George and Robert Stephenson are famous worldwide for their pioneering engineering achievements, particularly in respect of steam locomotives and railways. They lived in North Tyneside for nearly twenty years. The highlight of the Stephenson Railway Museum’s collection is the Killingworth Billy, up till now dated to about 1826. However, a detailed new study by experts has revealed that the engine is actually much earlier in design, dating to 1816, placing its creation firmly during the period when George and Robert lived at Dial Cottage in North Tyneside.
Billy would have been constructed at the West Moor workshops of Killingworth Colliery under the direct supervision of George, a mere two years after he’d successfully tested his first locomotive, Blucher. Significantly it also means that Billy can be described as the world’s third oldest surviving locomotive. To mark and celebrate this revelation Billy has been moved to a more prominent location in the museum with new interpretive information. In addition, a new display nearby tells the story of the recently rediscovered Willington Waggonway. This is the best preserved and most complete early wooden railway to have been found anywhere in the world, and the earliest standard gauge railway to be excavated.