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Walk the Line - Wylam and George Stephenson's Birthplace

Visitor outside George Stephenson's Birthplace, Northumberland
Visitor outside George Stephenson's Birthplace | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Wylam Parish Council and The National Trust have created Walk the Line – Wylam and George Stephenson’s Birthplace. This is a guided walking tour taking in wider Wylam and the famous railwaymen who called it home including William Hedley, Timothy Hackworth, Jonathan Forster and George Stephenson.

Walk the Line

Walk the Line walks, which take place monthly, follow in the footsteps of these famous local railwaymen and include a visit to Wylam Railway Museum.

The museum displays share the stories of three important railway lines. These are the old waggonway which enabled coal to be transported from Wylam to the Staithes further down the River Tyne, the Newcastle to Carlisle Railway, on which Wylam station is one of the oldest stations in the world to be still in use, and the former North Wylam line which closed in 1968.

The museum also has a focus on the importance of Wylam and its several local railway pioneers. The guided walk explores why their work was so significant in the early development of railways.

Why Wylam?

But why Wylam? What was it about this place in particular that inspired those young men to go onto brilliant things?

In the early 1800s, industry was expanding rapidly, leading to an increased demand for coal from the North-East. Interest grew in trying to find new ways of using steam power, especially for moving goods from one place to another. In 1804, Wylam colliery owner Christopher Blackett, ordered a locomotive from Richard Trevithick. This commission ultimately failed, but it launched a series of revolutionary experiments in railway technology, making Wylam the centre for pioneering work on railway engineering and setting in motion all that followed.

Led by Blackett’s manager, William Hedley, and assisted by enginewright Jonathan Forster and blacksmith Timothy Hackworth, attempts were made at building an alternative locomotive. The trio were eventually successful in 1813, creating the now legendary Puffing Billy (and soon after Wylam Dilly), the first commercial ‘adhesion’ steam locomotive used to haul coal from Wylam Colliery to Lemington Staithes on the River Tyne at the (then impressive) speed of 5mph.

Twelfth scale working models of both Puffing Billy and Wylam Dilly can be seen at Wylam Railway Museum as part of the Walk the Line tour.

Puffing Billy was an important influence on George Stephenson and, as part of the walk, visitors can step inside the birthplace of Wylam’s most well-known son. The whole family lived in one room of the cottage, extremely close to the waggonway which ran by the window with horse-pulled waggons passing by. An experience which surely helped cement George’s future career as a world-famous railway engineer and pioneer.

The Walk

The first part of the walk takes one hour and on your return to the car park, you will be met by our second guide who will take you Wylam Railway Museum followed by a walk to George Stephenson's Birthplace. The second part of the walk also takes around an hour. Here you will discover how Wylam's most famous son spent his early life and was inspired to become a world-famous railway engineer.

The walks run on a monthly basis up to and including October (dates vary, please visit the website). Tickets can be booked online and cost £5 for adults, children go free.

This is a moderate walk with varied terrain and some worn steps. Please wear suitable footwear and dress for the weather.

Please note that the length of the tour may vary slightly. Toilets are available at the Railway Museum. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome on the walk and in the Railway museum but are not allowed inside George Stephenson's Birthplace.

Please also note the walk crosses a field which does not allow dogs - an alternative route can be taken, after which you can re-join the group. The walk is approximately 2 to 3 miles with frequent stops and starts.

Tickets will be released approximately four weeks before the event.