10:39am Thursday 26th April 2012
By Vicki Henderson
THE first steam locomotive to be built in the region in 50 years could make its way home after plans to upgrade the East Coast Main Line were unveiled.
Heritage rail groups in Darlington have welcomed plans for changes to the tracks around Bank Top Station, which they hope will lead to a new connection from the main line to the town’s historic carriageworks and give rail tourism in the town a lift.
The changes could mean that Tornado, the steam locomotive built in Darlington over a 20-year period at the Hopetown carriageworks, could return to the site as a tourist attraction, something it is currently prevented from doing.
The Northern Echo reported yesterday that Network Rail had unveiled a project to improve the speed and frequency of trains on the main line, with extra improvements to the station and surrounding area.
Despite their status as part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world’s first passenger railway, the Hopetown carriageworks and Head of Steam, Darlington Railway Museum, in North Road, are not linked to the national rail network.
If changes to the points and signalling around Bank Top station are made, locomotive engines could move in and out of the museum and undergo servicing and repairs in the carriageworks.
Mark Allatt, chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, which built and operates Tornado, said: “Ever since we moved to Darlington we have said we would love to be connected to the main line. We could never afford to pay for the resignalling ourselves, but if they are already going to change the signalling we can be a part of that.
“At the moment, if we wanted to bring Tornado back to Hopetown we would have to put it on a low loader, which we do not like to do.
“It would make Darlington a much bigger rail attraction if we were able to bring locomotives off the main line. We would enthusiastically support anything that would enable the Darlington locomotive works to be connected to the main line.”
Gillian Wetherell, chairman of the Friends of Darlington Railway Museum, said: “This would be a positive move for the museum and it would help a great deal if there was a rail link to the main line.”
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