IF you were, say, an MP and there was a Parliamentary debate about rail heritage in a couple of minutes, where would you turn for a few quick facts about Locomotion No 1?

Here’s a quick crib sheet:

June 1823: George Stephenson and his son, Robert, found the world’s first purpose-built railway works in Forth Street, Newcastle, to build locomotives. Much of the finance comes from Darlington’s Edward Pease.

Sept 16, 1824: The Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) orders two £500 engines from Robert Stephenson & Company. Who builds the engine is not really known: Robert was in South America, George was busy elsewhere and in the factory were Timothy Hackworth, James Kennedy and Joseph Locke.

Sept 12, 1825: George informs Joseph Pease that the “Improved Travelling Engine” was ready.

Sept 16, 1825: The unnamed locomotive is pulled in bits by horses to Aycliffe Lane where George Stephenson assembles it on the rails.

Sept 27, 1825: The locomotive reaches 15mph on the opening day of the S&DR, but breaks a wheel soon after and is out of action for three weeks.

Nov 1825: A second locomotive arrives from Newcastle, and two more are ordered.

July 1, 1828: The engines are usually known by the name of their driver who is paid a fee out of which he must buy fuel and pay the wages of any helpers, like firemen. The oldest loco is known as “John Cree’s engine” but on this date, it exploded at Aycliffe Lane and killed the unfortunate Mr Cree and maimed his water pumper, Edward Turnbull. Hackworth rebuilds it.

May 1831: Hackworth is ordered to put large numbers on the locos’ chimneys so that drivers are traceable if a complaint is made against them: they speed, drive drunk and carry illicit – often female – passengers on the footplate. John Cree’s engine is given the number “1”.

1833: The engine is now logically called Locomotion No 1. No 2 is called Hope, No 3 Black Diamond and No 4 Diligence.

1846: By now outdated and little used, No 1 is given the honour of hauling the first train into Redcar station. It is then pensioned off to the Peases’ Durham collieries.

1857: It is placed on a plinth at Darlington’s first Bank Top station.

1876: No 1 goes to Chicago and Philadelphia to celebrate the US centenary; in 1889 it is exhibited in Paris. It is a global star, although it always returns to its plinth.

1975: No 1, owned by the National Science Museum, becomes the principal exhibit in Darlington’s North Road museum, where it remains today.