Did the Train Arrive on Time?
This activity is provided by Tony Fox who teaches on Teesside. It’s a good example of the advantages of using a physical activity for a local history topic. The use of space (with the room becoming a map of the locality) seems even more relevant to the geography of the locality. The physical activity also introduces more detail than might otherwise be possible with many students through books and sources.
This activity is designed to breathe life into Transport, a topic often thought to be rather dry, by recreating the decision made in the building of the Stockton to Darlington Railway. The activity is designed to help students to
- develop an understanding of changes in transport in the 19th Century
- appreciate the choices being made in the process of building the railway
- understand why railway was important to the local area
- stimulate interest in Transport in Stockton to Darlington
This activity can be used as an introduction to the development of railways in the 19th Century, or as a revision activity for students looking at the topic of Transport in the 19th Century. The activity can be used to reinforce knowledge of the Stockton to Darlington Railway or to introduce a local study.
For other possible contexts for use see Notes and Variations.
1. Set out the room as per the room plan.
Pupils should be seated at their designated spot on the map. Chairs should be placed to show the River Tees, and should be provided for the characters and toll keepers. Tables should be used to represent the towns of Stockton, Darlington and Shildon. Although this is possible in a small classroom, a large classroom or hall is best for this activity. String or wool should be placed on the floor to represent the roads. The teacher should be the narrator, but this could be another pupil.
2. Give the role cards to individual students, ( see below ). You could add more roles, extra wagons. townspeople, ships or Robert Stephenson (to assist George). You should also label the Towns. Additional props could be top hats for the characters, and soft toys for passengers on the railway.
All pupils should be involved in the decisions at the Decision Points, with the narrator encouraging the 5 Characters to lead. Pupils should justify their decisions, the newspaper reporters should note down the decisions and the arguments for and against. The decisions can be printed onto A4 cards for all to see, or used as part of the PowerPoint. The Decision Points give pupils the opportunity to stop and think about the process.
3 x toll keepers
2 x newspaper reporters
2 x townspeople in Stockton
2 x townspeople in Darlington
1 x (playing the part of the) wagon carrying paper cups & tray
1. Pupils playing the additional people should be placed (the Wagon should begin at Shildon). Once characters have their role cards and have read them, they should be placed at the correct spots Then each character announces who they are. The narrator then gives the brief introduction from the Narrator’s Notes below
2. The Pupil playing the Wagon should be told to leave Shildon, carrying a cup to symbolize being laden, and head for Stockton. He or she will follow the road to Stockton via Sedgefield because it’s direct. Stop the pupils almost immediately.
- Ask pupils how quickly the wagon will travel and why it’s taking that route.
The narrator then reminds the pupils it is 1810 and reads the Narrator’s Notes for 1810.
- Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Turnpike Trusts
Decision Point 1: Ask the pupils to decide on the best route to Stockton for the wagon – via Sedgefield or Darlington?
3. Allow the ‘Wagon’ to travel to Stockton
- List the advantages and disadvantages of road transport that have been identified. Ask pupils if they want to see improvements and alternatives.
4. The narrator tells the pupils it is now 1812, and asks Leonard Raisbeck to read from his role card.
- Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of his proposal to build a canal.
Decision Point 2: Ask pupils if they think building a canal is a good idea.
Now read the Narrator’s Notes for 1812.
5. The narrator tells the pupils it is now 1818, and asks George Stephenson to read from his role card.
- Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Stephenson’s plan to build a railway.
- Edward Pease and Benjamin Flounders should read from their role cards
Decision Point 3: Ask the townspeople if they support the idea of a railway and, if they do,
Decision Point 4: Decide on the best route
6. The narrator tells the pupils it is now 1825 and reads the 1825 information. The pupil playing the wagon travels to Stockton, via Darlington, carrying a tray, to represent the much larger cargo.
7. The narrator tells the pupils it is now 1826 and reads the 1826 information, focussing on the problem of Stockton docks being too small
- Joseph Pease should read from his role card
Decision Point 5: Discuss the problem of Stockton docks being too small and then discuss Joseph Pease’s plan to extend the railway beyond Stockton. Decide whether to support this plan.
8. The narrator concludes by telling the pupils it is now 1827 and reads the 1827 information
The Activity is now complete in itself but you have established a springboard for investigating Transport problems in the 19th Century or more specifically Railways and the Stockton to Darlington Railway. Although this is a demonstration rather than a role play, pupils should be encouraged to explore the different possibilities, through discussion and decision-making
The pupils playing the newspaper reporters should feed back on how the discussions could be seen by people outside the area.
The debriefing can cover a series of levels listed below.
1. A reminder of factual details – Advantages and disadvantages of road, canal & rail transport in the 19th Century, the building of the Stockton to Darlington Railway.
2. Some of the difficulties in setting up a railway
3. Why were Transport and/or railways important to local people?
4. How did you feel about the railways?
5. How do you think people might have reacted at the time?
6. Was this a significant event and why? How have ideas changed?
Notes & Variations
1. This activity could be used at GCSE by students investigating the Transport Revolution in the British Social, Economic and Political option, it could be part of a SHP History Around Us investigation.
2. At KS3 it could be used when looking at transport changes between 1750 & 1900, leading to, or following from a depth study on railways. I am keen to have KS3 pupils following local study enquiries, this activity could be used with KS3 pupils who have looked at the building of the Stockton to Darlington Railway, or the establishment and development of Middlesbrough.
3. The PowerPoint (with the Stockton-Darlington map) could be used to set up the room, giving pupils a better idea of the layout, or it could be used to introduce the first part of the activity.
