Shildon: National Railway Museum

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The National Railway Museum in Shildon was opened in October 2004 and is based on the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway Museum. Timothy Hackworth was recruited by George Stephenson in 1824 to oversee the building of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, engine houses and stationary engines. He was responsible for building locomotives for the company and he became the railway’s superintendent in 1825. The Welcome building was constructed in 1888 as a Sunday School for the Methodist Chapel and became a clothing factory in the 1960’s. The building became the entrance for the museum in 2004 and is now home to the original Sans Pareil locomotive which was built by Timothy Hackworth to compete in the Rainhill Trials in 1829 for the newly created Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

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Prior to the National Railway Museum, the Patent Office Museum, now the Science Museum in London, started its collected of railway artefacts in 1862. Railway companies began preserving their history from the late 19th century and a museum dedicated to railways was opened in 1927 in York by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Although the Great Western Railway (GWR), the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the Southern Railway (SR) had all collected significant quantities of railway heritage material by the 1930’s, it wasn’t until the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 that these collections were all brought together.

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A curator of historical relics of the nationalised transport industries was appointed in 1951 and adding to the existing York Railway Museum, the Museum of British Transport in Clapham was opened by British Railways. The 1968 Transport Act encouraged British Railways to work in conjunction with the Science Museum to develop a National Railway Museum to house the ever expanding collection. The very first national museum (National Railway Museum) outside of London was opened in 1975 at the former steam locomotive depot near York Minster.

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The National Railway Museum in York has expanded on numerous occasions since 1975 and now has a purpose built rail training centre – a base for the NRM’s education team. The National Railway Museum in Shildon, also known as Locomotion, was the first national museum to be built in the North East. The birthplace of the modern railway, and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, this joint venture ensures the continued preservation of railway heritage and enables the collections to be conserved properly.

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Built up over the past 80 years, the collection at Shildon has over 100 locomotives and almost 200 items relating to the story of the railway from the early 19th century to the present day. One of the carriages in the Collection Building houses a 1924 12/50 ‘Duck’s back’ Alvis. This vehicle was used by the 20th century English writer Tom Rolt who led numerous campaigns to preserve our national heritage. Used as his general runaround in the early days of the Vintage Sports Car Club, the vehicle was purchased in 1934 for £10 and is still owned by the Rolt family. In 1959, Tom drove this car on a section of the M1 motorway whilst it was being built – from near Luton to beyond Watford Gap. This journey was part of his research for a pamphlet he was writing for John Laing & Sons who were the main contractors for the road.

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The original Sans Pareil is displayed in the Welcome Building and although it was more powerful, it proved not to have the speed of Stephenson’s Rocket. A working replica of Rocket is housed at the museum and was designed by Robert Stephenson in 1979 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Rainhill Trials. The working replica of Timothy Hackworth’s Sans Pareil (above) was built in 1979 by apprentices at British Rail’s Shildon workshop. First steamed in April 1980, the replica and original have been together at Shildon since 2004.

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Part of the collection includes the stunning steam locomotive built by London Midland & Scottish Railway, 5MT class, in black and designed by William Stanier in 1935. Locomotive No 34051 Winston Churchill is also displayed in the Collection Building. One of 44 members of the Battle of Britain class produced by the Southern Railway between 1945 and 1950, these locomotives were all named after the people, aircraft, fighter squadrons and airfields involved in the Battle of Britain. Mid Hants Railway Ropley Works have undertaken painstaking work to restore the Battle of Britain class loco back to its original condition.

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One of the major exhibitions at Shildon is the royal train collection which displays the splendour and quality of coaches used by members of the royal family during the early 20th century. The Hardwicke No. 790 (above) is currently at the head of the royal train and is a steam locomotive of “Jumbo” Class. A new speed record was set in 1895 during the era of the Race to the North when Hardwicke took 2 hours and 6 minutes to travel between Crewe and Carlisle. This fabulous locomotive was designed by F.W.Webb and was built in Crewe in 1873, withdrawn in 1932.

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Other locomotives included in the Collection Building include Imperial No 1. 1956 which was one of the last but one fireless locomotives to be built by the Andrew Barclay Company in Kilmarnock. Working in the Imperial Paper Mills at Gravesend, such fireless engines were used in certain locations where the fire of an ordinary steam locomotive would present a hazard. Although diesel and electric locomotives were available by 1956, fireless locomotives were much cheaper to build and to operate in plant where large quantities of steam were readily available.

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Orion (above) is a working model of a London & North Western Railway express passenger locomotive. This beautiful working 1/6 scale model was made by Mr G.R.S. Darroch who was an apprentice at Crewe works. With some of the parts being made at Crewe Mechanics Institute, Orion is one of the few genuine examples of LNWR locomotives still in existence. The original locomotive named Orion was built in 1902 at Crewe works to pull express passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line. The full size locomotive was scrapped in 1928 so this wonderful 1905 model remains a tangible link with Crewe’s golden age.

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Other railway relics in the collection include underground mining locomotives and tank wagons. The last locomotive out of Ellington Colliery in Northumberland in 2005 was Underground Mining Locomotive No 14. A diesel mechanical locomotive was used for coal haulage and No. 14 was built by Hudswell Clarke of Leeds in 1961. Below is a Shell-Mex and British Petroleum Limited Tank Wagon. Registered with Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, the rectangular wagon was built in 1901 for carrying oil and was claimed from Falmouth Docks.

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As part of Shildon Shed Bash held in July this year and inspired by famous “Shed Bashes” of the 1950’s and 1960’s, this special event welcomed the world famous Flying Scotsman. Joined by A4 60009 Union of South Africa, V2 4771 Green Arrow, Q6 63395 and D9002 Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, this historic event was a wonderful occasion for rail enthusiasts.

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Originally built in Doncaster in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway, the Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and was one of the most powerful locomotives used by the railway. Selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London, the locomotive was given the name Flying Scotsman, after the London to Edinburgh rail service which started in 1862, and renumbered 4472. The Scotsman was officially the first locomotive in the UK to reach 100mph on a special test run and reducing the journey to eight hours, produced the first ever non stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928.

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In 2004, a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum resulted in saving this beautiful locomotive and confirmed its status as a national treasure. Having undergone extensive restoration in the workshop of Riley & Son Ltd since 2006, this railway legend is once again on Britain’s tracks. The oldest mainline working locomotive, this steam icon has remained in Britain with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although the Flying Scotsman was undoubtedly the star of the show, the National Railway Museum in Shildon is a fantastic working museum conserving a rich industrial heritage for future generations.

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