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date: 27 February 2021

Stephenson, Georgefree

  • M. W. Kirby

George Stephenson (1781–1848)

by Thomas Lewis Atkinson, pubd 1849 (after John Lucas, 1847)

Stephenson, George (1781–1848), colliery and railway engineer, was born at Wylam, 8 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne in the county of Northumberland, on 9 June 1781. He was the second son of Robert Stephenson, foreman at the Wylam colliery pumping engine. His mother, Mabel, was the daughter of Richard Carr, a dyer of Ovingham, and his paternal grandfather is reported to have come from Scotland as a gentleman's servant. Steady and honest in his work, Robert Stephenson was fond of children and possessed a great love of birds. Both of these traits were inherited in full measure by George.

Early mechanical experience

George Stephenson's first employment was herding cows and leading horses at the plough. He commenced colliery work as a ‘picker’, clearing out stones from coal, and then became driver of the horses working the colliery gin at Black Callerton colliery. At the age of fourteen he was appointed an assistant fireman to his father at Dewley colliery. Thereafter, Stephenson served in a similar capacity at the ‘Duke's Winning’ pit near Newburn and the adjacent Mid Hill Winning pit. When he was seventeen years old he moved to the position of ‘plugman’, or engineman, to a new engine erected by Robert Hawthorn at Water Row colliery, to the west of Newburn. Coincidentally, his father was appointed fireman. In 1801 George was appointed ‘brakesman’ at the Dolly pit at Black Callerton, responsible for driving and maintaining the winding mechanism. At this stage in his life Stephenson was interested in acquiring the rudiments of education. In 1799 he had begun to learn to read and write in his spare time. He also received instruction in arithmetic, a subject which he mastered quickly, although theoretical calculation remained beyond his capacity. Writing, too, proved to be a persistent difficulty, and in later life he was obliged to employ a secretary to write for him.

While working at the Dolly pit, Stephenson lodged at a neighbouring farm where he met Frances Henderson (1769–1806), a farm servant and herself the daughter of a small farmer at Capheaton. The couple were married on 28 November 1802 at Newburn church, and on 16 October of the following year, their only son, Robert Stephenson, was born. By that time George was brakesman of a newly installed engine at Willington Quay to the east of Newcastle, responsible for emptying ballast from coal ships returning unladen from London. In order to supplement his income he began to repair shoes, clocks, and watches, acquiring considerable proficiency in the latter. In 1804 the Stephenson family moved to Killingworth following George's appointment as brakesman to the West Moor colliery engine. It was there, on 14 May 1806, that Frances Stephenson died of consumption soon after giving birth to a daughter who did not long survive.

Following these bereavements, Stephenson travelled on foot to Montrose to take charge of a Boulton and Watt steam engine at a spinning mill. Staying for little more than a year in Scotland, he returned to the north-east of England in 1808 when he entered into a joint contract with two other men to work the engines of the Killingworth pit. This was a fraught period in Stephenson's life due to family misfortune and financial problems: his father was blinded in an accident and Stephenson himself was drawn for the militia which involved paying for a substitute. In despair at his prospects he contemplated emigration to North America, following his sister, Anne. His spirits recovered out of concern for his son and also as a result of a painstaking commitment to self-education in the practical aspects of mechanical engineering. In the latter respect, Stephenson devoted each Saturday to dismantling and then reassembling one of the colliery engines so that he could master the techniques of construction.

Stephenson's frequent changes of employment at an early stage in his working life produced the considerable benefit of acquired expertise: by the time he moved to the Killingworth pit, he was well versed in the operation of colliery steam engines, old and new, in a variety of operating conditions. His practical experience as an enginewright, together with qualities of dogged persistence in the face of obstacles, were to stand him in good stead, resulting in 1811 in a decisive improvement in his fortunes. In that year, the Newcomen pumping engine at the recently sunk Killingworth High pit was subject to periodic breakdown: Stephenson identified the design defects, rectified them and was rewarded with a payment of £10. The significance of this episode is that the High pit was owned by the ‘grand allies’, a long-standing combination of aristocratic and gentry landowners with considerable mining interests in the north-east of England. In consequence of his exertions Stephenson was placed in charge of machinery at all of the grand allies' collieries at a salary of £100 per annum.

