Locomotion No.1 under a world expert’s lens
AN archaeological investigation has begun of Locomotion No. 1, which in 1825 headed the inaugural train on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the world’s first public steam-hauled line.
The project, led by Dr Michael Bailey, a world expert in early railways, and his colleague Peter Davidson, will seek to deepen public understanding of No.1 by finding evidence to date its components and uncover how much of the engine preserved today has survived from the original locomotive that was constructed in 1825.
Dr Bailey has previously carried out numerous similar investigations on locomotives such as Stephenson’s Rocket, the Hetton Lyon, and Killingworth Billy, and has both proved and disproved long-standing theories and stories associated with them through his investigations.
However, this is the first time that such a project has been attempted on No.1, which is currently housed in the Locomotion museum in Shildon, after a deal was agreed between the National Railway Museum and Head of Steam in Darlington to relocate the engine last year.
Speaking ahead of the project, Dr Bailey said: “Locomotion No.1 was the first locomotive to be preserved out of sentiment and as a result shows that there was some understanding that the railway industry had been very successful, despite it only being 1857. Ever since, it has been on display in Darlington in various locations.
“However, what is not clear about the engine is how much of what we look at today has survived since the day it was made and how much has been altered.
“We already have a number of theories that have formed, and this investigation provides us with the opportunity to test those theories so that we can help the NRM and Locomotion best inform their visitors about what they come to see.”
Delving into archives
Dr Bailey and Mr Davidson’s investigation will involve a detailed in-person study of the locomotive but also in-depth archival research, with Dr Bailey planning trips to the National Archives in Kew as well as archives in Newcastle, Durham, and Darlington to provide as much factual information as possible. The investigation is estimated to take between six and eight months, with most of the time being taken up by drawings that will be completed primarily by Peter.
Visitors will still be able to see the 197-year-old locomotive during its investigation at Locomotion.
No.1 will not be damaged by any physical investigation of it, said an NRM statement.
Locomotion head Dr Sarah Price said: “The investigation is happening during an exciting time for the museum with our Vision 2025 project starting to take shape. Our plans for a new collection building have recently been unveiled and show the planned transformation of our site.
“Celebrations for the bicentenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway are also around the corner, and Locomotion No. 1 will form a key part of those.”