Ambitious plans for the future of Locomotion in Shildon have been announced, celebrating Shildon’s railway heritage ahead of the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s bicentenary in 2025.

A £4.5m plan will see the construction of a new, 4,000m2 ‘Building Two’, close to the existing visitor centre which will almost double the amount of covered space available to the public. The building will house up to 40 vehicles from the national collection, bringing the total number of rail vehicles at Locomotion to more than 100.

Construction work is set to commence in October 2021 and the building is due to open to the public in September 2022.

To further recognise Shildon’s role as the birthplace of the modern passenger railway, historic steam engine Locomotion No.1 – the first to haul a scheduled passenger train – will also go on display at the redeveloped museum.

The locomotive is part of the national collection, cared for by the Science Museum Group, and is currently on loan at the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington. When the existing loan period ends in 2021, the vehicle will travel the short distance to its new home in Shildon, where it will be displayed as the focal point of Locomotion’s redevelopment.

Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion said:

“On 27 September 1825, George Stephenson’s Locomotion No. 1 set off from outside the Mason’s Arms public house in Shildon – just a short distance from where the museum is now based. This pioneering locomotive hauled the first train to Stockton, cementing Shildon’s place as the ‘Cradle of the Railways’ – the world’s first, true railway town.

“Our ambitious plans will see significant investment in the existing site’s historic buildings, the construction of Building Two to showcase our collection and the display of Locomotion No.1 – one of the world’s most significant engines.”

“We will continue to work with Head of Steam and other organisations across the region, and the country, to ensure that celebrations for the Bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025, bring the world’s attention to the North East’s role in the global railway revolution.”

The development will also see the repair and rejuvenation of Locomotion’s historic buildings. The museum is home to a collection of unique Grade II listed buildings including the former home of Timothy Hackworth, the first locomotive superintendent of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, as well as sheds and worker’s cottages.

The £1.6m repair project started on site in January 2020 and all historic buildings are due to be repaired by the end of the year.

Locomotion recently celebrated its 15th birthday with a gala event – drawing in excess of 3,500 people on a single day. Since opening, the museum has hosted many high-profile locomotives and exhibitions, including Flying Scotsman and Tim Peake’s Soyuz capsule which was seen by more than 46,000 people.

Locomotion was first opened by then Prime Minister, Tony Blair in 2004, as a partnership between Sedgefield Borough Council and the National Railway Museum, with funding from both partners and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The museum currently welcomes around 200,000 visitors each year and is England’s most northerly national museum. Locomotion has received more than 2.5m visitors since opening.

Sir Peter Hendy, Trustee, Science Museum Group, said:

“It’s remarkable how far Locomotion has come since it opened back in 2004. I’ve been impressed to see it punch well above its weight, with innovative exhibitions like Tim Peake’s Soyuz capsule and forward-thinking acquisitions, from the HST to the Pacer.

“As we head towards once-in-a-lifetime railway anniversaries, the development of the Building Two project and the homecoming of Locomotion No.1 will give the museum even more opportunities to put the heritage of Shildon and the North-East on the map, and to make 2025 a truly national celebration with a global impact.”

Locomotion remains a partnership with Durham County Council and is a part of the Science Museum Group, displaying highlights from the national collection of rail vehicles.