Where’s the world’s oldest rail bridge in continuous use?

Where’s the world’s oldest rail bridge in continuous use?

Published 29 September 2020 | Average read time
3 min read
Stories Industry-leading Living by the railway

It’s the world’s oldest railway bridge in continuous use. It ranks among Historic England’s 100 Places and has even appeared on the £5 note.

Have you guessed where it is?

Skerne Bridge in Darlington has just celebrated its 195th birthday, along with its historic line – the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

This was the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives, making it the birthplace of today’s modern passenger railway.

We’re proud to look after our Victorian infrastructure and carried out essential maintenance on Skerne Bridge ahead of the milestone.

Skerne Bridge in Darlington
Skerne Bridge – one of the world’s most historically important pieces of transport infrastructure

We removed plants and weeds from the stonework and cut back some of the trees beside the railway. Managing the growth will help to keep your running safely and reliably and has made Skerne Bridge more visible for people in Darlington. Meanwhile, we repainted sections of the bridge and removed graffiti.

We worked closely with the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and Darlington Borough Council to brighten up the area and bring the bridge closer to its former glory.  

Skerne Bridge officially opened on 27 September 1825 to carry the Stockton and Darlington Railway over the River Skerne. This was also the first time members of the public could travel by steam train.

Today, services on the Darlington to Bishop Auckland line run over Skerne Bridge. It’s about half a mile from the East Coast Main Line, which connects the capitals of England and Scotland via Yorkshire, York, Durham and Newcastle.

Pioneering engineer George Stephenson laid out his plans for this ground-breaking railway in a very special notebook:

Two years ago, we rediscovered the notebook after more than 50 years. The notebook, dated 1822, was found by John Page, a records assistant at Network Rail’s archive in York. It outlines Stephenson’s redesign of and budget for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and became the blueprint for the railways that followed.

Click here to find out more about the historic plans.

Paul Rutter, route director of our East Coast route, said: “Skerne Bridge is a vital part of our railway history, and I’m proud of our teams for carrying out this work ahead of the 195th anniversary, so it can be celebrated by people in Darlington and showcased to those visiting the town.

“The bridge carried the first passenger trains and it will remain an essential part of Darlington’s railway for years to come.”

Graeme Bunker-James, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: “As the custodians of Darlington’s modern manufacture of steam locomotives, it is wonderful to see the world famous location recognised as the birthplace of the public railway fit for the celebrations.”

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