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 later this month, with a 6-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.
The announcement 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.
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.”
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.”