Tag Archives: Shildon

Let’s do the Locomotion

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – please land your Rocket at Locomotion, Shildon, Co. Durham,  ‘roger, wilco, over and out’.  Not this Rocket and not Major Tom, but Major Tim Peake and his space capsule. This month, Locomotion will display the craft which returned our very own British ‘Rocket Man’ and space walker, Tim Peake, to Planet Earth, along with an exhibition of the very latest in Samsung, ‘space age’ VR techno.

Rocket’s crew might not have made it into orbit but, they were travelling at speeds previously unknown – when the railways really got going, engine drivers and firemen were the ‘fastest men on Earth’.  And, like space travel, it did give them a new view of the world, the one flashing by!  In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik 1 and, in 1961, Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in orbit, seven years before steam locomotion finished as the driving force of British railways.

Strangely, the Russian connection to Shildon goes right back to the beginng of the railway age. Timothy Hackworth, who, as many of you will know, built the locomotive, Sans Pereil, which competed against Rocket at Rainhill; a replica of his Sans Pereil is housed at Locomotion. Born in Shildon, Hackworth had a locomotive building workshop there, where, in 1836, he built an engine for the Tsarskoye Selo Railway, in Russia. Hackworth’s son, John Wesley Hackworth, travelled to Russia to help assemble the locomotive and teach them how to operate it. According to legend, Hackworth junior taught the Tsar how to drive too!

However, the real speed is that it took human society millenia to reach the point, technologically, where we could travel faster than the speed of the horse, it then took a mere 132 years after the Rainhill trials to put a man in space – escape velocity is, crudely speaking,  25,000mph.

In the photograph, the Rocket replica is departing from Quorn & Woodhouse station on the GCR, which is not a million miles from the National Space Centre in Leicester – eeeH, it’s a small world!!

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Eardington Local


Climbing Eardington Bank, with a Hampton Loade – Bridgnorth service, No.47383 re-creates a classic branch line scene, the Jinty with a couple of coaches. This one is from my from my pre-digital archives, posted today, to set the mood for the start of the Severn Valley Railway’s 50th anniversary celebrations in a little over a week.

It’s hard to believe that it all began 50 years ago, or that I’ve been visiting the line for more than 30 of those years – I’m sure there’s a reason. Over those years, lots of engines have come and gone, some  have left the line to become museum exhibits like doyen of the Black 5s No.5000 which is now on display, as part of the ‘National Collection’, at Shildon in Co. Durham, or, like the Stanier 8F No.48773, have become museum exhibits on the SVR.  One of the SVR’s first engines, Ex-GWR 0-6-0 No.3205,  is now at home on the South Devon Railway and Ex-LNER 2-6-0 No.61994 The Great Marquess  is a star turn on the main line working the ‘Fellsman’  services on the Settle Carlisle line  and the  ‘Jacobite’  service on what is billed as ‘one of the great railway journeys’, the Fort William to Mallaig line, a route she was specifically built to operate over, from Glasgow.

Sadly, like No.5000 and No.48773, No.47383 is  no longer on active duty,  but she can be can be seen, in all her gleaming black glory, in the Engine House display at Highley. I’m sure to make a call there when I visit next week.

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