Birth of modern railway's bicentenary will track 1825 inaugural journey from Darlington to Stockton

27.09.23 Loco No.1 commemorative stone Credit: ITV
The world was transformed on 27 September 1825 when Loco No.1 became the first passenger train journey by travelling from Darlington to Stockton. Credit: ITV

A two-year countdown has begun to mark the bicentenary of the modern railway's inaugural journey.

The first locomotive - Loco No.1 - hauled a passenger train from Darlington to Stockton on 27 September 1825. The 200-years of train travel will be celebrated in 2025 with a series of internationally significant projects.

When the Stockton & Darlington Railway opened it transformed the world - connecting places, people, communities and ideas.

Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill is Chair of Railway 200 and Network Rail.

He said: “The world changed forever in 1825 and the 200th anniversary of this first passenger train journey is an historic opportunity to reset the public’s relationship with rail.

"It is our chance to present the railway as a forward thinking, digital, industry and as an attractive career option for young people and for people from many different backgrounds.”

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum said: “The bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway is a key railway anniversary of real international importance. It is doubly significant for the National Railway Museum, as the date also marks our 50th birthday.

"Through a calendar of events, programming and displays, we will help visitors to Locomotion in Shildon and the National Railway Museum in York to share in the exciting centenary celebrations.”

  • What is the S&DR200 festival?

A nine-month festival called S&DR200 will highlight the history, recognise the railways' relevance today as well as foster future developments.

The festival's focus will be on the first journey with a pathway for walkers and cyclists tracking the 26-mile route. A Locomotion No.1 replica will enhance visitor experiences of the birth of the modern railway from Shildon and Darlington to Stockton.

Darlington, Durham, Stockton-on-Tees and Tees Valley Combined Authority will also deliver steam train journeys, exhibitions and arts in communities along the route.

It is hoped a series of S&DR200 focused school projects will spark pupils' interest in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts.

Niccy Hallifax, S&DR200 Bicentenary Festival Director, said: “The importance of this moment cannot be underestimated, the railways have become day to day life for many people around the world. Most of us have a treasured memory or a story that involves a rail journey and it is this, and the drive to invent and explore, that this festival celebrates.

“We want to inspire and give people the opportunity to discover new opportunities and enjoy collaborations by international artists – all linked to this fascinating industry to mark this special place where it all started.”

The full S&DR200 festival programme will be revealed in September 2024.

  • What is Railway 200?

The year-long programme of initiatives, partnerships and activities is called Railway 200 and aims to attract national attention.

Developed as a partnership across the rail industry with a focus on inspiring the next generation, Railway 200 will mark both the S&DR bicentenary, and the far-reaching impacts of all railways and train travel nationally.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast route, said: "By the end of Railway 200, people in all parts of the UK will have had a good reason to engage with the railway story.  By putting the spotlight on the railway, and everything it has and will achieve, Railway 200 gives us the chance to increase positivity towards rail and in turn encourage more people to consider travelling by train. 

“All who made the Stockton & Darlington Railway happen were trailblazers and it is so special that we can commemorate their achievements in this way while forging our own path for the future of the rail industry.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...