Chris Lloyd gives a potted history of Locomotion No 1, a globally significant engine and an icon of Darlington as its future the town comes under threat.

June 1823: George Stephenson and his son, Robert, start 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 pieces 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.

The Northern Echo: A horse-drawn coach races the Locomotion No 1 on the opening day of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in 1825A horse-drawn coach races the Locomotion No 1 on the opening day of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in 1825

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 in Shildon.

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1846: By now outdated and little used, No 1 is given the honour of hauling the first train into Redcar station.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’ colliery at Crook, where it acts as a stationary pumping engine.

1856, Jan 16: Locomotion No 1 is listed to be auctioned as surplus to the S&DR’s requirements. Joseph Pease realises its significance, removes it from the auction, and spends £50 restoring it.

1857, May 20: It is placed on a plinth at Darlington North Road station.

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

1892: Because it is outdoors, it begins to decay and so it is moved to a plinth inside Bank Top station, overlooking the platforms for Saltburn and Richmond.

1968: The S&DR has been amalgamated numerous times – into the NER and the LNER and finally into British Rail. In 1968, responsibility for all BR’s historic items is given to the National Railway Museum, which is now part of the Science Museums Group (SMG)

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