A safety lamp

Before assessing Stephenson's contribution to the development of railway technology it is instructive to note that his inventive capacity was applied first to a safety lamp for underground mineworkers. In the early nineteenth century pit explosions, in response to the exposure of inflammable gases to naked light, were a constant occurrence, and it is to Stephenson's credit that in the years after 1811 he began to ponder the need for a miners' safety lamp. By 1815 his mind was fixed on a design whereby the entry of air to support combustion was controlled by means of small tubes for the gases to pass through. The prototype lamp was tested at Killingworth on 21 October 1815 and improved forms were tested on 4 November and 30 November. During the third test Stephenson, equipped with his lamp, entered and left gaseous parts of the colliery workings in perfect safety. It remains to be said that unknown to him, Sir Humphry Davy had been working on the same subject via the application of scientific analysis. By coincidence, the two approaches—practical empiricism and the deployment of the scientific method—bore successful fruit at the same time. In 1816 Davy received a public testimonial of £2000 and Stephenson the relatively paltry sum of 100 guineas. The immediate furore at the apparent unfairness resulted in a local subscription fund for Stephenson. £1000 was raised and presented at a public dinner attended by colliery owners and managers, as well as civic dignitaries from Northumberland and Durham.

Early locomotives

It is salutary to remember that the development of the steam railway was inextricably bound up with the transport needs of the expanding coal industry of the early nineteenth century. The breakthrough to the mechanical haulage of coal from the pit head was made in two stages, the first in 1787 with James Watt's development of rotary motion, and the second in 1804 when the brilliant Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick produced his first high-pressure steam engine. The ‘Achilles' heel’ of the latter—and one which was to plague other early locomotive builders—was its excessive weight in relation to the available wooden track. It was this defect which caused Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam colliery in Northumberland, to refuse delivery of a Trevithick-type locomotive which had been built at John Whinfield's foundry in Gateshead in 1805. The Wylam colliery's horse-drawn wagonway was of traditional wood construction and Blackett recognized immediately that it would be damaged irreparably by locomotive haulage.

Even in this very early phase of locomotive development Trevithick's endeavours had highlighted one of the most critical factors in railway economics, namely the interrelatedness of a specialized capital stock. It was simply not possible to employ locomotives to advantage without incurring additional and proportionately much greater expenditure on a purpose-built metal track, and this acted as a powerful deterrent to further experiments in locomotive haulage. The obvious solution was the introduction of heavier and better designed track, preferably of wrought-iron construction. But to the extent that this would have entailed the scrapping of an existing investment giving an adequate return with horse haulage, it was financially unattractive to colliery owners.

An interim solution to the problem of achieving a reasonable tractive effort in a locomotive sufficiently light to operate on a flimsy track was provided by John Blenkinsop, agent to Charles Brandling, the owner of Middleton colliery near Leeds. In 1811 Blenkinsop patented a Trevithick-type engine with a cogged driving wheel. At the same time an existing wooden tramway was replaced by a cast-iron track with one of the two edge-rails carrying a projecting rack. This ‘cog and rack’ transmission enabled the locomotive to exert a tractive effort five times greater than Trevithick's original engine even though it was no heavier. By 1813 three engines were at work at Middleton and it is a tribute to Blenkinsop's reputation that others were to be found at Orell colliery in Lancashire and at the Coxlodge and Fawdon wagonway near the Tyne. According to contemporary accounts these locomotives proved reliable in service, at least as employed on the Middleton line where they operated until the early 1830s only to be replaced by horses. In a longer term perspective this was a retrograde step since the locomotive had by then reached a state of operating efficiency far superior to that provided by horse haulage. But in the short term it was a rational response to the falling cost of fodder which fully outweighed the advantages of cheap coal at the Middleton colliery pit head. This did not apply, of course, in 1813 when the price relationships were reversed due to the effects of war. Indeed, the high cost of horse feed was an important factor underpinning Blenkinsop's calculations of the projected savings arising from the transition to locomotives.

