History KS3 & KS4/GCSE: Liverpool to Manchester - the world’s first modern railway

Manchester was the powerhouse of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and its factories produced goods on an unprecedented scale.

But the city’s textile industry was dependant on the cotton arriving from America at the Liverpool docks.

Trade between the two cities was already a thousand tons of cotton per day, but the wealthy industrialists were hungry for more.

Linking Liverpool and Manchester by railway would not be easy; it would take huge amounts of money, a massive labour force, and a brilliant engineer.

The engineer was George Stephenson. Stephenson also won the contest to design the best engine to run on the line – the famous ‘Rocket’.

In 1830 the line opened and a new age of locomotion had begun.

This clip is from the series Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways.

Teacher Notes

Activities for the class could include:

1. Imagine you had invested in the Stockton-Darlington railway in 1825. Would you invest in this line as well? What factors would you have to take into consideration?

2. Write an information board for the Science Museum which helps to explain to visitors how important the Rocket was. You could make it a more interactive presentation if you have access to the technology.

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching History at KS3 and GCSE/KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4 and in Scotland.

More from Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways

How to build a railway
video
Life before railways
video
The Stockton and Darlington Railway
video
The world that railways made
video