‘Oldest’ standard gauge railway goes on show

SECTIONS of what may be the world’s oldest standard gauge railway to be discovered have gone on show.

A close-up of one of the waggonway timbers thought to be the forerunner of standard gauge railways across the world. TYNE & WEAR MUSEUMS

As reported in issue 180, an excavation in the summer of 2013 at the site of the former Neptune shipyard in Walker, Wallsend, near the Roman fort of Segedunum on the banks of the River Tyne, unearthed 30 yards of the Willington Waggonway which was part of a network that linked the ports of the North East with collieries in the 1780s.

The wooden railways were discovered by experts from the Newcastle-based The Archaeological Practice who had been hunting Roman remains.

The dig was being carried out in advance of Shepherd Offshore’s redevelopment of the site.

A few of the preserved timbers from the Willington Waggonway at the Stephenson Railway Museum. TYNE & WEAR MUSEUMS

A section of what is believed to be the most complete and best-preserved length of early wooden railway to have been found anywhere in the world was lifted for preservation and study by Tyne & Wear Archive and Museums with the aid of a £75,000 grant from Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund.

The rediscovered waggonway was also the earliest railway yet discovered which was built to what became the standard gauge of 4ft 8½in, linking the line to George and Robert Stephenson and the development of modern railways. The wooden rails were 4-5in thick and 5-6in broad.

Read more in Issue 232 of HR – on sale now!







Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.