DURING a debate in Westminster Hall last week, Helen Goodman, the MP for Bishop Auckland, made a plea for Locomotion No 1 to be moved to the Locomotion railway museum at Shildon, saying that the engine was “built in 1825 by Timothy Hackworth in Shildon in my constituency, it ought to be in the NRM branch museum in Shildon; instead, it is in a small museum where people have to pay”.

Locomotion was actually built by Robert Stephenson & Company in the Forth Street Works in Newcastle, so Ms Goodman is mistaken in making such a claim for Shildon, and to describe the Head of Steam Museum in such terms and omitting its critical location of Darlington is almost discourteous.

If place of manufacture was to determine where an artefact should to be available to view, then Newcastle would be the place for Locomotion, but in the historical context of the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), this would be nonsense.

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Robert Stephenson & Company was established as a spin-off of the S&DR primarily by Edward Pease of Darlington, who provided the majority of the capital to launch it.

Newcastle was chosen simply to make the supply of raw materials easier.

It is the idea behind the S&DR and its capacity to change the world for the better that matters, not where a particular component was made.

This idea of the use of the steam locomotive on the line evolved at Edward Pease’s house in Northgate, Darlington, and in the Counting House of Pease’s Mill.

The Counting House has long gone, but Edward Pease’s house still exists, albeit much altered and sub-divided, but it is not too late for it to be restored as a major element of Darlington’s railway story in time for the bi-centennial celebrations in 2025.

It was in this building – now home to takewaways – that decisions about the design of railways were made which went around the world. The proposed gauge of 4ft 8ins was debated here and adjusted by the addition of half an inch when it was calculated that the length of the bearing faces the locomotive wheels on tight bends would cause excessive friction. This then became the worldwide standard.

Looking at Edward Pease’s house now I can’t think of another town whose most significant claim to fame is allowed to languish in this way.

When George Stephenson suggested that a direct route from the collieries to the coast, going further away from Darlington, would result in an easier gradient for the line, Edward Pease told him: “George, thou must think of Darlington; remember it was Darlington sent for thee.”

The railway would not have happened but for Darlington, which deserves the credit for an internationally important historic event, and is the only place where Locomotion No 1 should be seen.

Matthew Pease, Perth & Kinross

ALL this commotion over a Locomotion! I could understand it if The National History Museum in London wanted to obtain our pride and joy to parade it in front of a wider public, but this just seems to be about jealous close neighbours.

If Darlington MP Jenny Chapman is that hell bent on her town’s railway heritage, she should start by cleaning the rusty, unkempt station at Bank Top.

Shildon’s railway museum is a wonderful, modern, well run museum that is an absolute pleasure to visit with good access – unlike Darlington’s, where the road system is under repair so often due to the foolish ideas and decisions of its councillors.

John Cumberland, Rushyford

I WAS interested to read about Helen Goodman MP standing up in Parliament telling MPs that it was unfair that the public had to pay to see the world’s first passenger engine (Echo, Oct 28).

Firstly, Locomotion No 1 was not built to pull passenger trains but “coal waggons” – this was the reason the Stockton and Darlington Railway was built in the first place.

Secondly, Locomotion was not built in Shildon by Timothy Hackworth, as Ms Goodman said.

It was built in Newcastle by George and Robert Stephenson.

As regards where it should be displayed, a number of places could be argued.

It could be at Shildon, “the cradle of the railways”, at Locomotion: The National Railway Museum where it would be alongside Timothy Hackworth’s original Sans Pareil.

Or, it could be at Darlington “the birthplace of the railway,” but in a location of free access.

Even at Stockton, which also could be described as “the birthplace of the railway”, as the first rails for the Stockton and Darlington Railway were laid there.

It could also be argued that the engine should be displayed at the pub called Locomotion No 1, which was originally a station on Heighington Lane. It was here that the engine was first put on the rails when it was brought down from Newcastle.

Whatever location is decided, Ms Goodman MP should do her research properly before opening her mouth in Parliament.

Alan Hindmarch, County Durham