A TOWN is celebrating the news a world famous locomotive is set to return as the centre piece of a multi-million-pound redevelopment.

Earlier this week, the National Railway Museum (NRM) announced that it would take Locomotion No 1 away from Darlington and make it the main feature of its £4.5m revamped museum in Shildon.

MP Dehenna Davison, whose Bishop Auckland constituency includes Shildon, said: “I am very excited that one of our great cultural assets in Shildon is being revamped.

“With the railways playing such a crucial role in our area’s history, I really welcome this investment, and am delighted it means we will be able to display 40 more vehicles.

“People travel from miles around to visit Locomotion, and this investment will help cement its place on the heritage map.”

Following the announcement, Darlington, which has displayed the iconic engine for more than 160 years, reacted with fury, accusing the NRM of “cultural vandalism” and inflicting a “cruel blow” which “rips the heart out of the town’s railway heritage”.

Peter Gibson, Darlington’s new Conservative MP, said: “I am outraged at the prospect of our most treasured and most important artefact being removed from Darlington, its physical, spiritual and cultural home. I am sure that the entire population of Darlington will be outraged and will back the campaign for Locomotion No 1 to stay in the town.”

Ms Davison did not wish to comment specifically on the future of Locomotion No 1, but said she understands the concerns of Darlington residents and is talking to Darlington MP Peter Gibson about the issue.

However, bosses at Locomotion, in Shildon, said they hope the move will shine a light on the whole of the North-East and they would like to continue working with Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum.

Dr Sarah Price, head of Locomotion, said: “I think people here are really excited about it as Shildon was intimately associated with the railway industry from 1825. We’re hoping to restore that pride in Shildon and tell people about its important heritage.

“We really hope that by working with Darlington we can tell strong stories across the whole 26 mile route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which will bring tourists not just from the North-East but across the country and the world to all of our sites.

“It’s about working in partnership, we would like to continue to have those conversations with Darlington about what other vehicles they might be able to have and what other objects we can put on display there. We want to shine a light on the whole of the North-East.”

Andrew McLean, head curator at the National Railway Museum said it is fantastic news the locomotion will return to the town and hopes to see more people visiting railway museums.

He said: “Locomotion No 1 wasn’t the first steam locomotive but it’s incredible famous because it hauled the first passenger carrying steam train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

“We’ve got a very exciting programme here at Locomotion, in Shildon, to double our storage space for the iconic locomotives you see behind me, which will allow us to bring more items on display.

“We are also going to be restoring the incredibly important historic buildings here in the town which go back to the early days of the Stockton and Darlington Railway itself. It’s therefore really important that Locomotion No 1 comes back to the place where its most famous feats were achieved and where it was associated with for so much of its working life.”

Kathryn Mortimer, who chairs the town’s recently relaunched Chamber of Trade, added: “It’s extremely welcoming news to hear of the additional investment being allocated to the Locomotion Museum, which will see a huge increase in visitors to Shildon.

“We do hope that the additional footfall of visitors will seek out the additional trails of our towns heritage such as the Railway Institute, tributes to Timothy Hackworth which are displayed in the town’s park and the town’s square as well as the additional displays of the towns heritage linked to the railways.

“We also would like to see visitors from outside the area taking advantage of some of our unique, local independent retailers found in our main high street.”