Locomotion, Shildon

Locomotion: The National Railway Museum in Shildon officially opened in 2004 as a partnership between Durham County Council (DCC) and the National Railway Museum. Funding was provided by both partners and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This partnership continued successfully for 13 years under a Joint Management Board, with some members of staff employed by DCC and others by the Science Museum Group (SMG). On 1 December 2017, the nature of the partnership changed. The museum became a full part of the SMG while continuing the partnership with DCC. The museum became officially known as Locomotion. It shares its governance structure with the National Railway Museum, which is integrated into the SMG. The museum is currently headed up by Dr Sarah Price.

The site for the museum was offered to the SMG by Sedgefield Borough Council (SBC), it was chosen as it had a long railway history and a connection to the national rail network. A collections building was built, costing £11 million and was opened on 22 October 2004 by Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for Sedgefield. Historic buildings associated with Timothy Hackworth and the early days of the Stockton & Darlington Railway that were part of SBC’s Timothy Hackworth Museum, which opened in 1975, also became part of Locomotion.

Locomotion was initially conceived as a major storage facility for the National Collection of Rail Vehicles that would open its doors to the public on occasional days. As visitor numbers far exceeded expectations, Locomotion has since extended its opening hours and its curatorial focus has been developed to focus on Shildon’s history as one of the world’s first railway towns. Since 2006, trainees and volunteers have worked in the Conservation Workshop to repair and restore historic railway vehicles. Locomotion hosts an annual Steam Gala and regularly conducts rail operations on its demonstration line. Recently, conservation work has also been undertaken on the museum’s historic buildings including Soho House, the residence of Timothy Hackworth, an early railway engineer. There are plans to construct a second collections building, and the museum also will play a central role in commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025.