Locomotion No.1: Dispute over historic engine’s new home resolved

Locomotion No. 1

A dispute over the future home of historic engine Locomotion No.1 has been resolved.

The agreement between the Science Museum Group and Darlington Borough Council will see Locomotion No.1 move to Locomotion in Shildon in the coming weeks, but return to Darlington for six months in 2025 – the bicentenary year for the iconic Stockton & Darlington Railway.

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The agreement also allows for two further loans of Locomotion No.1 to Darlington – totalling 12 months – between 2026 and 2030.

Both parties 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.  

The Head of Steam had the engine under a loan agreement from the National Railway Museum which was due to end this month.

Darlington Borough Council, working in partnership with Tees Valley Combined Authority, plans to create a major new £25million visitor destination and museum around the current museum site at North Road Station and surrounding historic buildings, 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.

‘Incredibly excited’ for Locomotion return

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.”

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