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Overton, George (Engineer) and Davies, David (Surveyor).
ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT SURVEY PLAN OF THE ROUTE OF THE WORLD'S FIRST PASSENGER RAILWAY. Plan and Section of the Intended Railway or Tram Road from Stockton by Darlington to the Collieries near West Auckland with Several Intended Branches of Railway or Tram Road in the County of Durham.
Date of Publication: 1819
Stock Code: 8692
A large original MS (hand-drawn) plan on paper sections, the sections backed onto linen to form one continuous whole, approximately 271 cm x 105 cm (8ft 11” x 3ft 5”). With features such as watercourses and branchlines marked in colour, and title cartouche at upper left-hand corner. The County Durham collieries and villages are shown from Witton Park and Cockfield in the west, with the proposed route for the scheme delineated down through West Auckland, past Shildon and on to Darlington, eventually terminating at Stockton. Proposed branch lines linking the principal routes to Witton Park Colliery, Cockfield Fell, Blackboy Colliery, Darlington, and Yarm are shown in red. With a gradient section plan from Escomb Lane in the west to Stockton in the east along the lower edge. Rolled, rather than folded or dissected. Very slightly surface soiled, with minor foxing, but overall in excellent condition.
In the early nineteenth century, businessmen in Stockton were continuing to search for ways to improve the viability of their port for the transport of coal from the mines of County Durham. As early as 1767 canal schemes had been proposed but, due to costs, nothing had come to fruition. By 1816 two competing groups from Yarm and Darlington were proposing two different routes, each with various combinations of canal and tramroad. The tramway option finally crystallised as the pre-eminent one when Jeremiah Cairns of Yarm wrote to his relative George Overton on the subject, and in a series of letters Overton suggested that a tramroad would be a more profitable alternative. By rail coal could be transported directly from the colliery with fewer breakages incurred from trans-shipment and a greater profit achieved as the larger coal commanded the highest price. Thomas Meynell (the future chairman of the Stockton and Darlington Railway) also saw extracts of Overton’s letters and on the 15th August 1818 wrote that “I am most decidedly favourable to the proposed railroad”. So it was then that on the 3rd September 1818 George Overton walked over the route between Stockton and West Auckland for the first time. By the 20th September his survey was complete, with the cost being estimated at £124,000. The Quaker Edward Pease supported it at a public meeting in Darlington on 13 November 1818, promising a five per cent return on investment. Little did Overton know it but his survey of the route of this iron road was to inaugurate a transport revolution that would circle the globe. This first survey “bore hasty signs of preparation” and when lodged with the Clerk of the Peace at Durham did not even bear the name of the surveyor. The first bill on the Stockton and Darlington Railway proposal (for which the first survey was prepared) failed at its second reading before Parliament due to opposition from Lords Darlington and Eldon, the former objecting because of the disruption to his fox hunting. On the basis of a second opinion on the proposed route from Robert Stevenson (of Bell Rock Lighthouse fame) Overton surveyed the route again, this time avoiding Darlington's estate and with a financial agreement having been reached with Eldon. This is a copy of that survey. Due to the death of George III the second bill was deferred and eventually submitted on the 30th September 1820, with the route having changed again. On the basis of Overton’s plan the Stockton and Darlington Railway Act then eventually received royal assent on 19th April 1821. The managing committee of the newly formed company appointed George Stephenson to conduct a new survey and, assisted by his 18 year old son Robert, Stephenson drew up a new survey by the end of that year, shortening the line by three miles but on largely the same route as Overton’s plan. Stephenson was elected engineer on the project in January 1822, and advocated the use of malleable iron rails and steam locomotives, and the world’s first passenger railway line opened on the 27th September 1825. Hand-drawn and hand-coloured, this large highly detailed plan is necessarily exceedingly rare and is an exceptional piece of railwayana and 19th c. industrial history. It will have been drawn up for either the principal investors, landowners or those directly responsible for the establishment of the railway.
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