Shunt with care – Shildon and Darlington

An excerpt from the book: Travels through History – North-East England

What have the railways ever done for us? It’s a question that has almost certainly never been asked in Darlington and Shildon.

Shildon can justifiably claim to be the world’s first railway town as on 27th September 1825 a journey was made from Shildon to Stockton via Darlington. The steam engine Locomotion pulled over thirty wagons containing passengers and coal, sometimes together in the same waggon, for about 5 hours over a distance of around 25 miles. There were some stoppages as a wagon broke a wheel and had to be detached from the train and the locomotive needed repairs soon afterwards for about 35 minutes. A man fell off one of the wagons and was run over by the next wagon in line. He broke his foot. Coal from some of the wagons was distributed to the poorer people of Darlington at a scheduled stop  

The Locomotion Museum at Shildon is part of the National Railway Museum at York and the Science Museum in London. It’s clearly visible on the left-hand side of the tracks just before Shildon if you’re travelling to Bishop Auckland from Darlington. The list of stations for this service includes Railway Museum, so there’s little excuse to miss the gigantic aircraft-hangar sized building housing the locomotives, carriages, and waggons of Locomotion. This word is emblazoned under the crescent-shaped roof of the entrance.

Outside the building are various engines and carriages displayed on sidings as though they’re not important enough to be inside. Entrance to Locomotion is free although there is a suggested donation, which I would encourage visitors to pay as it keeps these museums open throughout the year.

Inside it’s difficult to know where to start as there are locomotives, carriages, tenders, milk waggons, hoppers, advanced passenger trains, and models of old steam engines lined up on parallel lines. Particularly striking is the positioning of an Advanced Passenger Train (APT) on a track next to an early locomotive, a model of Locomotion, the first locomotive in the world to pull a passenger train. There’s also a beautiful yellow and green full-size model of the Sans Pareil locomotive. The original built by Timothy Hackworth took part in the Rainhill Trials in 1829.  

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