All aboard Railway 200
- A year-long programme confirmed by the rail industry to celebrate 200 years of train travel in 2025
- A once-in-a-generation opportunity to inspire young people about rail
On 27 September 1825, the world’s first passenger train, hauled by George Stephenson’s Locomotion No.1 carried over 400 people along the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The landmark event drew crowds of up to 40,000 people, marking the birth of passenger train travel.
Now, with two years to go until the anniversary, the rail industry has confirmed it will mark the bicentenary, and the far-reaching impacts of all railways and train travel, with a year-long programme called Railway 200.
A logo for the celebrations has also been unveiled along with a website. The logo design symbolises the idea that rail is a continuous line connecting the country – the fabric woven throughout our history, linking lives, communities, and cultures whilst leading the way towards the future.
Developed by a cross industry partnership, with a focus on inspiring the next generation, Railway 200 will be a national public engagement programme starting in January 2025. A wide variety of activities, initiatives and partnerships are being considered, including commemorative products. This will enable Railway 200 to celebrate rail’s remarkable past, recognise its importance today, and look forward to its future.
Operational plans are also underway for an exhibition train which will travel around the rail network and take Railway 200 to people across the length and breadth of Great Britain. Developed in partnership with the National Railway Museum and Porterbrook, this train will consist of different exhibitions and interactive elements aimed at young people and their families and will help to raise awareness of the anniversary and the opportunities presented by careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Railway 200 is more than just a celebration of the past. It will leave a genuine legacy beyond 2025 by supporting and enhancing the industry’s efforts to close the skills gap by offering more opportunities for young people to learn about the wide variety of careers the industry has to offer.
Railway 200 partners reflect the diverse nature of the programme including: Network Rail, Stockton & Darlington Bicentenary Festival, Great British Railways Transition Team, National Skills Academy for Rail, the Rail Delivery Group, Rail Forum, HS2 Ltd, the Railway Industry Association, the Heritage Railway Association, the National Railway Museum, and the Community Rail Network. Railway 200 is also working with partners from outside the industry to highlight the influence the railway has had on culture art and society.
Organisations across the country are already planning their own exciting events and Railway 200 invites the rail industry, its partners and custodians of our railway heritage, art and artefacts to consider how they can play their part. Whether it be opening facilities to the public, or school and community outreach sessions inspiring all ages to consider a career in rail. The Railway 200 team has committed to supporting local and regional activity by providing toolkits, a strong national brand, website, and a far-reaching social media presence. Corporate partnership packages and sponsorship opportunities will also be available for those who want to take advantage of being closely associated with the once in a generation national programme.
Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, Chair of Railway 200 and Network Rail said: “The world changed forever in 1825 and the 200th anniversary of this first passenger train journey is an historic opportunity to reset the public’s relationship with rail. It is our chance to present the railway as a forward thinking, digital, industry and as an attractive career option for young people and for people from many different backgrounds.
For Railway 200 to reach its full potential, we must harness the knowledge and efforts of the whole industry, so I hope you will join us in creating a programme of celebrations which will recognise this great British achievement, the first public passenger train in the world, while inspiring a new generation to take our innovative railway far into the future.”
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive, Railway Industry Association said: “It is hard to overstate the benefits that the railway has brought, and continues to bring, not just to the UK, but also globally, since 1825. Rail networks don’t just keep people connected, they also play a crucial role in spurring economic growth, creating jobs, boosting sustainability, and bringing together local communities.”
Jacqueline Starr, Chief Executive of Rail Delivery Group, said: “The world’s first passenger train changed transport forever, and the anniversary of that journey is a chance for the rail industry to celebrate our history and look to the future. Railway 200 is a chance to show the world that the innovative spirit of 1825 is still very much alive today, with a programme of activities that draws upon the creativity and talent that exists across the railway.”
Jools Townsend CEO, Community Rail Network said: “As we move into the next 200 years, our railways need to play a growing role in tackling the climate crisis and enabling sustainable and inclusive economic development. Working in partnership with local communities is fundamental to this. We’re looking forward to celebrating the inspiring work taking place across Britain’s thriving community rail movement as part of Railway 200.”
Neil Robertson, National Skills Academy (Rail) said: “Not only will Railway 200 showcase how the railway has played a pivotal role in shaping the nation's history and development over the last two centuries, it will leave a lasting legacy, helping to inspire a new generation of young people to choose the railway as their career choice. NSAR is proud to be associated with Railway 200.”
Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum said: “The bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway is a key railway anniversary of real international importance. It is doubly significant for the National Railway Museum, as the date also marks our 50th birthday. Through a calendar of events, programming and displays, we will help visitors to Locomotion in Shildon and the National Railway Museum in York to share in the exciting centenary celebrations.”
Elaine Clark, Chief Executive Officer, Rail Forum said: “Railway 200 provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase all that the railway has done over the last 200 years, from supporting industrial development and economic growth to encouraging social mobility and connecting communities. But even more importantly, it presents a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of rail for our future; providing sustainable movement of people and goods and acting as a catalyst for inspiring the next generation of rail professionals.”
Railway 200 has also partnered with Stockton & Darlington Bicentenary Festival (S&DR200) who are delivering a 9-month international festival developed right in the heart of where the first journey took place. Stockton on Tees, Darlington & Durham County Councils are planning some never to be forgotten moments that should help to excite people in the local area and beyond. Further information on local celebrations can be found at www.sdr200.co.uk
For more information on how you can support Railway 200, visit www.Railway200.co.uk. The website will be live on 27 September 2023.
Notes to editors
- Saturday 27 September 2025 is the 200th anniversary of the first passenger railway journey that took place on the Stockton & Darlington Railway between Shildon and Stockton, via Darlington.
- The rail industry intends to mark the bicentenary with a year-long national public engagement programme of activities, initiatives and partnerships called Railway 200 – an opportunity to celebrate rail’s remarkable past, recognise its importance today and look forward to its future.
- As a whole-industry initiative, the Railway 200 Programme is being led by the Great British Railways Transition Team supported by industry partners: Community Rail Network, Heritage Railway Association, HS2 Ltd, National Railway Museum, National Skills Academy for Rail, Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group, Rail Freight Group, Rail Forum, Partners, Railway Industry Association, S&DR200, Transport Focus, UK Rail Research and Innovation Network and Young Rail Professionals.
- Railway 200 is also working with partners from outside the rail industry to highlight the influence the railway has had on cultural, art and society.
- Railway 200’s website will be live from 27 September – www.railway200.co.uk
- In 2025 Railway Industry Association will be celebrating its 150th anniversary and the National Railway Museum will be turning 50.
- Railway 200 is enthusiastically supported by the government with Huw Merriman MP, Rail Minister, recently saying that the anniversary is a chance to “show national pride in our railways and all that they have delivered – not just for this country but around the world”. Comment taken from the recent Westminster Hall Debate: Robert Stephenson and Company: 200th Anniversary - Hansard - UK Parliament