WE cannot rescue everything in our troubled times, but the world’s first railway institute in Shildon really does deserve saving, particularly if the town – the world’s first railway town – is to fully tell the world the story of the railways in 2025, the bicentenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

The Stute represents an amazing step in the railway story. Engineer Timothy Hackworth was concerned that the men attracted to this new railway boom town were ill-educated and so he set up the institute to provide them with classes. As time went on, the Stute became the centre of railway lives: everything from allotments to the campaign to provide clean water to railway homes went through the Stute; the annual soiree, the town’s biggest social event, was organised through the Stute.

To the men who worked on it, the railway was about more than just laying tracks. The railway also created communities, and Shildon can claim to be the first, with its Stute right at its core from its earliest days.

Just as the institute was vital in the beginning of this railway town so it is now as we think about telling 200 years of railway history. We hope the community can once again rally round and save its Stute.