Whether Blenkinsop's achievement inspired other engineers to greater efforts is questionable since several exercises in locomotive building, notably in the north-east coalfield, were also taking place in 1812–13 at the time of the early Middleton colliery experiments. These included the self-hauling ‘chain engine’ of William Chapman, patented in December 1813 and placed on the Heaton wagonway in 1813, and William Brunton's ‘mechanical traveller’, first patented in May 1813 and commencing work on the Newbottle wagonway in the final months of 1814. Both of these engines were of eccentric design, mechanically unreliable, and expensive in operation.

A more orthodox approach to locomotive development, in conformity with the practice of Trevithick and Blenkinsop, was adopted by William Hedley and George Stephenson. The former, a colliery viewer in the employment of Christopher Blackett's Wylam colliery, was effectively prevented from adopting Blenkinsop's rack-rail system by the fact that the Wylam wagonway had only recently been relaid as a metal plateway. He therefore designed and built his own Trevithick-type locomotive, ultimately resolving the problem of excessive weight by doubling the number of axles to four. As with Blenkinsop's Middleton locomotives, the ‘Wylam Dilly’ type of engine proved reliable in service, although it did suffer from the prevailing defect of an inadequate supply of steam, and initially, at least, relied upon a clumsy arrangement of teeth or flanges attached to the wheels and entering the ground on either side of the rails in order to increase the tractive effort.

In the case of George Stephenson a clear distinction must be drawn between his misplaced reputation as 'the father of the locomotive', as portrayed by Samuel Smiles, ably assisted by Stephenson himself, and his very real achievement in advancing the design and construction of the locomotive to its modern form in essential details. By the time Blenkinsop was beginning his experiments on the Middleton wagonway Stephenson was working for the grand allies at Killingworth colliery. He was certainly familiar with the work of Chapman and Hedley, and it seems likely that he had observed at close quarters the Blenkinsop rack-rail locomotive at work on the Coxlodge and Fawdon wagonway. Indeed, Stephenson's own engine, the Blucher, constructed at the West Moor colliery workshop during the first half of 1814, followed Blenkinsop's design in detail. But since the Killingworth wagonway was laid with wooden edge-rails with a metal strip surface this meant that the Blucher had two critical operational weaknesses. In the first instance its single straight-flue boiler offered limited steam-raising powers when compared with the Trevithick-type return-flue installed in the Wylam engines, and in the absence of the rack-rail transmission its tractive effort was relatively poor. It also proved too heavy for the wooden track, although this aspect can hardly have been a fatal one in view of the construction of a second locomotive early in 1815.

It was perhaps the fortuitous combination of these defects with Stephenson's abilities and personality—his remarkable engineering talents and qualities of dogged persistence—which transformed the Killingworth wagonway into the focal point of railway experiment and design after 1815. The problem of poor tractive effort was soon alleviated, but by no means solved, by the simple expedient of increasing the diameter of the boiler flue and applying the power directly to the wheels by connecting rods, thus reducing the need for crudely manufactured gearing, while further developments were directed towards increasing the longevity of the track. One approach was to reduce the damage inflicted by the engine itself and to this end Stephenson collaborated with William Losh, the senior partner in the iron-making firm of Losh, Wilson, and Bell of Newcastle, to produce the so-called ‘steam spring’, an arrangement of pistons on each axle bearing the weight of the boiler and its attachments. Far more effective were his patent improvements to the track, involving a new method of jointing and more sophisticated rail chairs. These too were produced in association with Losh and by the end of 1818 the Killingworth wagonway had been relaid with cast-iron edge-rails bearing the LoshStephenson patent.

