Historic engine will move to Shildon, with future loan periods to Head of Steam including the first half of 2025.
The Science Museum Group (SMG) and Darlington Borough Council (DBC) have reached an agreement that will see the historic engine Locomotion No.1 move to Locomotion in Shildon in March, with a six-month return to Head of Steam in the first half of 2025—the bicentenary year for the iconic Stockton & Darlington Railway. The agreement also allows for two further loans of Locomotion No.1 to Darlington (totalling 12 months) between 2026 and 2030.
It has also been agreed that both DBC and SMG will actively seek opportunities for Locomotion No.1 to go on loan to the council beyond 2030—for up to two periods of 12 months, or one period of 24 months, in each five-year period.
Signalling the determination of both organisations to work together for the best possible outcome for the region, SMG will renew 28 other loans to Head of Steam from the National Collection. These include the tremendously important Derwent, the oldest surviving locomotive built in Darlington, NER Tennant, NER Raven T3 and a number of smaller items which help to illustrate the incredibly rich and significant railway history of the town.
The announcement today is part of a Memorandum of Understanding agreed by SMG (owners of Locomotion No.1) and DBC that covers the period until 2030. Both Locomotion and Head of Steam have ambitious plans to redevelop and grow their museums over the next five years, culminating in the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington railway in 2025.
At Locomotion, this includes a £4.5m project to construct a brand-new collections building that will significantly increase the amount of covered space available to visitors and house around 40 rail vehicles from the National Collection.
Recent developments at Locomotion have seen the repair and rejuvenation of Locomotion’s historic buildings—a collection of unique Grade II-listed buildings including the former home of Timothy Hackworth (the first locomotive superintendent of the Stockton & Darlington Railway), as well as workers’ cottages and Soho Shed—the earliest surviving industrial building in Shildon, and arguably the oldest goods handling rail building in the world.
Darlington Borough Council, working in partnership with Tees Valley Combined Authority, plans to create a major new £25million visitor destination and museum around the North Road Station site, opening in 2024. This free-to-enter tourist attraction will be a central part of the bi-centenary celebrations of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) in 2025.
Locomotion No.1 will be part of that celebration at the Head of Steam. The development will combine multiple listed buildings into a unique visitor experience including major exhibition and interpretation space, café, archive, study area, and function spaces.
Also on the site will be a purpose-built facility for the creation and maintenance of steam locomotives by A1 Steam Locomotive Trust with public viewing facilities and interpretation, and the 1861 Building, a facility for the repair, maintenance, storage and display of locomotives and associated rail artifacts.
Sarah Price, Head of Museum at Locomotion, said:
“We are incredibly excited to bring Locomotion No.1 back to Shildon. And we know we can tell the amazing and authentic history of the North-East’s immeasurable contribution to the world’s railway in the redeveloped Locomotion, where more than 200,000 people every year will be able to see Locomotion No.1 for free.
“Locomotion No.1 will undergo essential asbestos remediation works at Shildon and then, more excitingly, we’ll undertake a detailed archaeological and forensic investigation of the vehicle. This work will reveal so much more about the history of a locomotive that is so well-known but has been so little understood.”
Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:
“Locomotion No.1 is an extraordinarily important object to both Shildon and Darlington: it has spent most of the last 163 years in Darlington—a town rightly proud of its key role in the birth of the railways; and at Shildon it will be displayed just a few hundred yards from the spot where in September 1825 it began one of the most important journeys in human history—the first steam-powered public passenger train journey in the world.
“Locomotion No.1 has made an indelible mark on the history of the modern world and is an engineering marvel that the whole of the North-East and this country can celebrate. The agreement we’ve been able to come to today is so important, because it gives us a chance to look forward and work as one across the region to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have in 2025.”
Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “I know that there are many people who, like myself, are incredibly disappointed to see Locomotion No.1 leave Darlington where it has been on display for more than 160 years. Woven into our town crest, this historic locomotive is integral to the cultural identity of our town, and I have been grateful to all those who have shown their support for our campaign to Keep the Loco in Darlo.
“Although Locomotion No.1 is leaving our town, it remains part of our history, and we will rightly remain proud of the part Darlington has played and continues to play in the story of the railways. Now we look to the future, to working with NRM, Locomotion and other partners across the region and the rail heritage world to celebrate together the ingenuity and significance of the Stockton & Darlington Railway as we approach the bicentenary in 2025.”
Peter Gibson, Member of Parliament for Darlington, said: “Locomotion No.1 is an essential part of our town’s identity, cast in steel on the pillars that hold our railway bridges up, carved in stone on memorials to our fallen, cast in bronze on the weathervane atop our market hall clock tower, and embroidered onto the strips of our footballers. We are and always will be the historic home of Locomotion No.1. Just as she has travelled to exhibitions around the world in times past to tell our great railway story that began here, so too she now moves a short distance to Shildon, only to return in the future as part of exhibitions at our original museum.
“I understand some will feel disappointed but our place in railway history can never be erased. The agreement now reached by our Council and NRM represents an opportunity to work together to bring more visitors to our museums, work for the benefit of our local economy in the run up to 2025, and embrace the next chapter in our railways story as we welcome £105m of investment in Bank Top Station and £25m in our rejuvenated rail heritage quarter.”
Shildon Councillor, Samantha Townsend, said: “Locomotion No.1 has a very long, complex and fascinating history, both as a working engine and as an artefact. As we head towards the deeply significant railway anniversaries of 2025, we want the whole of the UK – and the world – to turn their attention towards the North-East, where not only Locomotion No.1, but also the world’s railway history was forged. To do that, we will all need to work together: Locomotion, Head of Steam, and the many other towns, organisations, and enthusiasts of all ages along the 26 miles of the Stockton & Darlington Railway."
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- Locomotion offers visitors the chance to see highlights of the national collection of railway vehicles in Shildon—the world’s first railway town
- Locomotion forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in York
- Locomotion is a partnership between the Science Museum Group and Durham County Council, which is a major funder of the museum
- Admission to Locomotion is free
- Prior to Covid-19, Locomotion received more than 200,000 visitors each year and the development aims to grow this number to more than 250,000
- For more information visit www.locomotion.org.uk
About Head of Steam:
- Run by Darlington Borough Council, Head of Steam—Darlington Railway Museum is located at North Road Station on the 1825 route of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the world's first steam-worked public railway
- With major funding from Tees Valley Combined Authority, a free-to-enter world class visitor destination and museum will open at the North Road Site prior to the S&DR bicentenary celebrations in 2025
- The ambitious development will grow visitor figures to more than 250,000 a year
- For more information, visit www.head-of-steam.co.uk