The Head of Steam Museum holds a number of collections, including:
- Head of Steam Museum collection
- Ken Hoole collection
- John Mallon collection
- North Eastern Railway Association collection
- Tubwell Row Museum collection
The museum service also cares for Piercebridge Roman Fort, although artefacts from the site are held by the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.
The museum's existing collections are mostly limited to material illustrating the development and operation of railways in North East England. Although regional in scope, in some areas they are of national importance because of their association with the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR).
The collections cover:
- S&DR and its associated lines
- North Eastern Railway (NER)
- London & North Eastern Railway (LNER)
- British Railways (BR)
- The railway manufacturing industry in Darlington
- Industrial railways in Darlington
The material held includes:
- Archives, maps, photographs and printed ephemera
- One locomotive and two wagons
- Items used in railway operating
- "Branded" items associated with the railway infrastructure
- Models and toys
The Ken Hoole Study Centre houses the reference collection left by Ken Hoole, the renowned regional railway historian. It was his strong desire that his collection would be made available in Darlington for public use. The collection is a unique resource devoted to the railways of North East England, including:
- 246 albums of photographs covering locomotives, rolling stock, stations, workshops and signalling
- 204 scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine cuttings
- Official Board of Trade reports on railway accidents from 1872 to 1987
- Passenger and working timetables from the period 1861 to 1987
- 24 maps and over 200 plans of railway sections
- Railway company publications, books, magazines and Acts of Parliament
The John Mallon collection is jointly owned by the museum and the North Eastern Railway Association (NERA). John Mallon amassed a large amount of information about the North Eastern Railway and railways in the North East in general during his lifetime. His extensive collections include a large photographic collection, firemen and enginemen registers and material relevant to the North Eastern Railway and railways in the North East in general.
The John Mallon collection is part of the Ken Hoole Study Centre.
NERA was formed in 1961 to cater for all enthusiasts interested in the history and development of railways in North East England - the area covered by the counties of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland.
This is mainly concerned with the North Eastern Railway and the Hull & Barnsley Railway and their incorporation in the London and North Eastern Railway and British Railways' networks, but also extends to the smaller independent and industrial railways that operated in the area.
Interests cover all aspects of operation - locomotives, rolling stock, train services, stations, signalling, shipping and road services - both for the general enthusiast and the model maker.
An extensive source of information is contained in the association's library with its collection of books, historical records and drawings. This is housed at the Ken Hoole Study Centre.
The NERA collection is part of the Ken Hoole Study Centre.
NERA website [external link]
Tubwell Row Museum was opened in 1921 with the purpose of 'illustrating the mode of life of a former generation or of another nation'.
Unfortunately in 1998 Tubwell Row Museum closed and the collection was cut down. It was decided that any art, objects, photos or documents relating to Darlington were to be kept by the council.
The remaining items were moved to museums in North East England, such as the Hancock Museum and Beamish.
The remaining collection consists of social history, archaeology, ceramics and natural history.