The story of Wylam village in Northumberland is a story about the origin of railways. The birthplace of George Stephenson, it was the centre for the first revolutionary pioneering work on railway engineering which laid the foundation for all that followed. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, on the instigation of colliery owner Christopher Blackett, a series of revolutionary experiments in railway technology were conducted. The principal protagonists read like a roll call of great railway engineers: the wayward genius Richard Trevithick, the devout Methodist Timothy Hackworth who wouldn't work on the Sabbath and the portly asthmatic William Hedley who oversaw the work. It was Hedley who, in 1813, would invent the legendary Puffing Billy, the first reliable working steam locomotive.
George recently retired after 11 years in the chemical industry and thirty years in local government. Born in Hartlepool, County Durham, both his father and grandfather were railwaymen and he fell in love with railways and in particular steam locomotives at the very time when main line steam were on the way out. Being simultaneously long and short sighted he was somewhat surprised to be turned down by British Railways when he applied to become an engine driver. Since the railways didn't want him he decided to write about them instead and has written extensively for railway magazines over the last decade. For the last two years he has been completing a post-graduate `Certificate in Railway Studies' run jointly by the National rail Museum and the University of York. He is married with three grown up children.