Durham County Council has approved plans for a new exhibition building at Locomotion in Shildon.
This is a key milestone in the museum’s Vision 2025 Development.
The building, which will be known as New Hall will house 50 vehicles from the national collection, meaning that Locomotion will be the largest undercover collection of heritage rail vehicles in the world.
New Hall will allow Locomotion to engage with visitors in new ways – it will be able to tell a more coherent story of the railway industry from the early days to the present day whilst looking at both its national and international impact.
It is expected that the new building will open in Autumn 2023 in time to host celebrations for the 100th birthday of Flying Scotsman.
More improvements are set to take place at Locomotion as part of the Vision 2025 plan, with Gaunless Bridge, one of the first iron railway bridges in the world set to move to Shildon from its current home at the National Railway Museum in York.
A tender process is ongoing to appoint a construction company to build New Hall, and will deliver the project alongside AOC Architects and J+L Gibbons Landscape Architects.
The museum says the work could begin in October 2022.
Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion, said: “We’re really pleased that the planning committee has approved these plans which now allow us to transform a disused piece of wasteland into a vibrant and inspiring new collection space for both our existing and new visitors.
“This planning decision allows us to continue to be a central part of our community for years to come alongside ensuring that the new building can be open in time for the Stockton & Darlington Railway 200 celebrations in 2025.
“We believe that it is both exciting and something to be proud of that Shildon and County Durham can be known as the home of the largest undercover collection of heritage railway vehicles anywhere in the world.
“Nearly 200 years ago people looked to Shildon to find out how railways could change the world; this new building will help us to continue this tradition and be a proud part of Shildon’s history as the world’s first railway town.”
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are delighted to see Locomotion broadening its already impressive visitor offer with the plans for ‘New Hall’.
“This expansion of the museum celebrates County Durham’s role as the cradle of the global railway industry and will result in significant economic benefits across our communities through increased tourism and visitor spending. It will also complement the work that our successful bid for £20m Levelling Up funding is helping make possible elsewhere on the site.
“We look forward to New Hall being at the heart of the exciting celebrations planned to mark 200 years of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025.”