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Trip Report: Locomotion – The National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham (Revisited)

Back in late 2010, I travelled to Locomotion (and reported here in a prior post) with the express purpose of taking some measurements of LSWR #563, the locomotive that would later travel to Toronto to take part in the Railway Children in Roundhouse Park.  This year, I returned to Shildon to see what changes had been made since my previous visit.

I visited on Saturday of the Easter weekend and the museum was very busy.  Mallard has returned to the main National Railway Museum (NRM) site in York, where she now sits next to newly-restored Dwight D. Eisenhower in anticipation of the "Mallard 75" events this summer.  Occupying her former location at Shildon was Dominion of Canada (DoC), on loan to the NRM from Exporail in Saint-Constant, Quebec.  DoC is normally found in the Shildon workshop, but was brought out especially for the Easter visitors.  Currently, DoC’s tender has been restored and painted in LNER blue while the main locomotive is in various states of repair and layers of undercoat, although the bell has been fitted.  Considerable work has been needed on DoC, including stripping everything back to the bare metal.  Once work is complete, she too will be sent to York for what is surely to be this year’s premier railway event.

During my last visit, much of the Locomotion site was closed as it was operating on winter hours.  This time I was able to see the entire site.  A series of stone buildings tell the story of railway engineering in the Shildon area.  Soho Shed was the workshop of Timothy Hackworth, the first superintendent of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and an important developer of steam locomotive technology during the first half of the nineteenth century.  Next door to the shed is Hackworth’s home, where he lived with his family.  A new building at the main entrance to the museum houses one of Britain’s most precious railway artefacts: Sans Pareil.  This locomotive, designed and built by Timothy Hackworth, took part in the Rainhill Trials in 1829.  The locomotive was technically too heavy to take part, but an exception was made and Sans Pareil initially performed well, before a boiler pressure issue forced Hackworth to withdraw from the trial (his rival and former employer, George Stephenson, won the day with Rocket).  That this piece of railway history has survived is testament to how much the UK values its railways.  Undeterred by the defeat at Rainhill, Hackworth continued developing and building locomotives until his death in 1850.  One of his locomotives, Samson, even made it to Nova Scotia.

Most people flock to the main display building at Locomotion, but the rest of the site is worth a good visit too.  To plan your visit, visit their website.

Due to Easter craft activities, it wasn’t possible to get a clear shot of our old friend 563 as a large board had been placed in front this globe-trotting engine.  She should, however, be visible most of the time.

Posting and photos by Thomas Blampied

Click on each image below for a closer look!

Dominion of Canada on display.  The tender has been painted LNER blue, but the rest is still in undercoat.

A close-up of Dominion of Canada’s number plates and the new Canadian coat of arms, test-fitted for display.

An overview of the “Hackworth-themed” end of Locomotion.

Soho Shed, where Hackworth built many of his locomotives.

Hackworth’s house is used to display several exhibits on the social history of railway manufacturing.

The original Sans Pareil, now housed in a purpose-built display space.

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