It is famous for the being the birthplace of George Stephenson, one of the early rail pioneers. George Stephenson's Birthplace is his cottage that can be found on the north bank of the Tyne three quarters of a mile (1.2 km) east of the village centre. It is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.
Wylam has further connections with the early rail pioneers. The steam locomotive engineer Timothy Hackworth, who worked with Stephenson, was also born here. William Hedley who was born in the nearby village of Newburn attended the village school. He later went on to design and manufacture Puffing Billy in 1813, two years before George Stephenson produced his first locomotive Blücher. Christopher Blackett as lord of the manor in the first 30 years of the 19th century provided the entrepreneurial drive that encouraged these engineers.