George Stephenson

Summary: George Stephenson was a famous British mechanical engineer and civil engineer. He is most famous for building the world's first intercity railway line which was opened in 1830 and linked the British cities of Liverpool and Manchester. He was also famous for selecting the 4 feet 8½ inches (1,435 mm) gauge for the railway line which became the standard gauge for railways across the world, not just in Great Britain! It is often referred to as the Stephenson gauge.

Discover interesting facts about this English engineer who developed the railways in Great Britain significantly during the Victorian era. Known as the 'Father of the Railways', he had a son called Robert who also became a famous engineer and was later regarded as one of the greatest engineers of the 19th Century.

George Stephenson Fact Sheet: Who was George Stephenson? The following short biography and fact sheet provides interesting facts about the life, times and history of George Stephenson, the famous English engineer.

George Stephenson Fact 1: He was born during the Victorian era of British history on June 9, 1781 in Wylam, Northumberland in England.

George Stephenson Fact 2: He was a mechanical engineer and civil engineer. He was most famous for building the world's first railway line that connected one city to another. It was used to transport goods and passengers via steam locomotives.

George Stephenson Fact 3: His parents were called Robert and Mabel Stephenson and they were both illiterate. He didn't attend school as the family didn't earn enough money to afford him an education. His father earned a low wage as a fireman in Wylam.

George Stephenson Fact 4: He began working for Water Row Pit in Newburn as an engineman at the age of seventeen. The money that he earned meant that he could pay for an education for himself. He was illiterate when he began working for Water Row Pit and having recognised the importance of education, he paid for lessons at night school in reading, writing and arithmetic.

George Stephenson Fact 5: He started working as a brakesman at Black Callerton Colliery in 1801.The job involved controlling the pit's winding gear.

George Stephenson Fact 6: He married Frances Henderson in 1802. The couple moved to a room in a cottage in Willington Quay where George Stephenson found work as a brakesman. He earned an additional income by fixing clocks and making shoes.

George Stephenson Fact 7: He had two children with his wife, Frances. Their first child was a daughter who sadly died a few weeks after being born. Frances gave birth to a healthy son called Robert in 1803.

George Stephenson Fact 8: Following the death of his wife, Frances, in 1806, he moved to Scotland to find work. His son, Robert, was left in the care of a local lady. George Stephenson soon returned home, he moved to West Moor with his sister, Eleanor, who cared for Robert.

George Stephenson Fact 9: He was promoted to enginewright in 1811 after fixing the pumping engine at High Pit, Killingworth. His responsibilities included repairing and looking after the colliery engines. Steam powered machinery became an area of expertise for George Stephenson.

George Stephenson Fact 10: He was treated unfairly at times because others could not comprehend how an uneducated man could come up with such great inventions. It was for this very reason that George Stephenson decided that his son Robert would be privately educated so that he would be spared of this unjust treatment.

George Stephenson Fact 11: He invented a safety lamp contained within a glass cylinder which allowed air to enter via small holes. He presented his safety lamp invention in 1815 but due to his lack of education and scientific knowledge, he was accused of copying Humphry Davy's invention. It wasn't until 1833 that his idea was found to have equal claim to Davy's.

George Stephenson Fact 12: In 1814, he invented his first steam locomotive which was designed to haul coal on the Blücher (the Killingworth wagonway). His design was demonstrated on Matthew Murray's locomotive Willington which was constructed behind Stephenson's home in a workshop.

George Stephenson Fact 13: The first steam locomotive he invented was capable of pulling 30 tons of coal uphill at 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h).

George Stephenson Fact 14: His steam locomotive invention was the first functioning flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive; the traction was dependent on contact between the rail and the locomotives flanged wheels.

George Stephenson Fact 15: The majority of his steam locomotive inventions were built for use at Killingworth Colliery or Hetton Railway. There are no records as such to prove exactly how many locos he invented; however, it is believed that sixteen were produced in total.

George Stephenson Fact 16: In 1817, he built a six wheeled locomotive for the Kilmarnock and Troon Railway. However, damage to the cast iron tracks resulted in the loco being removed from service. A similar thing occurred again in 1817 when another of his locos was withdrawn due to damage to the rails and because it was under boiled.

George Stephenson Fact 17: He worked with William Losh in an effort to strengthen cast iron rails by developing their design in order to reduce damage and breakage. He attempted to cushion the weight on the cast iron rails with the use of steam pressure but found better results through distributing the weight with the use of more wheels.

George Stephenson Fact 18: In 1820, he began building the first railway that would not be powered by animals, this was known as the Hetton colliery railway which would be 8 miles (13 km) long. Gravity and downward inclines would combine to help it to function successfully.

George Stephenson Fact 19: His son, Robert, became managing director of Robert Stephenson and Company. The company was founded by George Stephenson and Pease. The company built a number of steam locos, the first was the 'Active' locomotive which was later renamed the 'Locomotion'; the Hope, Diligence and Black Diamond designs followed. Robert Stephenson and Company supplied the steam locomotives to the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

George Stephenson Fact 20: George Stephenson selected the 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches (1,435 mm) gauge for the line which became the standard gauge for railways across the world! It is often referred to as the Stephenson gauge.

George Stephenson Fact 21: He built the world's first intercity railway line linking the British cities of Liverpool and Manchester by railway. The line was opened in 1830.

George Stephenson Fact 22: He was an incredible engineer who impacted greatly upon the history of railways in Great Britain and the rest of the world. He was nicknamed the 'Father of the Railway'. He died on August 12, 1848 at Tapton House, Chesterfield, Derbyshire in England. He was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Chesterfield.

George Stephenson