George and Robert Stephenson

26 Mar, 2020 620 Engineering

In a programme first broadcast on April 12th 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in C19th. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert’s contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration. Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Dr Michael Bailey No other episodes
    Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson
  • Julia Elton 2 episodes
    Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology
  • Colin Divall No other episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Reading list

  • Robert Stephenson - The Eminent Engineer
    Michael R. Bailey (ed.) (Routledge, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Railways: Nation, Network and People
    Simon Bradley (Profile Books, 2015) Google Books →
  • The World's First Railway System: Enterprise, Competition, and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain
    Mark Casson (Oxford University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • Samuel Smiles and the Construction of Victorian Values
    Adrian Jarvis (Sutton Publishing, 1997) Google Books →
  • Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825-1875
    R. W. Kostal (Clarendon Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Early Railways: Papers from the Second Early Railways Conference
    Michael Lewis (ed.) (Newcomen Society, 2003)
  • George & Robert Stephenson: The Railway Revolution
    L. T. C. Rolt (Amberley Publishing, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Railway in England and Wales 1830-1914: Vol. 1, The System and Its Working
    Jack Simmons (Leicester University Press, 1978) Google Books →
  • The Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson
    Samuel Smiles (Wentworth Press, 2016) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b09y6zfr

Episode page:

Auto-category: 620 (Engineering and Applied Operations)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in October 1829 George and Robert Stevenson proved that their steam locomotive, Rocket, could pull the trains on the planned Liverpool to Manchester railway more reliably and much faster than any other.