The Willington Waggonway

A comprehensive study of the winning of an eighteenth century colliery and the building, operation and development of its railway which was in several ways more significant than George Stephenson’s famous Stockton and Darlington line.
The Willington Waggonway
Product Code:
Series: The Early Railways Collection
Author/Editor: Les Turnbull
Publication Date: NEIMME 2023


This book is the seventh in the successful early railways series which has been published by NEIMME in conjunction with the Newcastle upon Tyne Centre of the Stephenson Locomotive Society since 2016. It uses newly discovered archive material and archaeological evidence to present an alternative view of the history of our railways from the traditional one which begins with George Stephenson and the Stockton and Darlington Railway. And it challenges the thinking behind the Railway 200 Project which will celebrate the accepted view in 2025 as part of the celebrations to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the opening of the S & D. The Institute has been fortunate to have contributions from Alan Williams and Richard Carlton, the principal archaeologists involved in the remarkable excavation by Newcastle Archaeological Practice at the former Swan Hunter Neptune Yard in Walker. In 2013, the grandeur of these early railways was revealed when for the first time a double main line and a wash pond were discovered – and they were built to the current standard gauge of railways worldwide.

The emphasises the role played by the region’s mining engineers – men such as William Brown, John Watson, Christopher Bedlington, John Watson, William Thomas, and John Buddle – most of whom are ignored in the established histories.

‘It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the reputation of the Stockton and Darlington Railway is founded upon ignorance of the railways in service before 1825. Hopefully, this book will correct the false narrative of railway history which Jeans, sponsored by the North Eastern Railway Company, created in 1875. And perhaps it will restore the mining engineers of the Great Northern Coalfield to their rightful place in history as the men who provided a proven transport system which enabled the Victorian Railway Revolution to happen – an event which changed how people and goods were transported throughout the World. The work of these talented individuals has made an indelible mark on civilisations worldwide and deserves to be recognised. Collectively, they were the Fathers of the Railway.’

Les Turnbull 2023

About the Author

Les Turnbull graduated in history at Durham University and worked as a schoolmaster, university lecturer and senior education adviser. Upon retirement he became a volunteer at NEIMME where now serves as a member of Council. Les has written several books on the history of mining and his particular interest, the early railways of the Great Northern Coalfield. He is frequently called upon to lecture both within the region and beyond.

Purchasing Information


Book Information: Softback, 156 A4 pages in full colour, 114 illustrations.

List price: £ 15.00

NEIMME Members price: £ 15.00

Other societies price: £ 15.00

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