The 1820s in North East England.
Three servants are discussing the arrival of a surprise visitor, who has come to see their master, Mr Hindmarsh...
The visitor is George Stephenson, who, twenty years previously had worked as a coal boy and had courted Mr Hindmarsh's daughter, Elizabeth.
At that time he had been sent packing by Mr Hindmarsh, but in the meantime Stephenson has become a successful engineer and inventor...and has returned to ask for permission to marry her.
While Nancy, the youngest servant, is sent to eavesdrop on the master's conversation with his visitor, Betty reveals that she has secretly been reading Miss Elizabeth's diary account of George's achievements, including the invention of 'iron horses' that are used to pull huge weights of coal in Hetton Colliery and which in years to come will be used to transport not only coal, but people as well.
Alfred is shocked at this vision of a mechanical future, regarding it as devilish and unnatural. However, then Nancy returns with the good news that Elizabeth and George are to marry and that the master has called for wine to toast the future.
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