What was The Royal George?
The Royal George was designed and built by Timothy Hackworth for the S&DR in 1827. It marked a milestone in the development of locomotive power and reinvigorated the belief that locomotive power was the way forward for railways. It was a successful reliable engine, which had fewer accidents and breakdowns than other locomotives. It was the first engine to have a name as opposed to a number (although it was also referred to as No.5 after the original No.5 exploded!). Such was the impact of the Royal George that the S&DR Committee issued instructions after it was built that only locomotive power should be used on the railway unless locomotives were not available, in which case horses could be used. Further, other embryonic railways from across the world and in the UK, were persuaded of locomotive power as the way forward.
The Royal George served until 1840 on the Stockton & Darlington Railway when it was sold to Wingate Colliery at a profit. It was sold again after a number of years to the Earl of Durham and disappeared into the annals of history.
The lack of a working replica Royal George represents a gap in the history and how we tell it to visitors to our area. There are therefore proposals to build a replica in time for the S&DR’s 200th anniversary in 2025 which can tell the story of locomotive development, the importance of the S&DR and Hackworth to this story and provide steam rides at heritage railway sites including the Head of Steam in Darlington and Locomotion in Shildon. This is a project that will appeal to many people and there is already much press interest. A feasibility study is currently looking into the possibility of building a replica.
It is estimated that costs to build a replica and carriages to carry modern day passengers (as opposed to coal) would be in the region of £900,000. There may also be costs in extending rail track depending on where the replica runs most often. While options are still being explored, fund raising has started in a small way and these postcards will help to raise the profile of the Royal George and get it the recognition it deserves as an important milestone in locomotive development.