The new Head of Steam preserves the best of the old displays, with lots of new features.
Friday was an incredibly long day - the press launch of Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum, rounded off by a return trip to see a client on the west coast.
It started formally at 7.30am, with a live Radio Tees interview from Head of Steam, together with Mike Crawshaw, the Council's Head of Cultural Services. Mike and his team have done a near-superhuman job in getting the premises ready on time for the launch date, and staff were hard at work into the night all last week putting the final touches to the displays, and clearing up.
Then an interview for the BBC local news, as we began to meet and greet the guests. Amongst those coming were our partners without whom the work on Head of Steam couldn't have been completed - the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, MLA North East, the Railway Heritage Trust and the Northern Rock foundation.
Then onto the speeches - I spoke last, and tried to stress how fortunate we are that we have this facility in Darlington. Of course, that is down to the foresight of the Stockton and Darlington founders, and the architect of North Road station John Harris. They established Darlington as the birthplace of passenger rail. There was also a time in the 1960's, however, when North Road station was semi-derelict and the Bishop Auckland line was post-Beeching drifting to closure.
As Chris Lloyd pointed out in this week's excellent Echo Memories column, it was only the vision of local businessman Herbert Wolfe and the Borough Councillors of the time which saved the buidling in 1969. It became the Railway Museum in 1975. We owe them a great deal.
Time moves on, and the museum urgently needed a refit - not least because the roof was in a parlous state and threatened the whole project with closure once more. It's important that the museum appeals not just to the committed railway enthusiast, but people of all ages. Hence the new HoS is chock-full of things for children of all ages to do. The initial response from our partners at the launch was universally positive.