A new art installation has been unveiled in Darlington to help celebrate the town’s rich railway heritage. The piece of public art takes pride of place on a key route into the town centre, the re-designed roundabout on Haughton Road.
Created by regional artist Andrew McKeown, the artwork features four signs depicting key locomotives from Darlington’s past and present. The designs are influenced by an example of railway signage held in Darlington’s Head of Steam railway museum and feature locomotives with particular significance to the town – Locomotion No.1, Derwent, Tornado and Prince of Wales. Manufactured in metal and painted in traditional style, the signs include the names of the locomotives and the dates they came – or are set to come – into service. Special lighting has also been installed to enhance the artwork. The project has seen the council’s heritage and highways teams work alongside The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Group from the initial concept and design to the finished product.
Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said, “This exciting project sends out a positive statement to residents and visitors that Darlington is proud of its railway heritage, past and present. We need to look beyond the difficult times that the pandemic has placed us in and look ahead to a brighter future where we can celebrate our strengths as a borough, our rich railway heritage and our exciting future. This artwork will enrich our strong rail heritage offering and help to prepare the way to our local and regional celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of the railways in 2025.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen responded, “While we’re investing more than £100million in Darlington and are creating good quality, well-paid jobs for local people in the town, it’s also important to recognise its rich heritage. This great installation will be one of many exciting celebrations we’re helping to deliver as part of the 200th anniversary of the first modern passenger railway, born right here.”
Paul Bruce from The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust which built Tornado and is building Prince of Wales in Darlington, enthused, “We are delighted to have been part of this project which showcases Darlington’s rich past and also its exciting present in terms of rail heritage. Each of these locomotives in the installation shows how Darlington has been at the forefront and heart of locomotive development over the past two centuries. The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust is committed to the continued production of cutting-edge design steam locomotives in Darlington and we welcome the chance to be involved in this project and to celebrate the success of our locomotives Tornado and Prince of Wales.”
Niall Hammond, Chair of the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, said, “The Friends are delighted that this project has taken shape as part of a significant and ever-expanding programme of work taking place in the lead up to the 200th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, which opened on 27th September 1825 and marked the beginning of the modern railway age. We would like to thank everyone who made this possible, and, in particular, Friend Geoff Birse, whose carefully researched and accurate 3D drawings informed the Locomotion No. 1 sculpture. These art works link railways past with railways present and future and will serve to remind people of their proud heritage every time they pass by as they go about their daily lives.’
Artist Andrew McKeown added, ‘’The giant steel locomotion signs that I have designed, will celebrate Darlington’s fame as the birthplace of the railways. I am honoured to be a part of this local project which proudly welcomes visitors to Darlington.’’
Photos by Paul Bruce unless otherwise stated.
Image shows: Cllr Mike Renton, David Elliott The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, Cllr Heather Scott Leader of Darlington Council, Ross Chisholm Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway, Sculptor Andrew McKeown, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, Paul Bruce The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust – DBC