Waggonway / wagonway - brief outline and resources list
(Page content last updated 14 Jun 2010)
The waggonway (or wagonway depending which part of the UK you come from) was the earliest form of railway. No one is yet sure whether it evolved or was invented but what we do know is that between the Autumn of 1603 and the 1st October 1604 one had been built near Nottingham in the English East Midlands. It ran for approximately two miles from Strelley to Wollaton to assist the haulage of coal. Earlier examples may have been built but the Wollaton Waggonway is currently the earliest recorded surface level waggonway anywhere in the world and is therefore believed, currently, to have been the first. It was built by Huntingdon Beaumont who was the partner of the local land-owner Sir Percival Willoughby.
A waggonway / wagonway used wooden bodied vehicles, hauled by horses. It had flanged wheels running on an edge rail. These wheels and rails were also made from wood until much later in the development of the systems when iron began to be introduced. Although waggonway development is first recorded in the English midlands the first waggonway in the North East was an early one built by Huntingdon Beaumont in 1608. The Beamish Museum have constructed a replica of a typical C18 wooden railled waggonway and horse gin (Colliery winding gear). Although not operational on when viSited in 2009 by the WRC webmster the replica waggonway and pit head is worth visiting. Development was extensive with the heyday of the horse operated, wooden railled waggonway occuring during the eighteenth century. In addition to the photo's below additional Beamish photos are here.
In a period in the late 1700s and early 1800s some waggonways were also built using an L shaped iron rail system and plain flanged, normal, cart wheels. However despite some merits to the system when routes were operating on small scale with horse haulage as the railway era with steam locomotives expanded the L rail system was seen as a "blind alley" and it faded from the scene. However it was on such an L rail waggonway in South Wales that Richard Trevithick made a significant step into the steam era in 1804 with his "travelling engine" on the Pen-y-Darren tramway in South Wales.
|Photographs on this Site - index
|Index page for photographs available on this Site - Currently the Causey Arch and N E Chaldron waggons. Gentle reminder these are copyright images.
|Waggonway / wagonway evolutionary spread - the first 20 years
|Waggonway maps and lists for Northumberland & Durham
Self explanatory. A Site with very comprehensive maps of the railways and waggonways of Northumberland and Durham.
Link updated Jun 09 as Site is no longer hosted on Geocities.
|WRC - Bibliography
|Bibliography of early railway and wagonnway / wagonway paper based sources.
|Dr Michael Lewis
|Early wooden railways
|Out of print - published by Routledge & Paul 1970. The major work on early wooden waggonways.
|400 years of English railways - Huntingdon Beaumont and the early years
|Comprehensive article in Backtrack Magazine (Vol 18 No 11 - November 2004) about the Wollaton Waggonway (or Wagonway) and its builder Huntington Beaumont. Also referred to occasionally as the Strelley Tramway.
|WebSite Site coordinator
|Updates to Waggonway (Wagonway) Research Circle webSite