THE Mayor of Darlington is set to approach 200 cities or places from around the world with claims to ‘railway firsts’ to help mark the 200th anniversary of a key meeting between two men who are both referred to as Father of the Railway.
Councillor Chris McEwan said he also hoped to attract global interest in the bi-centenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway becoming the world’s first passenger service and in the process boost the region’s economy.
Among the cities Cllr McEwan is hoping will link up with Darlington at a virtual conference in April and in the run in to the 2025 celebrations are Nuremberg in Germany, which saw its first steam train depart in 1835 and Baltimore in the US, where a carrier railroad was launched in 1830.
The conference will herald the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s key role in catapulting places across the world into the industrial age and opening up regions that were difficult to reach.
Cllr McEwan said: “Clearly 2025 is a significant milestone, so I will be seeking to identify 200 places that were instrumental in the development of railways.
“The Stockton & Darlington Railway is well known by people who take an interest in such matters, but we are seeking to broaden the base of knowledge, appreciation and support for what our ancestors did, not just in Darlington, but in Stockton and south Durham too.
“People from all over the world will be invited to see what we have to offer in 2025, not just in terms of our rail heritage, but what the Tees Valley, south Durham and North Yorkshire have to offer as a tourist destination.”
The conference will be staged in April to mark a historic meeting between Darlington woollen manufacturer Edward Pease, who went on to become the railway’s main promoter, and engineer George Stephenson, the principal inventor of the railway locomotive at Pease’s home in Northgate.
The meeting, also involving Killingworth Colliery manager Nicholas Wood, saw them agree to lay protruding rails on sleepers which wagon wheels could wrap around, or a railway, rather than a tram track and Stephenson convinced Pease of the benefits of steam locomotive power.
The move comes as leading figures in the town continue to battle to keep Locomotion No 1 in Darlington after March, when the National Railway Museum has said it plans to move it to Shildon.