Early in 2021 Darlington Council made public their ambitions for the Railway Heritage Quarter and residents and businesses were invited to have their say on the proposals for the redevelopment of the Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum into a major new visitor attraction and museum. The proposals will develop the existing museum on North Road, as well as surrounding heritage buildings, into a new world class major visitor destination before the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025. The development will combine multiple listed buildings to create a unique visitor experience.
The refurbishment scheme comprises:
- Goods Shed – visitor centre, café and display space in remodelled and refurbished Grade II* Listed building
- Head of Steam (Existing Museum) – major exhibition and interpretation space in remodelled and refurbished Grade II* Listed building
- Carriage Works – archive, study area, function and temporary exhibition space in remodelled and refurbished Grade II* Listed building
- Live Engineering Works – a purpose-built facility for the creation and maintenance of steam locomotives by A1 Steam Locomotive Trust with public viewing facilities and interpretation (DLW2)
- 1861 Building – a facility for the repair, maintenance, storage and display of locomotives and associated rail artefacts.
- Lime Cells – refurbished Grade II Listed building
The rest of 2021 passed with little sign od progress. However, like a swan on the river, the Trust continued to work feverishly with the Council to refine the plans for the new Darlington Locomotive Works (DLW2) across the Bishop Auckland line from North Road station. Connected to the national rail network, this is a massive step change in the Trust’s operations and facilities.
The new Trust facility will have a 52m. long workshop with two roads and four vehicle bays. A high-level viewing gallery will allow the public to experience the live engineering from seven metres above the workshop. The conclusion of Network Rail’s land sale to the Council allowed the construction of DLW2 to start and the refurbishment of the 1861 ‘Peachey’ shed to get underway.
By summer 2023 we will have a brand new, purpose-built locomotive works within the Darlington Railway Heritage Quarter (“DRHQ”). The £4.5m building will provide many of the facilities that we require for building and operating our steam locomotives. For the new building to reach its potential, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has agreed to contribute to the project. This will ensure that the site has a main line rail connection, running track, inspection pits and more.
Initially we are raising funds for the running line, allowing movement around the site and live steam rides. On the eve of the Stockton and Darlington bicentennial, we are asking supporters to join 'The P-Way Gang' with a target of raising £75,000 for track materials. The legacy of this fundraising initiative will live on to future proof new build steam in Darlington and ensure that the DRHQ functions as a live steam destination for the UK, as well as a national & international visitor centre. You can support the project here.
As part of bringing this Trust vision to life, we have committed to sourcing and installing the 2km of track and points which will comprise the new private siding. Along with our funding contribution towards the building itself and our agreement to a lengthy lease, the Trust is very excited to be extending its commitment to this historic railway town which lies at the heart of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
Work officially began on Darlington's Railway Heritage Quarter which provides a new home for the Trust and will be at the heart of the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025. Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Council, had the honour of breaking the ground to mark the start of construction of Darlington's Railway Heritage Quarter at the beginning of March, 2022.
By the 22nd August, the floor for the offices and staircases had been added, some roof panels were in place and work had started to excavate the pit in the works building.
The new home for the Trust is going up at great pace. The ‘end box’ has the administration office on the top floor (seen above), the plant room and meeting room are on the middle floor and the ground floor has the stores (nearest to the camera) and showers & changing, etc. beyond.
The ‘stick’ out to the left will be the engineering office and the public gallery. They both cantilever over the workshop 7.5m out.