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The Crack Magazine

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Full Steam Ahead

Following a huge £35 million redevelopment, Hopetown Darlington, the region’s latest visitor attraction, will open in July. The 7.5 acre site celebrates the town’s unique heritage – particularly in regard to rail travel – and the festivities for the first week will see the whole place come alive with street theatre and music.

1825. Locomotion No. 1 becomes the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger-carrying train on a public railway. This takes place right here in the north-east, and the legend that is the Stockton and Darlington railway is born. It’s a world first well worthy of celebration and Hopetown Darlington certainly does that. You enter the site through the 1833 Goods Shed where you’ll find an artisan café, coal themed shop and a new railway-themed digital media experience. And then you have the chance to visit the North Road Station Museum, which is housed within an 1842 Victorian railway station. Here you can discover Darlington’s story of rail engineering. In the 1853 Carriage Works, you’ll find the Exhibition Hall, featuring special exhibitions, and The Stores, where you can explore the centre’s archive and artefacts not on permanent display. In the brand-new, purpose-built Darlington Locomotive Works (home to the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust), you’ll have the chance to view live engineering in action. Venture outside and you’ll discover Wagon Woods, a railway-themed adventure park that builds on the story of the Stockton & Darlington Railway; and on Foundry Green, you’ll be able to enjoy festivals and other events. As mentioned above, Hopetown Darlington will launch with music and street theatre throughout the opening week, and there will be loads for kids to enjoy including Brick Journeys, with nearly one million LEGO bricks taking visitors on an interactive journey across road, sea, air and space. Oh, and rail.

Hopetown Darlington opens on Tuesday 16 July. Entry to the site is free, but visitors are advised to book their tickets in advance. Some exhibitions, events and activities carry a separate charge. More info: