George Stephenson was a highly influential railway engineer and inventor of the ‘Rocket’, one of the most famous early railway locomotives. He helped to pioneer the use of steam locomotion on railways, and his work revolutionized transportation.
George Stephenson was born on 9 June 1781 in Wylam, Northumberland. His father was an engineman at a coalmine. George Stephenson became an engineman at a coalmine at the age of 18.
He gained a reputation for managing the primitive steam engines employed in mines, and worked in a number of different coalmines in the northeast of England and in Scotland.
George Stephenson married Frances Henderson on 14 October 1802 at Newburn, Northumberland. They had two children – Robert and Fanny – before Frances died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1806.
George then married Elizabeth Hindmarsh on 10 September 1808. They had eight children – including George (born 1813), Robert (born 1814) and Edward (born 1820).
In 1814, he constructed his first locomotive, ‘Blucher’, for hauling coal at Killingworth Colliery near Newcastle. In 1815, he invented a safety lamp for use in coalmines, nicknamed the ‘Geordie’.
In 1821, Stephenson developed a new locomotive, ‘The Rocket’, that won the Rainhill Trials. In 1825, he opened the first public railway in England – from Stockton to Darlington.
In 1830, Stephenson became involved with the London and Birmingham Railway project – which linked London with the industrial heartland of England at Birmingham. He built a number of railways in the Midlands and North of England.
In 1833, he was approached by several investors to build a canal between Liverpool and Manchester. Stephenson designed the line which became known as the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR).
The engineer was also involved in designing, building and managing many of the institutions which helped to create a vibrant community in the new industrial town.
George Stephenson died at Tapton House, Chesterfield, on 12 August 1848. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield.
The ‘Stephenson’ family grave has a large obelisk, which includes an epitaph to George Stephenson’s work as the ‘Father of Railways’.
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