It was Stephenson's unique achievement that he alone of the early locomotive builders proved capable of viewing railway development as an entity. In perceiving the vital link between locomotive and track he succeeded in demonstrating the economic and practical advantages of mechanical traction. The smooth edge-rail was superior in the engineering and technical sense to both the tram plate and Blenkinsop's rack-rail, and the StephensonLosh design improvements practically reconfirmed the principle first established by Trevithick that the weight of a locomotive was sufficient to provide the necessary adhesion on the rails. The Blucher may have been far less sophisticated in its boiler design to the Trevithick and Hedley engines, but in its mode of operation it ranks as the first ‘modern’ locomotive, reliant upon the force of adhesion via flanged wheels. When it was put to work on the Killingworth wagonway the number of horses was reduced from fifty to thirty and by 1820, when the cast-iron track was relaid with wrought-iron edge-rails, haulage by horses had all but disappeared.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway

Stephenson's claim to fame as the most able of the early locomotive builders was responsible for his recruitment to the Stockton and Darlington Railway project, inaugurated by act of parliament in 1821 in order to link the collieries of south-west Durham with the mouth of the River Tees. Appointed as engineer to the line at a salary of £300 per annum, Stephenson strongly urged the advantages of steam locomotives over horse traction. He re-surveyed the whole of the proposed line, and early in 1823 a new parliamentary act was obtained with alterations to the original route conducive to locomotive haulage. On 23 May 1823 the first rail was laid. Stephenson advocated the use of malleable iron rails rather than ‘inferior’ cast iron and he succeeded in persuading the railway company's management committee to form the line with two-thirds of the former.

At the same time, Stephenson began to consider the supply of locomotives and other steam engines, and in this respect he viewed it as essential to assemble a trained staff of workers if techniques of construction were to be improved. He therefore decided to establish his own manufacturing establishment—Robert Stephenson & Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne—with the help of substantial financial contributions from Edward Pease and the latter's cousin, Thomas Richardson. Work commenced in August 1823 and by the time the Stockton and Darlington line opened for traffic on 27 September 1825, four winding engines had been delivered together with a fully operational steam locomotive: Locomotion No.1, weighing 8 tons, hauled a train of goods and passengers along the entire line on the opening day, on occasion obtaining speeds of 12 to 16 miles per hour. This historic engine was preserved and is now exhibited in the North Road Railway Museum, Darlington.

Liverpool and Manchester Railway

It is an indication of Stephenson's increasing stature as an engineer beyond the confines of the north-east of England that from the mid-1820s onwards he began to receive numerous invitations to assist in the projection of other railway schemes. Already, in 1824, he had taken the far-sighted decision to establish 'an office for Engineering and Railway Surveying' with his son Robert, Edward Pease, and Michael Longridge as partners. By far the most important of Stephenson's early projects was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The rapidly increasing trade between these two towns in consequence of the growth of the cotton industry had outgrown the facilities of the local canal network, and as early as 1821 schemes were mooted for connecting them by a railway.

In 1824 a company was organized, and Stephenson, after several visits of the promoters to the Stockton and Darlington line then under construction, was employed to undertake surveys and the preparation of plans. Stephenson's surveyors, however, encountered fierce opposition from the farmers and proprietors of the great estates through which the proposed line was to run, and were often subjected to actual personal violence; hence, proper surveys could not be made. A bill was introduced into parliament in 1825 and, after a stubborn fight, was eventually rejected, mainly on the grounds of admitted inefficiency of the plans. Stephenson was subjected to the most searching cross-examination by the counsel for the opposers, especially as to his method of crossing the Chat Moss, and the speed he proposed his engines should attain.

