck up 'God save the King'."
DURHAM COUNTY ADVERTISER: 25TH. MAY 1822
The most impressive structure on the line was undoubtedly the bridge over the River Skerne at Darlington. George Stephenson designed the first iron railway bridge, which crossed the Gaunless River, and it was his proposal to build an iron bridge on brick piers over the Skerne. The nature of the ground on the river bank made this a difficult proposition. Delays by Stephenson in deciding on the basis of the structure, resulted in the Committee approaching the eminent architect, Ignatius Bonomi. The foundation stone was laid by Francis Newburn on 6th July, 1824. The Company wanted it to be made of stone and be impressive, which it was.
An announcement was made in the local press promising general hospitality and a free ride, to popularise the new system of transport.
"STOCKTON & DARLINGTON RAILWAY"
"The Proprietors of the above concern hereby give notice that their main line Railway, commencing at Witton Park Colliery, in the west of this county and terminating at Stockton-on-Tees on the east, with several branches at Darlington, Yarm, etc., being about 27 miles in extent will be opened for the general purposes of trade, on Tuesday, the 27th inst..........A superior Loco Motive Travelling Engine, of the most improved construction, will be employed with a train of convenient carriages, for the conveyance of the Proprietors and strangers.Any gentleman who may intend to be present on the above occasion will oblige the Company by addressing a note to their office in Darlington as early as possible.
Stockton & Darlington Company's Office
September 14th, 1825. "