IT has recently been revealed that the Darlington Hippodrome has had a Virgin Trains East Coast Main Line engine named after it, but it is not the first engine to bear the name “Darlington”.

The most famous – even infamous – was “Darlington FC”, a Class B17 engine built in North Road shops in the town in the 1930s.

By and large, the B17s were named after English country homes and decent football teams. In the former category, there were engines named for Alnwick, Lambton, Lumley, Raby and Brancepeth castles as well as Aske Hall.

Loading article content

In the latter category, the first football engine was named Arsenal and another 24 included Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United (the engine seems only to have carried the Magpies’ name for two months when it was renamed The Essex Regiment).

One night in 1936, the North Road enginemen got tired of building B17s with other teams’ names on and they took hostage an engine that was intended to be called Manchester City. The refused to release it until management agreed to name it Darlington FC, and so in April 1936, engine No 2852 proudly steamed out of the works bearing the Quakers’ name and colours around a golden football.

There were two nameplates, one on either side of the engine.

Darlington FC was scrapped in 1959 when the steam era drew to a close, having covered 933,545 miles. One of the nameplates was sold to a private collector and the other was presented to the football club for display at Feethams. Sunderland also received its nameplate which hung over the players’ tunnel at Roker Park – we don’t know its fate or that of the name “Middlesbrough”, do you?

By 2004, towards the end of George Reynolds’ chairmanship of the Quakers when the club teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, the nameplate – more valuable than any player – was quietly sold to an American collector for £41,000. When supporters Gordon Hodgson and Peter Ellis found out, they had a replica made which they presented to the financiers who by then had accidentally assumed control of the club. It was given pride of place in the foyer of the gargantuan stadium – but where is it now?

There was another Darlington engine. On May 5, 1984, at Bank Top station, mayor Jim Skinner had the privilege of naming an InterCity 125 “Darlington”. Council and public had united to raise £1,500 for the opportunity – Shildon already had a 125 bearing its name although the words “County Durham” were later added to the nameplate to avoid misunderstandings.

However, it seems like all of the town nameplates, including Shildon and Darlington, were quietly removed and destroyed in 1987.

The Darlington Hippodrome, though, will run and run and run.