Call to clean plaque marking historic railway viaduct in Yarm ahead of 200th anniversary

The viaduct in Yarm. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe
The viaduct in Yarm. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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A descendant of a locomotive pioneer has called on rail bosses to sort out a shabby plaque marking the building of a famous viaduct.

The stone plaque on Yarm viaduct marks the engineers, superintendent and contractors behind the 19th century monument.

But time has taken its toll on the stone tablet with weeds and muck lining its engravings.

Coun Andrew Sherris, who can name George Stephenson in his family tree, wants Network Rail to pull its act together ahead of the 200th anniversary of the first “promoters meeting” of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The Yarm councillor said: “The stone plaque not only commemorates a fantastic engineering achievement but is also a key part of the industrial heritage of Yarm and the North-east.

“As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, this plaque on the viaduct needs to be a visible feature as we seek to boost our visitor numbers to our town and high street.”

The viaduct opened on May 15, 1852, cost £44,500 to build and contains 7.5m bricks.

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Coun Sherris said he’d spoken to Network Rail about sorting out the plaque last year after complaints about its condition.

He added: “I realise it is not straightforward and needs incorporating into a future maintenance programme. Network Rail have said it is costly as a stand-alone job but can work this into future work when there is reason to work at a height above the river.

“Yarm remains the birthplace of the railways and we need to attract visitors to the town.”

Despite the optimism, hopes of getting the plaque sorted any time soon appear to have been dashed.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “We understand how important railway heritage is and we are committed to preserving it. As a taxpayer funded organisation, Network Rail has a set amount of funding and must prioritise keeping the railway running reliably and safely.

“Unfortunately, this means we have no current plans to clean the plaque. That being said, we are always happy to work with stakeholders and communities to improve the railway and, should funding become available, we would look to carry out this work.”

The Stockton and Darlington Railway was the first passenger railway in the world.

A re-enactment of the first meeting to promote it will be held on Wednesday, February 12 in The George and Dragon pub in High Street.