DARLINGTON will soon have Locomotion No 1 on display after all – although it will be a replica of the iconic steam engine.

The council has agreed a deal with Beamish museum to take on the replica of the engine that was built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1975.

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The replica needs restoration but there is the tantalising prospect that it will be back in steam on September 27, 1825, for the bicentenary celebrations, and perhaps able to cross the Skerne Bridge as the original did on opening day.

The replica is currently in the Locomotion museum at Shildon where, after a year-long tug-of-love, the real Locomotion No 1 was taken on Sunday by its owners, the National Railway Museum, leaving a large loco-shaped hole in the heart of Darlington. The replica, which took pride of place in the 1975 cavalcade of steam, will be in place in the town’s Head of Steam museum for when it reopens after the coronavirus crisis on May 17.

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Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The Stockton and Darlington Railway has been celebrated throughout the generations and I along with many others in Darlington still remember vividly the cavalcade marking the 150th anniversary in 1975, for which this replica was commissioned.

“Now the replica is a piece of history in its own right and it is fitting that, restored to working order, it will form a central part of celebrations for the forthcoming bicentenary. A new generation can experience the sights, smells and sounds of live steam and children from local schools can learn about the town’s rail heritage and imagine what it would have been like to be in the crowds for the first journey in 1825.

“It would be wonderful if, on September 27, 2025, we could re-create with live steam the image of Locomotion No 1 making its inaugural journey over the iconic Skerne Bridge – an image which featured for some years on the £5 note – so that 50 years from now, people will still talk about this replica and what it represents, and remember how we honoured the 200th anniversary of the railway.”

As well as the proposed restoration, it is also hoped that a train of chaldron wagons and a single-passenger carriage will be added in an authentic re-creation of the first train on the line of the world’s first modern railway.

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Paul Jarman, of Beamish museum where the replica has been in action on the Pockerley wagonway, said: “The replica of Locomotion No 1 has real meaning to Darlington as it was part of the cavalcade celebrating the 150th anniversary of the S&DR in 1975, for which it was built. Darlington is therefore a very suitable venue to display it and we’re delighted to be working with the council to explore ideas to restore it to working order and look at how it can play its part in the celebrations in 2025.

“We know how much people have missed days out to visitor attractions over the last year and it’s great that those visiting the Head of Steam will be able to enjoy seeing the replica over the summer and looking forward to the excitement of the bicentenary year.”

Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said: "The offer from Beamish is important but Locomotion No 1 really should be in its right place, its home. And that is in Darlington. 

"There are jobs in tourism and we should be exploiting this, instead we have lost one of our most important assets. 
"I just hope that for the bicentenary in 2025 the much loved original engine is the star of the show in a memorable celebration of a landmark moment in global engineering history. 

"The eyes of the world will be on the town for that anniversary and it's a great opportunity to attract local, national and even international visitors to the Tees. We can't miss that opportunity.

"By then I want to see Locomotion No 1 restored to its rightful place, right at the heart of a revamped Head of Steam that is a world class visitor attraction that does justice to this iconic engine.

"I believe that Head of Steam can become a state of the art tourist magnet centred around both Locomotion and a 4D experience that recreates all the exciting sights and sounds and vibrations of that first passenger journey. It could be brilliant.

"We must therefore keep fighting for the Locomotion to have a home here in Darlington."

Summer opening hours at Head of Steam are Tuesday to Sunday 10am 4pm and, to facilitate social distancing, booking will be handled online via www.head-of-steam.co.uk