LOCOMOTION No 1 has been moved under tight security from Darlington’s Head of Steam to begin its new life at the Locomotion museum in Shildon.

It marks the end of 163 years in which Darlington has been the permanent home of the 196-year-old engine.

The move, on Sunday afternoon, came after Darlington Borough Council and the National Railway Museum, which owns the engine, concluded a deal on Friday by which the engine will return in 2025.

Surrounded by engineers and conservators, Locomotion No 1 had a metal carriage built around it before it was hoisted head-high out of the Head of Steam museum and onto a low-loader.

It was followed an hour later by its tender, and then it began its 20mph journey to Shildon.

It was the first time since the museum was built around it in 1975 that the engine, which pulled the first train on the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1825, has moved location.

For Darlington, it was a day of profound sadness, as the engine is the town’s icon, appearing on its coat-of-arms.

“I have a lump the size of a grapefruit in my throat,” said one onlooker.

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Council leader Heather Scott said: "I am extremely sorry that Locomotion No 1 has left the Head of Steam so soon, but the work that needs to be carried out on it was part of the agreement made and we would have to make arrangements to remove it when we start the work on the building in preparation for 2025 celebrations.

"Darlington is the historical home of Locomotion No 1 and it will be back on numerous occasions in the future to be part of the national celebration of the birth of rail.

"We all must work together to ensure that Stockton and Darlington Railway and Locomotion takes centre stage."

The engine has been at the centre of a year-long tug-of-love between Darlington and the NRM, which has become increasingly acrimonious as the deal under which NRM loaned the item to the town neared its end this month.

However, with the help of London trustees of the museum, an eleventh hour deal was struck by which the historic engine will be in Darlington for 35 per cent of the 10 years after 2025.

Niall Hammond, the chair of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, said: “It is a sad day for Darlington, but we are pleased that the NRM is going to continue to support Head of Steam. The main thing is that all sides unite to celebrate the bicentenary in 2025.”

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After its 10 mile journey, Locomotion No 1 safely aarrived in Shildon and, as the sun set, it was lowered onto the museum tracks and wheeled inside.

Dr Sarah Price, the museum head, said: "Locomotion No.1 made the nine-mile journey to Shildon this afternoon, following several weeks of detailed planning and preparation. 

Our priority throughout with an object of this age and importance has not been speed, but to protect the locomotive and to work safely. Our brilliant team of conservators have worked closely with colleagues at Head of Steam and our move contractor, RSS, to manage the move this weekend and are now at Locomotion to complete the job. 

In the coming days we’ll begin asbestos remediation and conservation work as part of preparing the engine for public display and for a detailed, forensic investigation that will reveal so much more about the fascinating history of Locomotion No.1."

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