The first passenger railway in the world was opened in 1825 running between Darlington and Stockton. Originally devised to carry coal from Durham to the river at Stockton, it also accommodated passengers who travelled on the inaugural trip – estimated at around 450 people. Part of the original line ran through the western edge of Preston Park alongside the old turnpike road and it was here that the celebrated contest between the “Locomotion” and a stagecoach took place, at around 12mph!
Amid massive crowds and uproar the train arrived at the Stockton wharf to be greeted by bands playing, church bells, a 21 gun salute and cheers from the riotous crowd. This was followed by a sumptuous banquet at the Town Hall for proprietors, guests and the workmen to celebrate the achievement. The coming of the railway enabled the local towns to continue to prosper and led to the industrial boom of Teesside.
Only a short walk from the original Stockton wharf is a building reputed to the first booking office for the railway (and the world}. It stands alongside the line of the original track, not far from Victoria Bridge – the remains of old wooden staithes, used for loading coal onto boats are visible just downstream of the bridge.