Masterplan unveiled for Rail Heritage Quarter

Masterplan unveiled for Rail Heritage Quarter
20 December 2019

A MASTERPLAN for a multi-million pound transformation of Darlington’s Head of Steam railway museum and its surrounding area is set to be debated by councillors for the first time.

The proposal to create a Rail Heritage Quarter in Darlington’s North Road area forms a key part of the town’s celebrations to mark 200 years of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

An initial £20m of funding for the first phase of the regeneration works – which includes all projects planned to be complete in time for 2025 – has been allocated by Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The key elements of the revitalised Head of Steam will include:

  • Free entry to the museum for all visitors once the renovations are complete
  • A new home for the A1 Steam Trust, with access to the mainline rail network, which will allow visitors to watch engineers at work on steam locomotive The Prince of Wales and future projects
  • Darlington’s rail heritage and the museum’s exhibits will be brought to life using virtual and augmented reality, including an immersive ride that will bring the Stockton and Darlington Railway to life
  • Live steam experiences will return to the site for special events
  • A huge, free, outdoor play experience will be built to celebrate the Stockton and Darlington Railway and bring engineering to life for children of all ages

The initial ideas for the Rail Heritage Quarter have won the backing of key partners at the site, rail enthusiasts and the local community through widespread consultation.

Members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will debate the proposals at a meeting on Tuesday 7 January, before being asked to allow the Masterplan to progress to a more detailed phase and to release the funds allocated by TVCA.

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “It’s wonderful to be able to share our initial plans for the future of the Head of Steam Museum and the creation of the Rail Heritage Quarter.

“The consultation feedback was extremely encouraging and people have been very positive about how we can progress with the redevelopment, whether that’s through the use of the latest technology to bring the exhibits to life or helping children to learn about the town’s heritage and the importance of engineering through play.

“We’re also delighted that the regeneration offers the opportunity for all of our rail heritage partners on the site to play a more active role in welcoming visitors and raising awareness of the important rail engineering work that continues to this day.

“We look forward to progressing with the plans and engaging with the local community every step of the way to ensure they are involved in creating an attraction that is as welcoming to local people as it is to tourists and rail enthusiasts.”