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New Hall is now open!

We are open 7 days a week (except 24–26 December). See the Visit page for more info.

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Our transformative masterplan

A multi-million pound programme of investment, improvement and change is transforming Locomotion and the National Railway Museum with new buildings, galleries, visitor attractions, outdoor spaces and vital conservation work.

We are investing in our site to create a better experience for our visitors, a safe environment for our collection and a sustainable future for our historic buildings. New green spaces and improved accessibility will ensure that we are truly inclusive and open for all.

We are also enhancing our interpretation to better tell the story of Shildon, the world’s first railway town and the workplace of railway pioneer Timothy Hackworth. We will continue to inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators with this story, at a museum that is firmly embedded in the community.

New Hall–opens to the public 24 May 2024

New Hall is a brand-new 2,000 square metre building for Locomotion, built on the former brownfield site to the west of the museum. Drawing on the aesthetic of an engine shed, it links back to Shildon’s history as home to the famous railway works, which closed in 1984. 

The building houses 47 additional vehicles, bringing the total number on display at Locomotion to 99 - the largest undercover collection of historic railway vehicles in Europe. In March-April 2024, the museum carried out its biggest ever rail shunt to move the vehicles into place. 

Our expanded collection allows us to tell the story of Shildon and the North East’s role in early railway development. New Hall examines freight operation, its origins in the North East, and the challenges and innovations needed to keep it running. It features a number of Shildon-built vehicles, plus oral histories from those who worked at the Shildon railway works, historic film clips and graphics. 

Over six themed roads, vehicles including historic steam locomotives, a crane, two snow ploughs, a pair of track inspection velocipedes, numerous freight wagons and even a tracked Bren Gun Carrier are arranged to tell Shildon’s railway story, from its origins in coal to the future of freight. 

New Hall will be the hub of the Railway 200 celebrations, marking the bicentenary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025.

Building: AOC Architecture
Construction contractors: Nationwide Engineering

Gaunless Bridge

Gaunless Bridge was a railway bridge on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, designed by George Stephenson. It was one of the first railway bridges to be constructed of iron, and the very first to use an iron truss. It crossed the River Gaunless on a branch line to the west of Shildon, from 1823 until its removal in 1901.

The bridge became part of the now-defunct York Railway Museum’s collection in 1927, before going on display in the National Railway Museum’s car park in 1975. In 2023, it was sympathetically restored and brought back to the North East to go on display at Locomotion, on the approach to New Hall. 

The original colours of the bridge were revealed during the conservation process, and confirmed by a model of the bridge in our collection. It was repainted in early 2024.  

Gaunless Bridge sits on the approach to New Hall and will be available to view when the building opens to the public on May 24, 2024. 

New landscaped garden

The Railway Garden is a new landscaped garden for Locomotion, designed to increase biodiversity across the whole of the site. It will support volunteering for local communities and create a place for our visitors to connect with nature.

The gardens will be constructed with sustainability and a reduced environmental footprint built in through the recycling and reuse of materials. The site boundary will be planted with a new native hedgerow, expanding habitats for hedgehogs, while existing trees will be fitted with bat boxes.

The wider Shildon Sidings designated Local Wildlife Site is home to one of the largest colonies of a declining UK population of the Dingy Skipper butterfly, a Priority Species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The planting scheme will include plants that the rare butterfly typically forages on, encouraging breeding.

Landscape: J&L Gibbons

Historic buildings

Locomotion’s historic buildings have undergone vital repair and refurbishment. 

Soho House, once the home of Timothy Hackworth, and the adjacent cottages have been updated with new kitchens and gardens installed. 

Kilburn’s Warehouse and the Goods Shed have also undergone major work to repair the stonework and roofs. These buildings will be opened on select days throughout the year allowing visitors to learn more about Shildon’s history as the first railway town. 

The Sunday School, also located at the historic end of the Locomotion site, has been renovated and is now used as a space for community engagement activity as well as providing additional office space. 

The project to restore Locomotion’s historic buildings was funded by Durham County Council and the Science Museum Group.

The Coal Drops

This impressive structure was constructed in 1846-7 to streamline the process of refuelling steam locomotives. Chaldron wagons were taken up the incline and their loads dropped down chutes into the tenders of steam locomotives waiting below. 

Recent research by Historic England found that the Shildon Coal Drops were the world's first attempt at mechanising the refuelling of locomotives. 

Durham County Council completed vital conservation work on the Coal Drops in Spring 2024, safeguarding this historic structure for future generations.

Changing Places facility

Our Changing Places facility opened in the museum’s Main Hall in January 2024, equipped with a hoist, changing bench and a peninsular toilet, enhancing our commitment to be open for all.

It was funded by a grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities with support from Durham County Council and Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK).

Car park and cycle hub

When completed, our new car park will be able to accommodate over 500 cars (including the overflow grasscrete area)—approximately a 30% increase. Visitors will be able to access the museum site via a new landscaped pedestrian route that will bring people to the space between Main Hall and New Hall. Marked out bays will be in place and the lighting will be upgraded.

Part of the carpark will be usable in time for the opening of New Hall, with all work complete by the start of the school summer holidays in July.

The new cycle hub will provide covered, secure storage for bikes along with the facilities to carry out basic repairs. It will additionally act as a place where cyclists can pick up information about local cycle routes.

These improvements are funded by a grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities with support from Durham County Council.

Project timeline

Thanks to our supporters

Our masterplan is only made possible by support from our funders. Head to the Support the Museum page to find out more about how you can join us on our journey.