- Take in the world of the first-ever railway town at Locomotion, in Shildon.
- Check out the steam locomotives and marvel at the collection of trains and engines on display.
- Kids can explore the fantastic railway-themed adventure playground.
- Hunt for special treasure with the Science Museum Group's Treasure Hunters app.
A unique day trip if you choose to travel to County Durham, the Locomotion Museum is an interactive experience taking you on a 1km-long journey to discover the history of the railways in the North East. As the name suggests, there are lots of locomotives on site that kids and train enthusiasts alike will love, with steam trains, old coaches, and shiny colourful trains that are bound to impress any Thomas the Tank Engine fan. While some might not see a train museum as the ideal place for a day out, the history of the local area is entrenched in the exhibits and objects that call Locomotion home, making this a great spot for history lovers too.
Also known as Shildon Locomotion Museum or Shildon Railway Museum, Locomotion tells the story of the railway town of Shildon, and how the railway network helped to expand communities and connect people to the outside world. With free entry and so much to do and see, this is one of our favourite family days out in the North East.
While the town of Shildon may seem unassuming at first, it was actually the home of the very first steam-powered public railway, a fact that is celebrated at Locomotion. At a time when industry was booming, and the Durham coalfields were in full swing, a service needed to be created to transport the coal being mined to the surrounding areas. Since Shildon sits by the Durham coalfield, the railway was a great way to transport large amounts of heavy coal, in a way that previous canal systems hadn't allowed. Work began on the railway in 1821, and the first train departed from the station in 1825. While freight trains are a common occurrence nowadays, the many waggons attached to the back of this train made it a spectacle, and hundreds of people were keen to climb on and experience this new exciting development. This train service helped increase demand for coal, caused Shildon to expand rapidly, and while the wagon works closed in 1984, the mark the railway left on Shildon is a fascinating one and can be explored in depth at Locomotion.
There are lots of free learning sessions aimed specifically at kids, so if you have a train fan in the family, this is the place to go. With many trains and locomotives to see, including diesel, steam and electric engines, Locomotion is much more than a simple train museum. There are lots of days out available that take place within the school holidays, and there are also fun activities that are put on by the Science Museum Group. If you download the Treasure Hunters app, kids can hunt around and snap the treasure they think matches the caption given, and compete against friends and family.
For younger kids who might like a run around, there is a brilliant train-themed playground on site. With a climbing frame and slide shaped like a train, as well as swings and much more, this is the perfect way for parents to take a minute to relax and get smaller children interested in the fascinating world of trains.
With so much to do and see at Locomotion County Durham, a little lunch break might be welcome. Head over to the café for some tasty hot or cold food, or you can bring your own picnic and enjoy at one of the outdoor or indoor picnic tables. For a souvenir to take home, there is also a gift shop with lots of replica train models, which would make an extraordinary gift or souvenir of this memorable day out.
If you and the kids had a great time at Locomotion and are keen to keep up with the adventure in County Durham, why not head along to Raby Castle to take in some medieval history, with over 200 acres of parkland to explore? Or, kids can get their play on at Adventure Valley in Durham, where there are endless play opportunities.
What to know before you go
- Locomotion is open from 11am-4pm from Wednesday to Sunday.
- There are baby changing facilities and accessible toilets available in the building.
- You should book a ticket for every member of your group, including babies.
- Dogs are welcome except in the museum building and playground and must be closely supervised.
- The museum recommends putting aside roughly one and a half hours for your visit.
- Locomotion Shildon is easy to get to by car, via the A688, A689 towards Bishop Auckland, and the A68.
- Parking is free, with accessible parking spots available.
- You can also get to Locomotion on public transport. The Arriva buses 1 and 5 passes by the entrance and can take you to Darlington or Bishop Auckland.
- The nearest train station is Shildon Railway Station, which has good connections to the rest of the North East.
- You can also walk to Locomotion within 15 minutes from Shildon town centre.