Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Surrey Iron Railway
The Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) linked Wandsworth in south London and Croydon in Surrey via Mitcham. It was constructed in the early years of the 19th century (opening on 26 July 1803), and was the world's first public railway. It was horse-drawn and entirely dedicated to bulk freight.
The nine-mile route followed the shallow valley of the River Wandle, then heavily industrialised with numerous factories and mills, running from the River Thames in the north southwards to Croydon (a short branch also ran from Mitcham to Hackbridge ). The line was subsequently extended through Purley and Coulsdon to serve quarries near Godstone and Merstham (known as the Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway : opened 1805, closed 1838).
Engineer William Jessop was chief engineer and the flat alignment of his route proved more long-lasting than the Surrey Iron Railway itself. The advent of faster and more powerful steam locomotives spelled the end for horse-drawn railways, and the SIR closed in 1846. Jessop's route, however, was retained for use by the London & Brighton Railway and much of it remains in use, largely by the Croydon Tramlink service.
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