In 1826 the promoters again introduced a bill. The new plans were drawn on surveys made by the civil engineers George Rennie and his brother Sir John Rennie. Another long struggle ended in their victory. Stephenson was appointed engineer, and work was at once begun. The most important constructional works on the line were the crossing of Chat Moss and the execution of the great Olive Mount cutting. By distributing the load of the track over a considerable surface of the Moss, Stephenson was enabled, in effect, to float the line over this treacherous bog, and thus overcome the chief difficulty.

While the line was being constructed extended consideration was given to the question of motive power, and for a time, influenced by a report given by outside engineering experts, the directors were in favour of haulage by the use of fixed engines distributed at intervals along the line. Stephenson fought strenuously for locomotive power, and eventually the directors decided to test his advocacy by means of an open competition, the prize offered being £500. The chief condition insisted on was that a mean speed of 10 miles per hour should be obtained with a steam pressure not exceeding 50 lb per square inch. There were also restrictions as to the weight of the engine in comparison with the load it hauled, the constructional price, and other details. The trial was fixed for 1 October 1829.

The Rocket and the Rainhill trial, 1829

In the light of operating experience with his early locomotives on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, Stephenson calculated that if the new form of traction was to be successful, a means had to be devised of increasing the heating surface of the boiler of his locomotive. On the advice of Henry Booth, the secretary of the Liverpool and Manchester company, and with the encouragement of his son, Robert, he adopted tubes passing through the cylindrical barrel and connecting the firebox with the smoke box. Several tubular boilers had been made previously by Trevithick, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, and others; and Marc Seguin in France, in 1828, had applied the tube principle to a locomotive.

Stephenson's engine for the trial, named the Rocket, was built at the Newcastle works under the direct supervision of Robert Stephenson, and, after numerous failures, the problem of securing the tubes to the tube-plates was mastered. The boiler was a cylinder 6 feet long and 40 inches in diameter, with twenty-five 3 inch copper tubes, the firebox being 2 feet by 3 feet, secured to the front and surrounded by water; there were two cylinders, each placed obliquely to the axis. The weight of the locomotive was 4¼ tons. Three other engines entered the competition in addition to the Rocket—the Novelty (the only real competitor) by John Braithwaite (1797–1870) and John Ericson, the Sanspareil by Timothy Hackworth, and the Perseverance by Timothy Burstall.

The place of the trial, Rainhill, near Liverpool, was a 2 mile level piece of line, and each engine was to run at least 70 miles in a day, backwards and forwards on this course, at a mean speed of at least 10 miles per hour. The contest, which created considerable public interest and excitement, began on 6 October 1829. On the opening day the Rocket, the only engine ready to time, ran 12 miles in fifty-three minutes, and was eventually awarded the prize, the Novelty experiencing several mishaps during the various tests.

Stephenson's triumph was complete: former opponents henceforth became ardent advocates of his civil and mechanical engineering abilities and the true dawn of the ‘railway age’ of the nineteenth century may be said to date from 15 September 1830 when the new line was officially opened in great state, a procession of eight locomotives, with their attendant carriages, passing over it. The duke of Wellington, then prime minister, and most of the distinguished men of the day were present. The opening ceremonies were, however, marred by the fatal accident to William Huskisson, president of the Board of Trade. Despite this misfortune it is a notable fact that the subsequent prosperity of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (the annual dividend to shareholders averaged 9.5 per cent per annum during its independent existence) was underwritten by a combination of goods and passenger traffic. In the latter context the line created a demand that had not been thought to exist, insofar as the time and cost of travelling between two rapidly growing towns was halved.

Later railway projects

From 1830 onwards until 1845, when he decided to retire completely from active work, Stephenson's life was a history of the railway progress of the country. The locomotive underwent further improvements. When Gurney's steam jet was applied to the Rocket, that engine attained a speed of 29 miles per hour. Indeed, the engines designed and built by Robert Stephenson & Co. proved to be the dominant and enduring type in the face of alternative schools of locomotive building. As for his involvement in major construction projects, Stephenson was chief engineer to the Grand Junction line connecting Birmingham with Liverpool and Manchester, begun in 1833 and finished by Joseph Locke, his pupil. He was also chief engineer to the following railways: Manchester to Leeds, Birmingham to Derby, Normanton to York, and Sheffield to Rotherham, and others, all begun in 1836. The Derby to Leeds Railway (afterwards called the North Midland line) was commenced under his supervision in 1837.

