National Railway Museum, York

Janice Murray

deputy head

National Railway Museum, York

Leeman Road York YO26 4XJ UK

Locomotion: the National Railway Museum @ Shildon

The National Railway Museum (NRM) is the largest Railway Museum in the world and the busiest museum in England outside of London.
Founded in 1975, it has in excess of three quarter of a million visitors a year. Some 40%25 of our visitors are tourists but it also has one of the most socially diverse audiences of all the national museums in England.

With over 3 million objects in its collection including over 300 locomotives and coaches, space has been an increasing problem. Objects stored in the open or in inadequate storage were deteriorating at an unacceptable rate and additional premises were needed. With limited development options available at York, NRM decided to use its problem as an opportunity to maximise its brand and enter into an unique partnership which resulted in the creation of Locomotion: the National Railway Museum @ Shildon.

Locomotion is the first National museum in the North East of England and the first true partnership between a National Museum and a local authority in England. Shildon is a town in the borough of Sedgefield in South West Durham.
It is one of the most important historic railway sites in Britain, the place where the first passenger locomotive ran and subsequently the site of one of the biggest Locomotive works in the world and Britain's first "Railway Town".
Shildon had been a relatively affluent working town from its foundation in the1830s based around the building of railway wagons for the railway industry. When the Wagon works closed in 1984 the town was plunged into unemployment and social deprivation, from which 20 years on, it still suffers.

There have been 3 main drivers which have shaped the project: Economic regeneration, Social inclusion and Partnership. Shildon already had a small museum which attracted 10,000 visitors a year, but as a part of a wide ranging economic development plan, the council recognised that an association with an internationally recognised museum could help to raise the area's profile and make it more attractive to tourists, and inward investment, as well as improving the local environment.
Social Inclusion (a term encompassing work to minimise a community's exclusion from economic and social participation) has been a key shaper for much of the development on site; including free admission, community focused projects, the work of volunteers on site and education and training projects.
Partnership has been a cornerstone of everything which has gone on at Locomotion and has developed in many guises. The total cost of the project was pound;12 million and there were no fewer than 16 funders. The biggest single funders were the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the Regional Development Agency, One North East. There were many other funders who came on board to develop particular areas including Network Rail to develop rail links, Northern Rail to improve and devel op the adjacent railway station, Northern Rock Building Society who contributed to the development of community rooms on site, and Arts Council UK North East who supported public art.

Locomotion is a true 50/50 partnership, the costs are borne equally by both partners and the museum is run by a joint management board made up of equal numbers of representatives from both parties.

The museum was opened in October 2004 by Prime Minister Tony Blair. In its first year of operating it attracted 230,000 visitors against an initial target of 60,000 per annum and visitor numbers have settled down at about 120,000 visitors a year.

Awards for the project have included:

- County Durham Environment Award 2004
- Museum and Heritage Award for Excellence for Permanent Exhibition 2005
- Society of the History of Technology Worldwide:
Dibner Award for Outstanding Museum Work 2005
- Green Apple Sustainability Awards 2005
- Short listed for Care of Collections Award - Conservation
Awards 2005 and for the Gulbenkian Museums prize 2005

In 2006 a series of consultations were held to evaluate the impact of Locomotion in Shildon and across the north east. Work is still on going to measure economic impact, but house prices in the area have risen, vacant lets of premises in the town are down and a developer has moved into a site adjacent to the museum to develop a new housing development and community forest.
Locomotion is seen as a project under development and the consultation work will underpin plans for next stages in the development.


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