Sans Pareil pairing is down to Shildon success
The first-ever meeting of the original and replica Sans Pareil 0-4-0s is the result of Locomotion museum being “a victim of its own success.” The 1829-built engine was previously displayed in the ‘welcome’ building at the western end of the National Railway Museum’s Shildon site, where it was intended to be the first locomotive seen by visitors. But, says Locomotion manager Gary Campbell, greater than expected footfall quickly rendered this gem largely out of the public gaze. Mr Campbell explains: “The original bid for Heritage Lottery funding was made on the basis of around 30,000-50,000 visitors a year, and the site was designed for that number - but almost immediately we saw more than that, averaging at 175,000 a year.” The visitor count has exceeded 200,000 in five of the last six years, with a peak of 295,000 in 2013/14 (including the ‘Great Goodbye’ gathering of the six ‘A4s’ for ‘Mallard 75’). Within a year of the museum’s opening in 2004, a larger car park was commissioned next to the main building in order to cope - but this means that the half-mile long site is now “working the opposite way around from how it was intended,” says Mr Campbell, who reckons that fewer than 10% of visitors made the trek to the opposite end to see Sans Pareil. The decision to move the engine into the main building last year was therefore made in order to bring it to the largest possible audience - with the bonus of displaying it alongside its working replica. Both locomotives have Shildon pedigree, the original having been built in the town by Timothy Hackworth to compete against Robert Stephenson’s Rocket at the Rainhill Trials. The replica was built by apprentices in British Rail’s Shildon workshops in 1979 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the trials. Mr Campbell said that the main building is now expected to be the permanent home for the original engine, but the museum intends to draw up a ‘masterplan’ for engaging visitors across the whole of the site, and encouraging more to the western end which includes Hackworth’s cottage and Soho engine shed, the last surviving building from the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s Soho works. Brake van rides from the main museum building - operated by Furness Railway 0-4-0 No. 20 - are currently unable to access this end of the running line owing to survey work being undertaken on the adjacent coal drops, in order to secure their long-term future.
Together at last - standing side by side at Shildon are the replica and original incarnations of Timothy Hackworth’s