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So, being dotty on train travel, we’d like to share our dream trip – travelling through the history of train travel. To do this, we’re taking a round-trip from York to Darlington via Shildon. The journey is under two hours but you’ll want to spend time in each location and also have some lovely lunch, so put aside the best part of a day for this trip.
Your first stop has to be The Great Hall. Here you can check out the Mallard which is still the fastest steam train in the world. It was built in 1938 and clocked a stunning 126 miles per hour on its record-breaking run. The Mallard is sleek, aerodynamic, a gorgeous shade of blue and is just the sort of icon that will turn you on to trains. The former engine shed also houses the only bullet train outside Japan (200 mph), a working replica of Stephenson’s Rocket (24 mph) and even a train gifted to the UK by the Chinese Government.
Locomotion is just under an hour from the NRM in York, and to see both on the same day could blow a railfan’s single track mind.
Locomotion houses another fleet of incredible locomotives. There’s the Sans Pareil built in 1829 by Timothy Hackworth. This was presented as ‘the little engine that could’ in its battle against Stephenson’s Rocket. And though it couldn’t beat Rocket, it did see active service and played an important role in early steam train history.
Moving through time, another example of what might have been is the Advanced Passenger Train. The infamous British Rail experimental train went down as a glorious failure but influenced later generations of tilting trains and set a speed record that lasted for a quarter of a century.
But our favourite exhibit is the private coach used by Queen Alexandra. Built in 1902, this royal carriage has a bathroom, dressing room and two salons, one for night and one for daytime. That’s the way to travel.
Locomotion tells the story of railway development and is perfectly geared for little ones. They always make sure to put on events that will capture young minds and fill their hearts. There’s no stopping though, this trip is now boarding for Darlington.
Twenty-two minutes from Shildon and you’ll be in Darlington amid more antique choo-choos. By now the pieces of rail history will be falling into place. We had the working replica of Stephenson’s Rocket in York. We had the rival technology – the Sans Pareil – in Shildon. Now we have Locomotion No.1 – the train George Stephenson built for the Stockton and Darlington railway, the first public railway in the world.