Dig Uncovers a Link to Rail Past; Tracks Found at Shipyard by Archaeologists

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Byline: TONY HENDERSON

A DIG at a former Tyneside shipyard has revealed a wooden railway more than 200 years old.

The 25-metre stretch of waggonway from the 1790, is the earliest and only surviving example of the standard gauge railway and the find has been hailed as being of international importance.

The gauge is now used for over half of the world's railway systems.

The find has been made by archaeologists digging on the site of the former Neptune shipyard in Walker, Newcastle, which is being developed by Shepherd Offshore.

The site is also near the Swan Hunter yard and Segedunum Roman fort in Wallsend.

The dig has been led by Richard Carlton and Alan Williams of the Newcastle-based The Archaeological Practice.

Richard said: "The wooden waggonway uncovered by the excavation is the direct ancestor of the modern standard gauge railway."

Newcastle historian Les Turnbull, whose book on waggonways was published earlier this year said: "Nothing of this nature has been found before in terms of complexity.

"One of the gifts of the North East to world history is the development of the railways. Coal and the railways are Tyneside's heritage and this waggonway was part of that because without the waggonways, the coalfields would not have developed," he said. …