The official countdown to the 2025 Stockton & Darlington Railway bicentennial celebrations has today (27 September) begun, as the new brand was unveiled for the anniversary to mark three years to go.
The design will be familiar to the public and rail fans alike, representing the original steam engine, the 26-mile rail line between Witton Park to Stockton and a historic two-hole sleeper stone. It will be used to promote the festivities taking place for the bicentenary.
Opened on 27 September 1825, the S&DR’s combination of steam locomotives with a mainline and branches open to the public and carrying a wide range of goods and passengers made it unique. The S&DR’s vision of an ever-expanding network and its influence in inspiring engineers from across the UK, Europe and the USA, transformed society, trade and transport across the globe.
At the heart of the celebrations are plans for a recreation of the inaugural journey from Witton Park via Shildon and Darlington to Stockton using the replica Locomotion No.1. This will lead to the launch of a permanent visitor attraction linking museums and historical sites across the line as well as a number of other commemorative activities.
It is hoped the activity will also trigger dozens of mini-carnivals, parades and celebrations across communities right along the route, and a programme of outdoor theatre, visual arts and events will also be produced.
Cllr Shane Moore, Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet Lead for Culture and Tourism, said: “With just three years to go until the 200th birthday of the railway that transformed the world, we’re kicking off proceedings by launching the bold branding that will accompany the celebrations and signpost people to the events, activities and festivities taking place to honour it.
“People in our region are justifiably passionate about our rich rail heritage, and this enthusiasm extends right across the globe as our innovation played a part in the transport development of so many countries.
“To mark the occasion, we’re planning a huge number of events for everyone – from families keen to learn more to the die-hard rail enthusiast – to make sure the milestone gets the recognition it deserves. Now the countdown has begun and we’re ready to have all eyes on us, as we draw even more tourists to our towns and communities, ultimately boosting our brilliant local businesses.”
Cllr Steve Nelson, Cabinet Lead for Health, Leisure & Culture, Stockton on Tees Borough Council, said: “To mark the occasion, we’re planning a huge number of events for everyone – from families keen to learn more to the die-hard rail enthusiast – to make sure the milestone gets the recognition it deserves. Now the countdown has begun and we’re ready to have all eyes on us, as we draw even more tourists to our towns and communities, ultimately boosting our brilliant local businesses.
“Modern railways started here nearly 200 years ago, we plan to celebrate the many ways they have changed our lives and changed the world. The events planned for 2025 will cater for every interest, not just those who are passionate about steam trains.”
Cllr Jonathan Dulston, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The start of the countdown to the 2025 celebrations marks an important milestone in our preparations to mark this historic occasion. One of the things I love most about Darlington is the way it wears its railway heritage as a badge of honour. We stand ready and raring to play a key role in the 2025 celebrations, with our world-class visitor attraction at the Head of Steam which is currently under construction and on target to be completed on schedule in 2024. It will be central to our 2025 celebrations here in Darlington.”
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The modern railway was born right here in our region on 27 September 1825. It is really exciting, on the anniversary of that date, to be looking ahead to celebrations to mark the bicentenary of that historic moment. “The Stockton and Darlington Railway transformed the way people and goods were transported. The programme of activities we have planned just three years away in 2025, drawing on local creativity and talent, will show that that innovative spirit of 1825 is still very much alive.”
Niall Hammond, Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, said: “We’re thrilled that several years of work by a wide range of partners and funders is now beginning to deliver a fantastic event for 2025 and a lasting, permanent visitor attraction for the years beyond. We expect the world class heritage of the S&DR to inspire our communities and to attract an international audience to help us celebrate the railway that got the world on track.”
Sir Peter Hendy, Chair, Network Rail & London Legacy Development Corporation and Trustee, London Transport Museum & Science Museum Group, said: “The opening of the Stockton and Darlington railway represents the start of the era in which railways began to connect our family of nations and diverse communities across the United Kingdom. The 200th anniversary of this event is a historic moment and one which I’m pleased to see the Durham and Tees Valley Authorities are marking in such a positive way and which will form an important part of planned national celebrations.”
The bicentenary celebrations are being delivered by the S&DR Railway Heritage Partnership, which includes the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, working alongside National Railway Museum, Historic England, Network Rail, the Friends of SDR and others.
A website was also launched, and people interested in hearing more about the celebrations can register for updates at www.SDR200.org