IT’S said to be the oldest railway building in the world still in railway use.

But fascinating as the grade II listed Stockton and Darlington Railway Goods Shed is, on entering the building off North Road a visitor’s attention is immediately diverted to the cornucopia of rail heritage items crammed into every nook and cranny.

It has been home to tiny charity, the Darlington Railway Preservation Society for 38 years, but the Darlington Borough Council-owned building has become unstable and needs urgent repairs, and the society has been given until the end of March to move out.

The works are also part of the authority’s plans to develop a heritage attraction off North Road, with the crumbling Goods Shed being transformed into a cafe and shop.

The building is riddled with holes and it’s freezing cold as the society’s founder member Barrie Lamb enthusiastically points out some of his favourite artefacts, which he says have been painstakingly restored to keep the town’s rich rail history alive, while also outlining the scale of the moving challenge facing the group of volunteers.

A 50-ton 1938 Stephenson and Hawthorns locomotive that was built in Darlington, one of the last remaining Scammell mechanical horses that became popular due to a shortage of horses after the First World War and a massive 1928 electric shunter that was used by the Chemical and Insulating Company on West Auckland Road. “All these will need a low-loader to move them, costing thousands of pounds a time”, says Barrie. “The council has offered to pay for us to move out and to move back to the area in three years time, but that’s going to cost £120,000 a time, and that’s the low estimate.”

Alongside the array of restored locomotives, there’s the society’s works area, which is filled out with numerous large-scale machines, such as lathes and slotting machines, and steel levelling benches. There’s also a several-ton collection of tools the 30-member society has amassed.

Barrie points out that when the society was launched, the council asked it to collect and preserve any Darlington rail heritage items it could.

He says while the council has offered to pay for the rent and rates of the society’s new base and to provide advice on how it can move the goods, members are stumped as to how they can achieve it.

“We don’t know where to start. There’s an estimate 20 to 30 wagon-loads to move. It’s like a chicken and egg problem. You can’t start moving stuff outside, it will all get nicked. In addition, many of the members work during the day. We were working until 10pm last night as we have a loco that’s due to go. I have no idea how many man hours it’s going to take.”

The society says it is suffering from further uncertainty as the council has declined to guarantee it will be able to return to a neighbouring building when the heritage quarter works are complete in three years. “In the meantime we need a building where we can lay track so we can have rides at our open days to fundraise for the society or it will have no future”, says Barrie.