The George Stephenson notebook

Eminent engineer George Stephenson’s plans for the birth of the modern railway are some of the most extraordinary pages in Network Rail’s archive.

The notebook, dated 1822, outlines Stephenson’s redesign of and budget for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which is widely considered the world’s first passenger railway to use locomotives. It became the blueprint for the railways that followed.

John Page, a records assistant, rediscovered the artefact in 2018. It was the first time anyone had seen it in more than 50 years.

The notebook shows Stephenson’s survey of fellow engineer George Overton’s original 1821 line and the amendments he recommended to it.

There were significant changes to the Overton design. Overton’s plan had sharp inclines, steep curves and tunnels whereas Stephenson favoured gradual inclines and eased curves.

Stephenson also proposed the use of spoil excavated from the cuttings to create the embankments, avoiding the need for a tunnel Overton had recommended. This would shorten the Darlington branch by three miles.

Network Rail partnered with The National Railway Museum in York to display the notebook from 27 September 2018 – the 193rdanniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington line – until 19 December.

Now, for the first time, the document is available to view online:

Download George Stephenson’s original survey of the Stockton and Darlington Railway