SLS Early Railways sub section ( updated 2 March 2022)
The Stephenson Locomotive Society, founded in 1909, is the premier society for the study of railways and locomotion. It has an extensive library; publishes books, the S.L.S. Journal and items from its photographic and drawings collection; organises local meetings and events and has its own archive material in museums etc.. At the time this page was created the SLS Website Manager had been developing a personal interest in railway pre-history for which there are limited source sites. This page is a development commenced in the summer of 2003 to try to bring together pages and information on the early railways and horse wagon ways that evolved in the centuries and millennia prior to 1825. Although this page is now laregley static we hope it can extend the remit of the SLS into the modern digital world and facilitate the sharing of knowledge as a means to aid research.
Early Railways Conferences
The Society, as a sponsor of the events, continues to support the aims of the Early Railways Conference series. The details of the events are hosted online by the RCHS, another sponsor, and the latest information can be found on their website. (Section rewritten 2 March 2022)
In this section of the SLS website the website manager hoped to build a resource to trace the evolution in tracked transport from circa 12000 BC through to around about 1840. This page may evolve but will always remain as the early railway section home page. The Stockton and Darlington was not, as is generally accepted, the first of the real railways (that accolade truly goes to the Liverpool & Manchester) but was arguably the biggest and best development of an old style one. That guided rutways have existed since well before the time of Christ has been known for many years as has the knowledge that the "ancient Greeks" understood and used the technology of edge rail and the flanged wheel; the latter technology was used to move large stage scenery around even if not as part of their transport systems.
In 2003 two important British milestones were attained, the Surrey Iron Railway 200th and the Wollaton* Waggonway 400th!! and this featurewas launched with some information on those.
The Wollaton Waggonway* - 1603
Research work into this wooden wagon way and others in Nottinghamshire is still under way by several individuals and more information is coming to light all the time with regard to this line and whether it was or wasn't Britain's first recorded "rayled" line. Research work by Graham Crisp and Keith Hunt chronicling many references to these railways and waggonways show a time scale even for Britain going back into the earliest days of the seventeenth century. Time line for railways in the UK
For further information on the Wollaton Waggonway, its significance to railway evolution and a location map see Waggonway Research Circle website
* or as occasionally named the Strelley waggonway.
The Surrey Iron Railway - 1803
Opened on 26th July 1803 the Surrey Iron Railway ran south from the Thames at Wandsworth (South London) towards the Wandle Valley industrial area. It was later extended further south. It was the first public railway in Britain and was therefore a significant milestone. It was horse powered and the wagons running on it used plain wheels (unflanged) running on L shaped rails. It was a direct descendent of the rutted track ways of antiquity. (Very brief overview to be expanded later) On 26th July 2003 a small party of mainly SLS members celebrated the SIR 200th by traversing part of the route. A review of the day and some photographs are included here Surrey Iron Railway 200th Birthday Tour 26 July 2003.
Black Country - 1818
Link to an external web site ( 84f.com) which has details of some mineral lines in the Black Country and Shropshire area.
Former Webring link now deleted - it no longer works. 2 March 2022.
George Stephenson (Fact File entry)
British railway time-line
Preservation and Heritage
Members Only extras
Railway modellers and film makers