Issue Date: 12/08/2018
Issue Name: Celebration of George Stephenson
Producer: Buckingham Covers
Our beautiful cover commemorates the 170th anniversary of the death of George Stephenson and has a portrait of Stephenson and a painting of one of the first locomotives he built for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the autumn of 1825, called 'Locomotion'. It features a £1 brown Machin with a 1975 7pence Stephenson Locomotion stamp and special 12th August, 2018 Chesterfield Derbyshire postmark.
170th Anniversary of the Death of George Stephenson
George Stephenson was born on June 9, 1781, in Wylam, near Newcastle upon Tyne. His father Robert worked in the Wylam Colliery as a fireman, and the family's cottage was right beside the Wylam Waggonway.
George was fascinated by machines from an early age. He took evening classes in reading and writing, even after he joined his father as a colliery worker. In 1802 George Stephenson became an engineman, and soon after he married Frances Henderson. They had two children Robert and Frances but she died a few weeks old. His wife Frances died in 1806 from consumption. Stephenson later married twice more.
Stephenson moved several times for promotion and in 1812 arrived at Killingworth Colliery, initially employed as a brakesman. At Killingworth his interest in how the colliery engines worked led him to boast he could repair the colliery's unsatisfactory stationary pumping engine if they would only let him. When given the task, he succeeded, and was rewarded with substantial promotion.
Stephenson developed a new safety lamp that would not explode when used near the highly flammable gases found in the mines. He also convinced the mine manager to experiment with steam locomotion. In 1814 he built his first locomotive, Blücher, which was capable of pulling 30 tons up a gradient at 4 miles per hour. His design was the first to successfully use flanged wheels running on rails.
The mine owners were so impressed with his accomplishments that they put him to work in 1819, building an 8 mile railway from Hetton to Sunderland. Further locomotives followed Blücher and in 1825, Stephenson claimed to have built 16 locomotives.
Stephenson was hired by the Stockton and Darlington railway to build the line linking collieries in West Durham to the River Tees. With his son Robert Stephenson he formed Robert Stephenson & Company, the first locomotive building company in the world, headquartered in Newcastle. The first locomotive engine produced by the new company, called Locomotion, was finished in the fall of 1825.
The Stockton and Darlington line was officially opened on September 27, 1825. To rapt attention from crowds of onlookers, Stephenson guided the Locomotion along 9 miles of track in just under 2 hours.
Stephenson was hired by other railways, such as the Bolton and Leigh. But his big triumph came in 1829. The proposed Liverpool and Manchester railway directors held a trial to determine which locomotive to use for their railway. The contest was held at Rainhill, and of ten engines entered, only 5 turned up and just 3 functioned well enough to take part in the Rainhill Trials. The winner was Rocket, produced by the Stephensons.
Stephenson went from strength to strength. He was chief engineer for the Manchester and Leeds, Birmingham and Derby, York and North Midland and Sheffield and Rotherham railways. He was constantly innovating, constantly improving his engines and the tracks.
He was so successful that he was able to purchase Tapton House, near Chesterfield, in 1838. He invested in coalmines, ironworks, and quarries, and also experimented with animal husbandry and stock breeding.
George Stephenson died at Tapton House on August 12, 1848.
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