On the 6th June 1857, the foundation stone was laid for the plinth to display Locomotion No.1 outside North Road Station in Darlington.

As the Stockton & Darlington Railway network grew, it was becoming clear to the S&DR pioneers that the role of the S&DR in bringing railways to the world needed to be recognised more formally. Edward Pease was still alive in 1857 when it was decided that Locomotion No.1 should be repaired and restored (paid for by Joseph Pease (second oldest son of Edward)) and placed on a plinth outside the station. A very elderly Edward Pease was asked to lay the foundation stone by Thomas MacNay but he turned the invitation down due to his ‘abundance of years’. The event was seen as an opportunity: ‘to give an entertainment to the Agents of the various departments as suggested a little time ago at one of the committees’ (RAIL 667/72 Traffic Committee 4 May 1857). The foundation stone was laid at 1pm and celebrations were held for the Goods’ Agents and invited guests at The Sun Inn in Darlington at 2pm and guests were also invited to roam the grounds at Pierremont where Henry Pease (youngest son of Edward) resided. Trains were laid on to take guests east and west at the end of the day.

Locomotion No.1 on its plinth outside North Road Station – possibly with the carriage works in the background

The significance of his day was that it was the first time that part of the S&DR was treated as something historically important. Darlington became the place where the country and, much of the world, learned to gather at regular anniversary intervals to celebrate the role of the S&DR in creating the modern railway network and the railway pioneers who made it possible. The first celebration was the laying of the foundation stone and the display of Locomotion No.1, but that same year there were organised speeches outside Edward Pease’s house further south down Northgate (Pease having declined a statue). By 1875, fifty years after the opening, the scene was set for international celebrations every 50 and 100 years where the rail industry acknowledged the role of the S&DR and the Pease family in developing the modern railway. Royal and international visitors, representations from railway companies from all over the world, processions and carnivals, banquets and speeches became the norm.

The plinth has long gone from North Road station and Locomotion No.1 has been transferred to Locomotion in Shildon but will make regular long stay visits to the new railway museum in Darlington from 2024. Don’t forget that you can still ride on a train from North Road in Darlington and follow the tracks of the railway that got the world on track.

At the Railway Station Shop we have lots of lovely Locomotion No.1 inspired gifts: here is a small selection.