Cheshunt Railway, 1825

A little-known transport first

By Nicholas Blatchley

Cheshunt Railway, opened 1825
Science & Society

Did you know that Cheshunt had a railway three months before the Stockton and Darlington line was opened?

This was a horse-drawn monorail, built by Henry Robinson Palmer, who had previously built one in Deptford Dockyard, the first in the UK. The Cheshunt Railway, his second venture, was opened on 26th June 1825, running from Mr Gibbs’ Brick Pit, to the west of Gews Corner, to a wharf on the River Lea, not far from the site of the current Cheshunt Station. Its original purpose was to haul bricks, but it was also utilised for carrying passengers. For such a short distance, it must have been principally a novelty; regardless of this, it was the first passenger monorail in the world.

The design was an overhead track from which carriages were suspended, drawn by a single horse. The line crossed the main road by a section hinged like a gate, enabling it to be moved off the road.

No sign of the monorail has survived, but its legacy gives Cheshunt a vital, if little-known, position in the history of railways.

This page was added on 25/02/2011.

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  • When did Cheshunt Railway close?

    To a railway fanatic like myself, finding out the date of closure is nearly as important as the date of opening.

    By Simon George Spratt (12/08/2023)
  • Many thanks for the recommendation.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (21/03/2018)
  • Good detailed description, with illustration in: Register of Arts and Sciences, No. 47, July 2nd, 1825.

    By Stephen Levrant (17/03/2018)
  • A detailed technical description of the monorail cand be found in: Oeynhausen, C von & Dechen, H von (1829): “Shienenwege in England: Bemerkungen gesammelt auf einer Reise in den Jähren 1826 und 1827”, Berlin (Ottley 268) Railway Magazine, The (1953): “H R Palmer, A Forgotten Railway Pioneer”, Vol 99 (March), p 658 et seq and Dendy Marshall, C F (1938): “A History of British Railways Down to the Year 1830”, Oxford (Ottley 388)

    By Robert Candlish (30/11/2011)