ENTHUSIASTS celebrating the bi-centenary of the world’s oldest passenger railway could be able to experience what it was like riding on the line 200 years ago, it has been revealed.

Darlington Borough Council’s leader said while she remained disappointed over the departure of the original Locomotion No 1 from the town, the replica would offer an opportunity to run steam locomotive passenger trips.

Councillor Heather Scott announced the replica engine would be on display in Darlington’s Head of Steam museum within two months as she scotched further criticisms over Locomotion No 1’s exit and concerns over taxpayers money being spent renovating Beamish’s replica engine.

Jessie Joe Jacobs, the Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, has said she will keep fighting for the Locomotion to have a home in Darlington and that Head of Steam could become “a state of the art tourist magnet”, if centred around both Locomotion and a 4D experience.

Responding, Cllr Scott said a legal battle over Locomotion No 1 would have risked taxpayers’ money. She said: “I’m sorry that we couldn’t keep the original here, but legally we had no option.

“The Labour candidate is not aware of all the background to this. I was certainly not prepared to ignore the legal advice that we got or get in the situation that we had over the library.

“We have got a fantastic arrangement for the future that the replica will be a very long-term exhibit within the railway museum, long after 2025 and that it will be in working order and people will be able to actually have rides on it recreating when the railway was started. Surely that’s a superb thing to have.”

She confirmed the council would seek to make arrangements with Network Rail so the replica engine could steam across Skerne Bridge 200 years to the day of the line’s opening on September 27, 1825.

The replica engine is set to be installed in the Head of Steam museum ahead of its opening on May 17 and its restoration will start when the museum is closed for the Railway Heritage Quarter redevelopment.

Cllr Scott said: “Schoolchildren going to see it will be allowed to clamber over it, which we were not allowed to do with the original Locomotion No 1.”

While the council’s move to bring the replica Locomotion to Darlington has received an almost universal welcome, the authority’s plans to bring the replica back into working order have been questioned by some.

Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Boddy said buying a new replica Locomotion would cost £325,000 and it had been estimated the cost of restoring the engine could be £120,000. He questioned if that cost would fall on Darlington residents even though Beamish would continue to own the engine.

He said: “If ownership isn’t to pass to Darlington Borough Council of the replica Locomotion No 1 from Beamish, might we know what relative contribution each party is making towards the cost of restoration, so we might have the full picture?”

In response, Cllr Scott questioned why Beamish should contribute towards the restoration as it was lending the engine to the council for a lengthy period.