On 15 September 1830 a train steamed slowly from Liverpool along the new ‘iron road’ to Manchester – the first in a procession of eight locomotives. The occasion was the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first railway in the world to carry goods and passengers. Cheering crowds greeted the Duke of Wellington as his luxurious coach was drawn along by the Northumbrian engine.
The day was one of triumph for George Stephenson, for he had initiated the ‘railway age’. But it was to bring tragedy. When the trains halted to take on more water several people, among them William Huskisson, M.P. for Liverpool, stepped down from the Director’s coach. As they stood talking, another locomotive, the ‘Rocket’, approached on the parallel track. In the general panic, Huskisson tried to mount a step and so get back into a carriage; but he was hit by a door, thrown in front of the oncoming train and killed. The railway head claimed its first victim.