Today, Object of the Week takes a closer look at a piece of North-East history, which has been much in the news.

IT was announced earlier this week that the world’s first iron railway bridge, the Gaunless Bridge, would be returning to County Durham in the coming months for permanent display at the Locomotion museum in Shildon.

The Gaunless Bridge was designed by the renowned railway pioneer George Stephenson to span the River Gaunless on the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Stephenson was made engineer to the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company in 1822 when construction of the Stockton and Darlington line commenced.

Despite severe weather late in 1823 and many difficulties with earthworks on the line, Stephenson was able to report in December that the Gaunless had been spanned by the iron bridge designed by him and cast by Burrell and Company of Newcastle.

The winter of 1824 was especially harsh and even before the line was opened, the bridge was damaged by flooding and a fourth span was erected in time for the opening of the line in September 1825.

The bridge fell into disuse in 1856 following the opening of a new branch line.

However, the bridge remained in place until 1901 when it was dismantled and persevered at Brusselton Colliery.

It was later rebuilt for an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1925 and then became a centrepiece of the North Eastern Railway’s museum which opened in York in 1927.

The bridge was moved to its current location in York as part of the development of the National Railway Museum which opened in 1975.

There it remains to this day until it will be returned home to County Durham for display at Locomotion, with the help of the Darlington based Cleveland Bridge company.

Its move to Locomotion is the latest addition to an ambitious conservation project effort at the museum, including the preservation of a series of important historic buildings for future generations to enjoy.

In total, seven buildings are being preserved, including railway cottages, the goods shed and parcel office.

l Locomotion has now reopened for visitors.

An online booking system for museum entry tickets has been introduced – book tickets online in advance via the museum website at Tickets are available up to three weeks in advance.

The website also includes an FAQ section to help answer any questions about tickets, safety, facilities and more.

The museum will be open 11am until 4pm until further notice.