Railway Pioneers

Edward Pease

Edward Pease was born in Darlington in 1767, the son of a wool merchant. At fourteen he went to work with his father. During his time buying and selling wool, Pease realised that there was a need for a railway to carry coal from the collieries of West Durham to the port of Stockton. Pease and a group of businessmen formed the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company in 1821. On 19th April 1821 the Stockton & Darlington Railway Act was passed to allow the company to build a horse-drawn railway that would link West Durham, Darlington and the River Tees at Stockton.

George Stephenson met with Pease and persuaded him to use locomotives on the railway. Pease had been so impressed with Stephenson that he gave him the post of Chief Engineer of the Stockton & Darlington Company. A second Act of Parliament was now needed to include the clause "to make and erect locomotive or moveable engines".

Edward Pease, Michael Longdridge, George and his son Robert Stephenson, joined to form a company to make the locomotives in 1823. Timothy Hackworth was recruited to work for the company by Stephenson and their first railway locomotive 'Locomotion', was finished in September 1825.

As his son, Isaac had died the previous night, Edward Pease missed the opening day celebrations of the Stockton & Darlington Railway on the 27 September 1825.

His son, Joseph Pease, replaced his father when Pease retired. Joseph expanded the business and by 1830 became the largest colliery owner in the South Durham coalfield. Joseph became the first Quaker MP in 1832 representing South Durham.

Edward Pease died on 31 July 1858.

George Stephenson

George Stephenson was born in June 1781 at Wylam, north of the Tyne. He originally worked in local collieries and taught himself to read and write in his spare time. In 1812 he became a colliery engine builder, and in 1814 he built his first locomotive, the "Blucher".  A further 16 engines were built at Killingworth by Stephenson over the next five years. The owners of the colliery were so impressed with Stephenson that they asked him to build an eight-mile track from Hetton to the River Wear in Sunderland in 1819.

When the Act was passed in 1821 to authorise the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, Stephenson persuaded Edward Pease (Stockton & Darlington Company) to consider building a steam locomotive railway. George Stephenson was subsequently given the post of Chief Engineer of the Stockton & Darlington Company.

Work began to construct the track in 1822 and in 1823 The Robert Stephenson & Company, at Forth Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, became the world's first locomotive builder. Their first railway locomotive, 'Locomotion', was finished in September 1825 and was used in the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

George went on to become the engineer for the Bolton & Leigh railway (1826) and Chief Engineer for the Liverpool & Manchester railway that was opened in 1830. He and his son Robert entered 'Rocket' in the Rainhill Trials, and subsequently won the race. The winner was to be used on the Liverpool & Manchester railway.

He was continually improving his engines and tracks and became the Chief Engineer for the Manchester & Leeds, Birmingham & Derby, Normanton & York and Sheffield & Rotherham railways. He went into partnership and opened coalmines, ironworks and limestone quarries.

George died in 1848 at his mansion home, Tapton House in Chesterfield soon after marrying his third wife.

Robert Stephenson

Robert Stephenson was born in 1803 and was the only son of George Stephenson. Robert's mother died in 1806 and he was consequently brought up by his father. Robert was educated privately at Bruce Academy in Newcastle between 1814 and 1819.

He became apprentice to Nicholas Wood, the manager of Killingworth Colliery and later helped his father to survey the Stockton & Darlington Railway. During university at Edinburgh he met George Bidder and over the next twenty-five years worked on several railway projects.

In 1823 Robert joined with both George, his father and Edward Pease to form a company to build locomotives. The Robert Stephenson & Company, Forth Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, became the world's first locomotive builder. 'Locomotion' was finished in September 1825 and was used in the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Three years was spent in South America working at the gold and silver mines and when he returned to England entered 'Rocket' in the Rainhill Trials in 1829. Both Robert and George Stephenson produced locomotives for the Bolton & Leigh Railway and the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

Robert was appointed Chief Engineer of the London & Birmingham line in 1833. When this line was completed in 1838, Robert continued to construct railways all over the world. This included the building of bridges over the Tyne, (Newcastle) and Menai Straits.

Robert was elected Conservative MP for Whitby in 1847. In 1859 he was advised to retire from business and politics due to poor health. He died on 12 October 1859.