PUPILS have been building bridges with a heritage railway in the run-up to the world’s most famous line celebrating its 200th anniversary.

The STEM club, comprising Years 4, 5 and 6 children, from Gurney Pease Academy, travelled from Darlington to Kirkby Stephen, the home of the Stainmore Railway Company.

They learned about the history of the line, designed and built railway bridges from card and paper and even got to blow the engine whistle while on the footplate of a classic steam locomotive.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, the first public line to use steam locomotives. It ran East-West, virtually coast to coast, transporting coal and iron ore in each direction to serve the needs of respective industries, only closing in the 1960s as they fell into decline.

For the past 25 years the Stainmore Railway Company and its band of volunteers have been restoring Kirkby Stephen East railway station with the dream of reopening a 12 mile stretch of track on which to run steam locos.

They also organise a host of events and foster links with local schools. They have now extended their reach to the North-East, which is considered the home of the railway.

Chief civil engineer Mike Harrison said: “This was the first time we have worked up any steam for two and a half years because of the pandemic and we were delighted the children were able to join us.

“They all did a great job making a variety of bridges which we tested with our little engine to good effect.”

Teacher David Ferrari said: “Our school must be one of the closest to the original line and this is the beginning of a relationship with Stainmore that will grow as we approach the 2025 celebrations.

“Trips like this help us develop an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects so when they approached us we jumped at the chance where children could see, handle and smell the railways.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for them to be inspired as the next generation of engineers and also to celebrate the nation’s industrial heritage.”

In the future, school children will also get the chance to restore and clean old signalling equipment as part of their studies.