By Geoff Courtney
Britain’s railway history is spread over many generations, and indeed centuries, and this has been no better illustrated than by a tie-up between the Middleton Railway, the world’s oldest working railway, and Virgin Trains, one of the new breed of operators.
The Middleton Railway is based in Hunslet, Leeds – another name which will resonate with enthusiasts both at home and overseas – and can trace its roots back to 1758, when it began transporting coal in horse-drawn wagons running on wooden tracks from Middleton colliery to wharfs on the River Aire.
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In 1799 these tracks were replaced with iron-edged rails, and in 1812 it became the first commercial railway to use steam locomotives successfully, following the delivery of Salamanca, designed and built by steam locomotive manufacturer Matthew Murray at his factory in
Rack and pinion
The design of this 0-4-0 included a large central cog wheel on its left-hand side that engaged with a single rack located outside the track, making it the first rack and pinion locomotive, while another first followed in 1814 when it was featured in a watercolour by local artist George Walker, the first-ever painting of a steam loco.
Read more in Issue 231 of HR – on sale now!Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.