The Heritage Railway Association is appealing to heritage railways, tramways and museums up and down the UK to build the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway into their plans.
With exactly two years to go until the anniversary of the famous opening of the railway linking coal mines in the Shildon area with the River Tees at Stockton, the HRA is keen to make sure that heritage railways don’t miss their chance to take part. A national celebration of the milestone is being co-ordinated by Network Rail, but heritage railways also have a golden opportunity to take advantage of the excitement generated.
Every single railway related organisation in the country will have the opportunity to be part of the anniversary plans. The celebrations will be year-long, but the peak of activity is expected to be around September 27, together with the weekends either side. The HRA wants its members to mark down the dates in their event plans for 2025 now.
A high-level working group featuring experts from across the heritage rail world is pulling together a ‘how-to’ guide and toolkit that will assist heritage railways and tramways in their events planning. It will also feature help and advice on branding and marketing events. This is expected to be released to HRA members in the coming weeks.
The opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway was a pivotal moment in embedding the concept of rail travel in the public mind. It created a groundswell of opinion and understanding of the advantages of rail travel. It generated the excitement required to turn a slowly evolving concept into a worldwide phenomenon that united nations, transformed economies and quite literally changed time.
The events of September 1825 are still strong in the public imagination today. The 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway therefore provides a once in a generation opportunity to harness that imagination for the benefit of all parts of the rail industry.
Heritage Railway Association Chief Executive, Steve Oates, said: “Railway 200 is about commemorating all the milestones in railway history that created the modern world that we live in. From package holidays to commuting and even standardised time, the railways gave birth to them all – this is the year to celebrate all the achievements of the railways.
“This a once in a generation opportunity to enthuse people about railways; their history, their future and to celebrate the people who’ve made it all happen over the last two centuries. That’s why we’re calling on every heritage railway, tramway and museum to take their part in the anniversary year.
“Whether it’s an event targeted at celebrating the unique railway history of your area, bringing attention to the lives of people who made railways possible, or hosting a spectacular gala event – there’s room for celebrations of all shapes and sizes to be a part of Railway 200.”