4. The notes from the Newspaper reporters could be used for a number of follow up activities; describing the decision making process, examining the development of Transport or for a presentation about the activity itself.
My name is Leonard Raisbeck. I am a very important lawyer in the town of Stockton. I have been involved in a number of projects which have helped the development of the town of Stockton.
I support the idea of a canal from Shildon to Stockton. Coal from the South Durham coal fields, and iron from the foundries in the area, can be transported easily to the River Tees at Stockton. We will also be able to send goods from the port to the Durham area, making Stockton as important as Newcastle and Sunderland.
My name is George Stevenson, I come from Wylam in Northumberland, I am an engineer. I have begun to make a name for myself in the North East of England for my engineering work in the numerous coal mines.
I suggest that you build a railway. It would be capable of carrying heavy goods from Shildon to the Port of Stockton. The wagons would travel along iron rails, as we have done in the coal mines. I could even design and build an engine to pull the wagons.
My name is Edward Pease. I am a Quaker from Darlington. I have made my money in the wool industry, which has meant that I now own land in the Darlington area. I have been involved in a number of Projects that have benefited the people of Darlington.
I have spoken much with Mister George Stevenson, I am in full support of the idea of a railway. The railway will not only speed up the transportation of goods too and from Stockton, but will, I am sure, make its owners more money than the share holders of the Turnpike trusts. I will obtain shares in the Stockton & Darlington Rail company and will allow the company to purchase my land for the route at a reduced rate.
My name is Benjamin Flounders. I am a Quaker from Yarm. I own businesses and land locally, as well as in Shropshire. I am an important man in the local area, I have involved myself in a number of projects designed to improve the lives of people in Yarm and Stockton.
I fully support the idea of a railway, I have already invested in a ‘Cut’ in the river Tees, which has improved the Ports of Stockton and Yarm. I believe the railway will benefit the local industry. I will obtain shares in the Stockton & Darlington Rail company and will allow the company to purchase my land for the route at a reduced rate.
My name is Joseph Pease, my father is Edward Pease. My father is getting a little old and I have taken some of the responsibility for the family business, but have also become involved in improving the lives of the People of Darlington.
I am going to ask Parliament to extend the railway to a site on the opposite side of the Tees to Stockton. We will use the empty land on the south bank of the river as a docking area for Ships delivering cargo to the railway. We will call the dock ‘Port Darlington’ and, as it is closer to the mouth of the river, it will be able to take larger ships than Stockton and will rival Newcastle and Sunderland.
Welcome to Teesside, the year is 1810, it is the height of the Napoleonic Wars. Ships are travelling up the mouth of the Tees to dock at the busy port of Stockton. Cargoes from all over Teesside are being loaded, the most important being coal from the South Durham Coal Fields and iron from the Foundries at Witton, near Shildon. This coal and iron is driving the Industrial Revolution.
The route from Shildon to Stockton, via Sedgefield and Billingham, has only a small stretch of Turnpike, making the route slow and difficult, as the roads are in a poor condition. In contrast, the route via Darlington is almost a complete Turnpike road and in very good condition. Also local industrialists get a discounted rate on this Turnpike route as share holders of the Stockton and the Darlington area Turnpikes.
A survey looking at the viability of a canal from Stockton to Shildon has found that £205,000 is required because a canal taking an almost straight line from Stockton to Shildon would require almost 40 locks! A longer canal, by an indirect route would not recoup its building costs. For these reasons the plan to build a canal was put on hold.
The survey looking at the viability of a railway from Stockton to Shildon, via Darlington has found that £92,000 is required, and a further £32,000 would allow for a number of branch lines. On Friday 13th November 1818, at Darlington Town Hall, the Stockton & Darlington Railway company was set up. It proposed to issue shares of £100 each. Edward Pease and Benjamin Flounders each pay for 50 shares. Another 38 men are listed as requesting more than 5 shares.
On 27th September 1825, the Stockton to Darlington Railway is opened. The Steam Engine ‘Locomotion’, driven by George Stephenson, leaves Shildon and travels the 28 miles to Stockton pulling wagons containing coal, flour and people, a total of 80 tons, at a speed of 12 mph. One wagon is different, the company ‘Coach’ which contains the proprietors of the company. On arrival the proprietors and other dignitaries attend a celebratory dinner in Stockton Town Hall. The first steam powered public railway in the world is open.
The Railway is very successful. By the end of 1826 the railway had almost recovered its cost! The problem in 1826 was that Stockton’s old docks were too small to cope with the increasing volume of cargo moving along the railway. The river was not deep enough for the large coal ships that used the River Tyne. What could be done?
Joseph Pease led the request to Parliament to authorise an extension of the railway to ‘Port Darlington’. It was stated that the cost would be £35,000, which could be raised through the issue of shares. Port Darlington would have deep berths, which could cope with ships carrying more than 200 tons of cargo. On 12th May 1830 the Middlesbrough estate was bought, by Joseph Pease for £30,000, the plans for the new town of Middlesbrough were drawn up, and on 27th December 1830 Timothy Hackworth’s ‘Globe’ drew the first train on the Middlesbrough Branch Railway.
Decision Points (Summary)
- Decision 1: Which is the best route to travel?
- Decision 2: Should a canal be built?
- Decision 3: Should a railway be built?
- Decision 4: Which is the best railway route?
- Decision 5: Should the railway be extended beyond Stockton?
- How effective was your use of space and movement? Would you do anything differently in terms of organization next time? (and don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back!)
- How did tackling this topic through this physical activity affect students’ learning? e.g. was understanding of the patterns of events deeper?
- What, if anything, will you do more effectively next time?