George Stephenson: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about George Stephenson.

  • George Stephenson was an engineer who built the first public railway to use steam trains. He also devised the miner’s safety lamp and built several bridges.

  • Stephenson was born in 1781 in Northumberland and learned to read and write at night school. He became an expert with steam machinery after fixing the pumping device in a local mine.
  • His first job was keeping a herd of cows out of the way of a horse drawn wagon. He was later hired to build a 13 km mine railway in 1820, the world’s first that was not pulled by animals.

George Stephenson

  • George Stephenson also devised a safety lamp for miners that would burn without exploding. An inventor called Davy invented a lamp at the same time, causing arguments between the two men.
  • In 1829, George Stephenson and his son Robert designed their famous steam train, the Rocket. The Rocket was so successful that virtually all other steam trains were modeled after it.
  • The Rocket featured in the opening day celebrations of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. However, the celebrations were overshadowed by the death of a local MP in the world’s first railway accident.
  • Stephenson is also credited with inventing the standard gauge for rail tracks which is still used all over the world.

George Stephenson railway

  • The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830. It was the first railway in which all the trains operated to a timetable and all passengers bought a ticket.
  • George Stephenson also designed the first bridge to cross a railway line at an angle, for extra strength. The bridge was built in 1830 at Rainhill and is still used today.
  • George Stephenson died on 12th August 1848 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He was 67 years old and was suffering with pleurisy, a lung infection.
  • Today, Stephenson’s birthplace is a museum, and there is a statue of him in Chesterfield Station. Several schools are named after him and he appeared on the 5 pound note between 1990 and 2003.

What next? Discover some facts about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, another famous engineer, or learn more about the Victorians by visiting our Victorians resources page.