COUNCILLORS have called on rail enthusiasts, business owners and members of the public to come up with ideas to help secure the future of a popular North-East railway museum.

Plans to rejuvenate Darlington’s Head of Steam Museum to make it financially viable - while also celebrating the upcoming 200th anniversary as the birthplace of the railways - were announced earlier this year.

Darlington Borough Council is looking to create a ‘heritage campus’ around the museum site by incorporating a number of buildings dating back to the 1825 Stockton and Darlington Railway.

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It is also making plans to submit a bit to have the area around the North Road-based museum designated as a World Heritage Site, recognising the town’s contribution to the Industrial Revolution.

Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure, said Darlington had an “embarrassment of riches”, not just on the museum site but throughout the North Road and town centre areas, which could all be integrated in the heritage campus.

He said: “There is room on the site to do new things that are sympathetic to the heritage we have here.

“We want feedback on how the museum is at the moment as well as ideas on what could be brought here.”

A number of consultation events will be held to gather the ideas of interested parties about how the museum site could become a more attractive and well-used tourist site.

Among the consultation events is a Jazz and Beer Festival due to be held at the museum on Saturday, October 11, which the council hopes will give people an idea of how the museum could operate.

Early ideas include opening a link between the museum and the adjoining Bishop Auckland railway line, which could lead to steam engine trips to other towns, and allowing new businesses to open on the site, perhaps similar to The Station, at Richmond.

However, John Anderson, the council’s assistant director for economic development, said the authority was starting the consultation with “as blank a piece of paper as possible”.

He added: “We’ve got the buildings and the site itself as a starting point but beyond that we want ideas.

“We want to create a place that people come back to and that holds interest for people even if railways are not their key interest.”

Consultation events will be held at the following dates and locations:

- September 13 and 14: Heritage Open Days at the Head of Steam Museum – free access to the museum and guided tours between 10am and 4pm.

- September 14: a stall will be available at the Rhythm and Blues Festival in Darlington town centre.

- September 27 and 28: a stall at the Festival of Thrift at Lingfield Point

- October 11: Jazz and Beer Festival at Head of Steam

More information is also available at the Darlington Borough Council Facebook page and on its website.