In fact, there was hardly a railway scheme in which Stephenson was not consulted, or an important line built without his help and advice. In effect, therefore, George and his son together left an overwhelming imprint on railway construction and working for decades to come. The characteristics of that imprint are readily summarized under three headings—an unwavering commitment to the ‘standard’ gauge of rail spacing (4 ft 8½ in.), the avoidance of heavy gradients for main lines, and a pragmatic approach to locomotive haulage.

The standard gauge had been deployed by Stephenson first in the north-east coalfield, and in the early years of railway development, when gauges from 4 ft 4 in. to 7 ft 0 in. were being laid down, he was sufficiently far-sighted to envisage a unified national rail network. Different gauges between adjacent companies would raise transhipment costs significantly, thereby eroding one of the principal economic benefits of railways—lower delivery costs and final prices. So too in the matter of gradients and motive power, Stephenson was concerned to reduce operating costs: avoidance of severe gradients would eliminate the need for double-headed trains, while in certain circumstances (principally short-haul mineral railways) horse haulage and stationary engines could be used with greater advantage than steam locomotives.

In all of these respects, Stephenson ranks as an engineering genius, a judgement validated by the fact that his principles and practices soon spread overseas. By 1870, the standard gauge, general uniformity of practice, and incremental advances in railway technology in the light of thorough testing and practical experience had been adopted on a global scale. Such a result undoubtedly rested on Stephenson's personal qualities—that combination of innate curiosity, profound common sense, and sheer practical ability that marks him out as the greatest of railway pioneers.

After the completion of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Stephenson removed his home to Alton Grange, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. He had married again on 29 March 1820; his second wife was Elizabeth (d. 1845), daughter of Thomas Hindmarsh, a prosperous farmer at Black Callerton; the marriage did not produce any further children. He opened large coal pits in this neighbourhood, and spent much time and energy in developing its mineral resources. During the construction of the midland line he took a lease of Tapton House, near Chesterfield, and lived there until his death.

In 1838 Stephenson was elected vice-president of the mechanical science section of the British Association at its Newcastle meeting. He took a keen interest in the foundation and support of mechanics' institutes. During the great railway mania of 1844 he kept aloof from the worst speculative excesses, and used all his influence to check the mania. The remarkable development of railways and the locomotive in the fourteen years which had elapsed since the Rainhill trial was shown by the fact that Stephenson travelled from London to Newcastle in 1844 to attend a railway banquet in the then remarkably short time of nine hours.

Stephenson's last great parliamentary struggle was in 1845 in the battle between the supporters of the locomotive and the upholders of the atmospheric railway system, led by I. K. Brunel, which arose in connection with the extension of the railway from Newcastle to Berwick. Though the Board of Trade were inclined to support Brunel in his challenge to the steam locomotive, Stephenson's party won a great parliamentary victory, and settled the matter for ever. This was the final attempt to dispute the supremacy of the locomotive.

In 1847 Stephenson became president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which was founded by him that year in Birmingham. He remained notably aloof, however, from the more conservative Institution of Civil Engineers, founded in 1818 and a body dominated by London-based canal and turnpike engineers. He paid several visits to Belgium in connection with railway work, and received in 1835 the honour of knighthood from Leopold I. In 1845 he also visited northern Spain in connection with a proposed railway. Stephenson consistently refused all proffered honours in England, however, declining a knighthood on two occasions. He also declined to enter public life as a member of parliament even though he was offered a safe seat at South Shields.

