Publication Date: May 24, 2011
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To many people, the history of the railway begins with the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830. By that time, however, the concept of the railway in Britain was already over 250 years old, a fascinating but little-known period of experimentation, improvement and invention which included such remarkable features as an Elizabethan 'Scalextric', an early 'JCB' and an engine fitted with steam-powered legs. Innovations such as iron rails, inclines and the pioneering locomotives were gradually introduced, so that by 1830 the basic principles of the modern railway were already in place. Never again would the industry see such fundamental development; indeed, today both Britain and North America still use what is essentially a Georgian railway.
Andy Guy is a former researcher at Beamish museum and an expert of the early railways of North-East England. He is the author of 'Steam and Speed: Railways of Tyne and Wear from the Earliest Days'.
Jim Rees is a former Curator of Rail Vehicles at the National Railway Museum, York, and is now Special Projects Manager at Beamish, The North of England Open-Air Museum. He is an expert on early railways and is co-editor (with Andy Guy) of 'Early Railways'.