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National Railway Museum Shildon Durham

San-Pareil Early steam locomotice photoEngland was the birthplace of the steam railroad. Born as much by the need to haul the coal that fueled the industrialization as it was a means to haul people from town to town. The English railway system is an odd collection of historic lines built by capitalist entrepreneurs to serve their own routes and regions (see Didcot Great Western Railway Centre). Getting around the British Isles on the national railway can be an adventure of complex connections. Getting to the past of English railway heritage can be as easy as getting to a railway museum.

Hackworth Soho Works House photoThe first railroad steam engine to haul a loaded train was George Stephenson’s Locomotion on the Stockton & Darlington railway in 1825. But it was rival Timothy Hackworth, a manager on the line who’s engine the Royal George that had the reliability to make regular steam powered rail service practical. Stephenson and Hackworth went head to head in competition to build a steam locomotive for a proposed railway between Manchester and Liverpool. Stephenson built the Rocket and Hackworth designed the Sans Pareil. The Rocket won out and the passenger railroad was born.

Steam Locomotive photoA replica of Stephenson's Rocket is at the York National Rail Museum and a replica of the later Planet engine runs at Manchester (see Manchester Museum Science and Industry), the actual Sans Pareil is on display at the Locomotion National Railway Museum at Shildon in Durham county. Located in a former engine works of the Stockton & Darlington Line where Timothy Hackworth continued to develop engines which powered the railroads of England as well as Canada and the world. The railroad museum at Locomotion takes up several building of was once the small town for workers that grew around Hackworth’s Soho engine works at new Shildon.

Steam Engine Repair photoCovering enough acreage to require taking a regular shuttle bus around the former rail yards, the collection of engines and rolling stock is only second to the National Rail Museum at York (see York Railway Museum), of which Locomotion Shildon in Durham is a branch. The displays include Timothy Hackworth’s house from which he oversaw operations, other buildings of the town with displays, to a massive engine shed the size of a football field.

Deltic Diesel and High Speed Train photoEngines on display run from the 8’ wheeled Victorian Express steam engine which carried first class passengers from Waterloo station in the days of the virgin queen to the massive prototype of the Deltic Diesel engine, called the blue monster, which pulled the Flying Scotsman route from 1961 to 1982 along with other rolling stock, like the unique railway steam snowplow and handcrank track crane. A number of events and special displays are held from April to September. Rail rides can be had on a working replica of the San Pareil engine and the “Driver for a Fiver” program allows visitors to ride in the engine cab with the engineer and get a lesson in steam locomotion.

The Locomotion National Railway Museum is located about 20 minutes by car from Durham off the A68 from Darlington, and a few minutes walk from the Shildon Station by rail. Bus services run from Durham and Darlington. Parking and admission are free! © Bargain Travel Europe

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