The Surrey Iron Railway on a cash machine

Surrey Iron Railway on East Croydon cash machine

I recently spotted a cash machine outside East Croydon station with a message on the screen which says:

“Welcome to Croydon
Home of… The world’s first horse drawn
railway in 1803 (Croydon to Wandsworth)”.

A nice touch, however horse drawn railways were already long established by the time the Surrey Iron Railway opened in 1803. The first railway for which documentary evidence is currently known is apparently the Wollaton Wagonway, near Nottingham, which was referred to as a “passage now laide with railes” in a document dated 1 October 1604. This used horse power, as did many subsequent lines in mining areas of the northeast of England.

The claim to fame of the SIR is that it has long been widely described as the world’s first public railway; previous railways had been private lines for the use of the owners of a mine, quarry or similar. However there is now doubt as to the accuracy of this claim, as it appears that the SIR was in fact preceded by the Lake Lock Rail Road, near Wakefield, which opened in 1798 but doesn’t seem to have had as good PR.

In a moment of boredom I contacted the operators of the cash machine. Not only did I get a reply, it was longer and politer than I expected (or deserved?). Apparently they obtained the information from the Wikipedia article on the SIR, and “these screens are due to be changed and this information will then be removed”.

I promise to get out more.

One thought on “The Surrey Iron Railway on a cash machine

  1. Let’s be clear, the SIR was not the first railway (railway, being a road made of Iron, not wood as the Woolaton Wagon way was).

    It wasn’t even the first public railway (another wagonway claims the title)

    What The Surrey Iron Railway was and intended to be, was the first link in a national network of railways. [Derek A. Bayliss]

    Even from its inception it was intended that a branch would continue north to the Grand Union Canal via where the Savoy Hotel is sited today.

    Its southern extension, The Croydon Merstham And Godstone Railway was given by act of Parliament, the rights to continue to Portsmouth, although it never made it that far.
    More importantly and in many ways the civil engineering discipline used in construction made it a modern railway. When the Wimbledon and Croydon Railway was built they simply laid over the trackbed of the SIR.

    Its historical importance is without doubt, and even Stevenson acknowledged this, although he did declined building locomotives for the railway.

    Today Tramlink is, at least in part, The Surrey Iron Railway.

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