George Stephenson is considered to be the inventor of the first steam locomotive engine for railways. Stephenson was extremely poor growing up and received little formal education. He worked in local collieries or coal mines and was self-taught in reading and writing. In 1812, he became a colliery engine builder, and in 1814 he built his first locomotive for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Line. Stephenson was hired as the company engineer and soon convinced the owners to use steam motive power and built the line's first locomotive, the Locomotion. In 1825, Stephenson moved to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, where together with his son Robert and Henry Rooth built (1826-29) the Rocket.

We who have lived before railways were made belong to another world. It was only yesterday, but what a gulf between now and then! Then was the old world. Stage-coaches, more or less swift, riding-horses, pack-horses, highwaymen, knights in armor, Norman invaders, Roman legions, Druids, Ancient Britons painted blue, and so forth -- all these belong to the old period. But your railroad starts the new era, and we of a certain age belong to the new time and the old one. We who lived before railways, and survive out of the ancient world, are like Father Noah and his family out of the Ark.

William Makepeace Thackeray

In 1829, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway offered a prize of 550 Pounds Sterling to any company or individual who could build a locomotive that would weigh less than six tons and could pull a load of 20 tons at a rate of ten loads hour. Of the five engines entered in the October 1829 trials, only the Rocket completed the course, exceeded all the requirements and performed without incident. For this achievement, the L & M bought the Rocket from Stephenson and soon thereafter ordered four more for their passenger service between Liverpool and Manchester, thus providing the first rail passenger service in the world. A copy of the Rocket is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York which I had the pleasure to visit for the second time. Besides a wonderful display of rolling stock the museum has opened up its workshop as well as backroom collection. There you can find many models of railroads and a vintage layout used to teach railroad operation.

National Railway Museum
Klook Travel

The London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) was opened in London between 1836 and 1838. It was the first steam railway in the capital, the first to be built specifically for passengers, and the first entirely elevated railway. Opened in 1836, London Bridge was first station to be built. Situated on the south bank of the Thames by London Bridge, it was immediately added to and then rebuilt. Trains served south London, Kent and Sussex.

National Railway Museum

In 1840 the first train ran direct from York to London. By the 1850s, there were 13 trains a day between the two cities, carrying 341,000 passengers a year. In 1877 a new station, the largest in the country, opened to accommodate them. By 1888 there were 294 trains arriving daily.

The impact of the railways on York was dramatic. The stage coaches declined, but much of the rest of the city was rejuvenated. The rail revolution allowed people and products to be transported to and from York faster than ever before. Entrepreneurs were given access to new markets. Tourism boomed: within two years of the first train steaming into York, excursions to the historic city were arriving from Manchester, Nottingham and London.