Last years

Stephenson's last years were devoted to horticultural pursuits at Tapton House, in which he developed particular interests in the values of various manures, stockbreeding, artificial incubation of eggs, and accelerated fattening of chickens. He took great pleasure in growing straight cucumbers by the simple expedient of enclosing the immature growths in a cylindrical glass tube. Inclined to occasional intemperance, Stephenson was prone to remind visitors of his long struggle to promote and develop the steam locomotive, all the more so in the light of his modest origins and lack of formal education. A similar message was conveyed in his infrequent speeches to mechanics' institutes in which he consistently proclaimed his own singular contribution to the development of railways. Never one to suffer any fool gladly, Stephenson never deferred to his social betters. To the end of his life he remained an inveterate and dogmatic deliverer of advice, often while waiting at railway stations telling engineers how to improve the efficiency of their locomotives, and demonstrating to labourers the most effective way to use a shovel and barrow.

Stephenson's second wife died in 1845, and on 11 January 1848 he married his housekeeper, Ellen Gregory, the daughter of a farmer of Bakewell. But his strength was failing, and he died of pleurisy at Tapton House, Tapton, near Chesterfield, on 12 August 1848. He was buried on 17 August in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield. The foundation stone of a fine memorial hall was laid at Chesterfield by Lord Hartington on 17 October 1877, and the building was opened in July 1879. A festival in celebration of the centenary of Stephenson's birth was held at Newcastle on 9 June 1881, when a medal was struck in his honour.


  • S. Smiles, Lives of the engineers, new edn, 5 (1874)
  • J. C. Jeaffreson, The life of Robert Stephenson, 2 vols. (1864)
  • W. O. Skeat, George Stephenson: the engineer and his letters (1973)
  • L. T. C. Rolt, George and Robert Stephenson: the railway revolution (1960)
  • H. Davies, George Stephenson: a biographical study of the father of the railways, new edn (1977)
  • M. W. Kirby, The origins of railway enterprise: the Stockton and Darlington Railway, 1821–1863 (1993)
  • W. W. Tomlinson, The North Eastern railway: its rise and development [1915]
  • R. H. G. Thomas, The Liverpool and Manchester railway (1980)
  • E. L. Ahrons, The British steam railway locomotive, 1825–1925 (1927)
  • M. Robbins, George and Robert Stephenson, new edn (1981)
  • d. cert.


  • Chesterfield Library, Derbyshire, corresp.
  • Hunt. L., corresp.
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London, corresp. and papers
  • Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, report on Shannon navigation and papers
  • Liverpool Central Library, George and Robert Stephenson corresp.
  • Lpool RO, letters
  • NL Wales, report on railway communications with Ireland
  • U. Durham L., report on railway through Lord Carlisle's coalfields


  • S. Bellin, mezzotint, pubd 1839 (after H. P. Briggs), BM
  • J. Pitts, marble bust, 1846, NPG
  • T. L. Atkinson, engraving, pubd 1849 (after J. Lucas, 1847), NPG [see illus.]
  • J. Gibson, statue, 1857, St George's Hall, Liverpool
  • C. Moore, mezzotint, pubd 1857 (after bust by W. Lucas), NPG
  • J. G. Lough, statue, 1862, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • H. P. Briggs, oils, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London
  • W. Daniells, oils, V&A
  • I. R. G. Exley, print, BM, NPG
  • J. Lucas, oils, Inst. CE
  • J. Lucas, oils (George and Robert Stephenson), Inst. CE
  • H. W. Pickersgill, oils, NPG
  • group portrait, oils, Sci. Mus.
  • oils, National Railway Museum, York

Wealth at Death

£140,000: Jeaffreson, Life

Institution of Civil Engineers, London
National Portrait Gallery, London
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
Liverpool Record Office and Local Studies Service
, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
British Museum, London
University of Durham Library
Durham Record Office
Science Museum, London
National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
Huntington Library, San Marino, California