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George and Robert Stephenson

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss George Stephenson, known as the Father of Railways, and his son Robert, designer of the Rocket, whose contribution was arguably even greater.

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.


Dr Michael Bailey
Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson

Julia Elton
Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology


Colin Divall
Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.
This programme is a repeat

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 26 Mar 2020 09:00


Julia Elton

Colin Divall at the University of York

Grace's Guide - British Industrial History

George Stephenson - Engineering timelines: engineering in the British Isles and beyond

George and Robert Stephenson archive – Institution of Mechanical Engineers

George Stephenson – Wikipedia

Robert Stephenson – Wikipedia



Michael R. Bailey (ed.), Robert Stephenson – The Eminent Engineer (Routledge, 2003)

Simon Bradley, The Railways: Nation, Network and People (Profile Books, 2015)

Mark Casson, The World's First Railway System: Enterprise, Competition, and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Adrian Jarvis, Samuel Smiles and the Construction of Victorian Values (Sutton Publishing 1997)

R. W. Kostal, Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825-1875 (Clarendon Press, 1994)

Michael Lewis (ed.), Early Railways: Papers from the Second Early Railways Conference (Newcomen Society, 2003)

L. T. C. Rolt, George & Robert Stephenson: The Railway Revolution (first published 1965; Amberley Publishing, 2009)

Jack Simmons, The Railway in England and Wales 1830-1914: Vol. 1, The System and Its Working (Leicester University Press, 1978)

Samuel Smiles, The Life of George Stephenson and of his son Robert Stephenson (first published 1881; Wentworth Press, 2016)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Michael Bailey
Interviewed Guest Julia Elton
Interviewed Guest Colin Divall
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 12 Apr 2018 09:00
  • Thu 12 Apr 2018 21:30
  • Thu 26 Mar 2020 09:00

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