A ROW over the future location of the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger carrying train on a public railway is set to be stoked up with a rallying cry to fight tooth and nail a proposal to move it away from the town it has been sited in for 160 years.

Members of all political views on Darlington Borough Council are expected to vote to battle the National Railway Museum’s (NRM) decision to relocate the town’s star attraction, Robert Stephenson and Company’s Locomotion No 1, from the Head of Steam museum in Darlington to Shildon. The notice of motion follows Darlington MP lobbying Secretary of State for Culture Nicky Morgan over the relocation plan and in his maiden speech to the House of Commons this week describing the NRM’s decision as “cultural vandalism” of “our most precious historical asset”.

In an extraordinary move, the council has suspended its procedures to allow an emergency notice of motion to be tabled, stating the authority has been “outraged” by the NRM’s decision.

Political commentators have claimed the wording of the motion, which urges the NRM to reconsider relocating the 1825 locomotive, is among the most forceful ever considered by the authority.

It states: “This council will use all and every means available to it to oppose the decision made by the National Railway Museum.”

The motion, which is expected to receive cross-party support, states Locomotion No 1 is regarded as one of the most important parts of the town’s railway heritage.

The authority’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott said the NRM’s plan would seriously undermine the council’s intention to to maximise the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway celebrations, stating the 15mph top speed locomotive was “absolutely critical” to the borough’s plans.

The motion states: “With funding from the Tees Valley Combined Authority, the council has major plans to create a revamped railway heritage quarter centred around the Head of Steam museum. Locomotion No 1 is by far, the most important part of the town’s railway legacy and it will form the centrepiece of the railway heritage quarter and the celebrations...”

Cllr Scott said: “We all feel extremely strongly about this. The original money for Locomotive No 1 was put up by Darlington woollen manufacturer Edward Pease and Darlington bankers, the Backhouse family and Darlington taxpayers have paid for its maintenance. The number of people who are incensed about the thought of it moving is huge. Everybody I have met since the National Railway Museum made its intention to move Locomotion No 1 to Shildon says it is awful. We have the town behind us. It is part of the reason people come to Darlington. It is an iconic attraction.

“We feel Darlington is being squeezed out of the 2025 celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. We have to stand our ground. It has been looked after for more than 160 years at a cost to the Darlington taxpayer. I have absolutely no idea why the NRM has suddenly decided to do this. There has never been a problem in the past. Why on earth would they change this now?”