Today, 11 August 2018, marks 50 years since the last main-line steam trains carried passengers in style across Britain.
Steam locomotion had changed the world, and a series of celebratory steam-hauled train journeys marked the withdrawal of the service in 1968.
Diesel, and later-on electric, services were to replace much-loved steam locomotives, many of which went to the scrap heap, with some thankfully on display in heritage railway museums.
In homage to this iconic era of travel, we take a look at some of the most important listed sites associated with steam locomotives in England.
1. Stockton and Darlington Railway, County Durham, Darlington and Stockton-on-Tees (various listed and scheduled monuments)
The first ever steam-hauled public railway, Stockton and Darlington saw ‘Locomotion No 1’ take its maiden voyage on 27 September 1825, carrying 550 passengers. Parts of the original railway line survive protected as a scheduled ancient monument, including Skerne Railyway Bridge, one of the first ever railway bridges and the oldest railway bridge in the world still in use, along with the original Stockton and Darlington Railway carriage works in Darlington (Listed Grade II).
2. Stephenson erecting works, Newcastle (Listed Grade II)
One of the most important names in early railways is that of the Stephenson engineering dynasty. George Stephenson is often referred to as the ‘father of railways’, and his son Robert Stephenson’s erecting works in Newcastle were the first purpose-built railway works in the world, the site where the ‘Rocket’ locomotive was constructed in 1828-29. Another early steam locomotive survives in Kent: the ‘Invicta’ (Listed Grade II). This locomotive was also designed and constructed by Robert Stephenson, and is logged in surviving records as Locomotive No 12 – the ‘Rocket’ being Locomotive No 11.
3. Liverpool Road Station, Manchester (Listed Grade I)
Now the Museum of Science and Industry , Liverpool Road Station in Manchester dates to 1830 and was designed by George Stephenson as the eastern terminus of a dedicated passenger rail line for steam locomotives.
At the western end of the Liverpool and Manchester railway line is Lime Street Station (Listed Grade II). This 1836 station is the oldest grand terminus mainline station still in use in the world, and was the departure point of the last mainline passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on 11 August 1968.
4. Huskisson monument in Saint James’ cemetery, Liverpool (Listed Grade II)
The Huskisson monument pays homage to Sir William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, who was tragically run over and killed at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830. Huskisson has the dubious honour of being the first person in the world to have been killed in an accident by a locomotive for whom a memorial survives.
5.Maidenhead Railway Bridge, Taplow, Buckinghamshire (Listed Grade I)
On a happier note, an important piece of steam locomotive history that is still in use, the Maidenhead Railway Bridge carries the main-line from London to the west. Constructed in 1837-39 to the design of famed mechanical and civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is the largest brick-built arch bridge in Europe, and features in the famous railway painting by Turner ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ (1844), one of the most iconic images of the railway age.
6. Birmingham New Street Signal Box (Listed Grade II)
A sense of how transitory a period the 1960s was for the railways comes in the youngest railway listing. Birmingham’s Brutalist New Street signal box (Listed Grade II) was constructed in 1964, four years before the end of steam-hauled services, and is still in operational use. It offers a stunning contrast to the more romantic imagery of the railways.
Written by Joe Flatman, Head of Listing Programmes at Historic England.
Feature image: A steam train emerges from Ipswich Tunnel, Ipswich, Suffolk © Historic England Archive AA98/11706