By the end of the 19th century, one could travel from London to Edinburgh in a little under six and a half hours, at almost one-fourth the time it would have taken eighty years ago.
The Stockton and Darlington Railway was the world’s first public railway company to deploy steam locomotives. It was officially inaugurated on 27 September 1825. Coal wagons used to be hauled by steam locomotives from the very beginning, whereas passengers travelled in horse-drawn carriages until the first steam-locomotive-hauled passenger trains came into use in 1833.
The passenger coaches that were used before the steam locomotives were known as mail coaches. Mail coaches ceased on the route from Birmingham to London in 1839, from London to Bristol in 1843, and to Plymouth in 1847.
The preamble to the bill sanctioning the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1821 read: “the making and maintaining of a railway tram road for the passage of wagon and other carriages will be of great public utility by facilitating the conveyance of coal, iron, lime, corn and other commodities.” By the end of the 19th century, one could travel from London to Edinburgh in a little under six and a half hours, at almost one-fourth the time it would have taken eighty years ago.
The British railway expansion did not go without resistance. For instance, William Wordsworth irked by the entry of the railways into the Lake District, went on to write: “We have too much hurrying about in these islands, much for idle pleasure and more from over activity in the pursuit of wealth, without regard to the good or happiness of others,” which was the basis of fundamental premises of the Utilitarian ideology. Wordsworth’s tirade grew severer when the railways were extended from Kendal to Windermere: “Is then no nook of English ground secure from rash assault?”
Notwithstanding such remonstration, railway companies such as the Stockton and Darlington Railway had a very successful run. Despite running into the verge of being sold to York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway, in the 1840s, the company revived when iron ore was discovered in Cleveland allowing it to pay back its debts. In 1863, the Stockton and Darlington Railway was finally was taken over by the North Eastern Railway.