Backing for plans to celebrate rail heritage
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
COMMUNITY leaders have backed plans to celebrate Stockton and Darlington Railway’s bicentennial anniversary.
Trish Pemberton, chairwoman of the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, made a presentation to Etherley Parish Council at its latest meeting.
She told them of the work which had already been carried out to mark the 200th anniversary of the first commercial railway in the world, which will take place in 2025.
During the presentation Ms Pemberton, a former history teacher, explained that the friends had been working hard to raise awareness of the birthday, emphasising the railways’s worldwide importance and how it led to the creation of the Port of Darlington, now known as Teesside.
She explained plans to create walk and cycle ways along the line are still a long way off but it was important to spread the word of the anniversary to build the hype as early as possible.
She added: “The Stockton and Darlington Railway was not the first in the world, but it was the earliest modern railway on the planet. It was the first commercial passenger line which had railway stations and branch lines and used standard gauge and malleable rails.
“We need to ensure whatever we do is sustainable for the future to ensure visitors who will be drawn to the area for the celebration keep coming year after year. What we are trying to do is create as much publicity as possible and spread the message as far as possible to ensure the event doesn’t get missed.”
In May it was announced £700,000 has been secured to boost the heritage potential of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (SDR) line, of which the Haggerleases line near Cockfield was an important branch. The line connected Barnard Castle to Bishop Auckland and was fundamental in transporting coal from the pits around Cockfield Fell.
Ms Pemberton said there was already a great deal of support from both and public and private sectors with firm commitments from Historic England, Network Rail, Durham, Darlington and Stockton councils and Hitachi. As part of the project she and John Raw, vice chairman of the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway, were approaching parish councils to inform them of the plans and how they could help.
The presentation had been meant to last only 15 minutes but ran over by an hour, such was the enthusiasm for the railway by all present.
Cllr Christine Gibson-Bell asked if it was possible to link the society’s social media page to the parish council’s. It was also suggested the information should be passed on to the history society. Cllr Gibson-Bell and parish clerk Alison Overfield agreed to attend the annual dinner held by the Stockton and Darlington Railway to learn more about the project and how the council could become involved.