The world’s first publicly-owned, steam powered passenger railway opened to great fanfare between Stockton and Darlington in a ‘red letter’ day in world transport history.
Despite the important role the Stockton & Darlington Railway occupies in world transport history, it soon became apparent that the shipment of coal from Stockton was impractical owing to large vessels struggling to navigate the River Tees upstream. At a Committee meeting held in October 1827, the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company decided to extend their railway with a branch line to new shipping facilities downstream closer to the sea. Timothy Hackworth, the engineer on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, was awarded the contract to plan the new Port Darlington coal staiths, built on the site now occupied by AV Dawson’s Port of Middlesbrough facility. However, the suspension bridge built over the Tees at Stockton proved wobbly and struggled to bear the weight of the heavy coal trains heading to Middlesbrough, so had to be replaced 14 years later.