WHATEVER the weather, visitors enjoying the attractions at one of the region's railway museums next year will be running on energy provided by the elements.

Rain and sun will provide some of the power used to drive locomotives and interactive displays at the £8m Shildon Railway Village, in County Durham, when it opens in late summer next year.

The museum, which is an offshoot of the National Railway Museum, in York, is one of 18 building projects across England and Wales which are sharing £2m of Government funding announced by Energy Minister Brian Wilson.

A £111,826 grant is meeting 65 per cent of the cost of incorporating renewable energy schemes into the design of the building.

Solar panels on the roof will generate enough electricity to drive displays in the main exhibition hall.

A rainwater harvesting system on the roof will collect the pure water which is most suitable for the huge boilers that power the museum's steam locomotives.

The Railway Village is expected to attract 50,00 visitors a year, from all over the world, bringing spin-off benefits for the whole of the North-East.

* The University of Newcastle has been awarded £101,021 towards a photovoltaic system on the curved roof of its Devonshire Building, which houses an environmental and e-science research institute.