10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon

Locomotion is a railway museum in Shildon, County Durham celebrating the world's first railway town. It is free to visit (donations welcome) and open daily from 10am - 4pm. There is a large free car park and the attraction is accessible by public transport (just a 3 minute walk from Shildon train station and served by the Arriva Bus #1 from Darlington and #5 from Bishop Auckland).

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon

We visited over February Half Term 2020 and I have to say, I was super impressed. There is lots to see and do and the museum has lots of thoughtful touches and is one of those places which seems to go the extra mile. If you have train-loving toddlers at home or even older kids (my three enjoyed looking around the various trains through history), it is well worth a trip.

During the pandemic, your free  tickets should be pre-booked in advance via the Locomotion website.  Currently, they are available to pre-book two weeks in advance. Also check to see if any  areas / activities are not running before booking to avoid disappointment. The attraction hopes to reopen on 19 May. 

During the first stage of re-opening, the following areas will be open (subject to change - always check direct for up-to-date info): 

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon 

1 - It's FREE

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - its free

Locomotion Shildon is completely FREE to visit (although please donate if you can at one of the donation points). If you need to get out of the house but are running low on funds, it is a nice place to spend half a day and will keep the whole family entertained.  There is no pressure to donate and there is enough going on to fill a few hours.

2 - All Weather Attraction

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - indoor attraction

Locomotion Shildon is mostly inside which makes it a wonderful spot for rainy days. There is even an indoor picnic area. If the weather is fine, there is also a wonderful outdoor play area (more on that later) and a few trains to explore outdoors too.

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - outdoor attraction

3 - Train Themed Cafe plus Indoor & Outdoor Picnic Areas 

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - cafe

We dined at the on-site cafe during our visit and it was decent - everything seemed to be homemade and it was nice and tasty. They have transformed old train seats into booths which is a quirky touch (I couldn't get a pic as they were filled with people eating).

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - cafe menu

I can only name a couple of attractions who offer indoor tables for picnics and Locomotion Shildon is one of them! Find the indoor picnic area on the opposite side of the museum to the cafe. Brilliant if you are trying to keep costs down / need to prepare food at home. 

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - indoor picnic area

There is also an outdoor picnic area by the park which is filled with cherry blossom in the spring. I bet this area is super popular in the summer.

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - outdoor picnic area

4 - Lots of Interesting Trains & History

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - train carriages

We aren't exactly train geeks in this family but Jack does have a soft spot for them (throwback to his  Thomas the Tank Engine days) and the rest of us do like to learn facts etc... Locomotion Shildon provides facts in the bucket loads and it was really interesting to see the history of trains in front of us and how they have changed through time.

We especially enjoyed peeking inside of the Royal Train which was very similar to the Royal Yacht Britannia in style. There was even a full-sized double bed in the bedroom carriage. Very fancy.

There are fact boards next to each train which are interesting for all and give you a little insight into the train in front of you.

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - royal train

You cant access the carriages inside but you are able to sit in some of the cabs as they are opened up at various intervals throughout the day. Jack is keeping it classy with his fruit shoot here!

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - in a drivers cab

5 - Special Events

As well as the regular trains, hands-on fun and exhibitions, Locomotion Shildon run lots of special events across the year. These include:

  • Little Locos - free hands-on activities and crafts for under 5s 
  • FREE guided tours and expert talks 
  • Workshop tours
  • Shunting demonstrations
  • Extra activities in school holidays (during our trip during February Half Term there was a special engineering week running with hands-on demos, experiments and crafts)
Find out more about what's on over on the Locomotion Shildon website. 

6 - Hands-On Fun, Train Sets & Model Trains 

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - pack a wagon activity

It was busy during our trip over half term so difficult for me to take lots of photos but there are lots of opportunities for little ones (especially under 8s) to get hands-on. There are train tables to play with, towers to build, sounds to listen to , buttons to press, model trains to watch, colouring in to enjoy - lots going on.

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - train tables

7 - A Fantastic Train Themed Playground

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - train playground

There is an enclosed train-themed playground just by the train tracks in the grounds of the museum. It is brilliant for all ages and as it is so close to the tracks, toddlers can spend hours waving at trains as they go past too. Our kids loved the park and it is worth a trip for the park alone I would say.

8 - Train Rides at a Small Cost

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - train rides

The museum often run short train rides across the year for a small additional charge (£3 per passenger, under 5s are free). See here for a list of dates trains will be running. 

9 - Fantastic Staff & Volunteers

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - model trains

The staff we met at Locomotion Shildon offered 5* customer service and were lovely. They are so passionate and enthusiastic and really helped to ensure our experience was a good one.

10 - Accessible Attraction

10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon  - wheelchair and pushchair accessible

Locomotion Shildon takes accessibility seriously. The museum is wheelchair/pushchair friendly and  I noticed there were wheelchairs available to hire from the front of the building. You can read more about accessibility here. 

There are wheelchair-accessible toilets , there is a unisex changing room for parents with babies and accessible parking. The museum also opens early on selected dates for visitors with sensory needs. See here for details. 

Not related but I also wanted to mention the museum is home to this cute free library where you can exchange books free of charge. 

  • Locomotion Shildon is open daily from 10am - 4pm
  • Address: Locomotion. Dale Road Industrial Estate. Shildon. DL4 2RE
  • Website: https://www.locomotion.org.uk/

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Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , respect the local area, leave no trace, take litter home, park responsibly and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Remember face coverings are required for indoor attractions / shops for those aged 11+ (usual exemptions apply)  

Check for local lockdowns / travel restrictions before visiting anywhere. 

Always check updated opening hours / protocols with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed after this post was published. 

If you are looking for more ideas for things to do in County Durham, make sure you read this post: The Best Days Out in County Durham 

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10 Reasons to Visit Locomotion Shildon



  1. Great review! Do you know, I've heard really great things about this place but never actually visited and it's only up the road from me! Will have to put it on the to do list for a weekend trip with my little girl :) x

  2. I visited a while back and was impressed. I was there when Tim Peake’s spacecraft, the Soyuz module that he and his colleagues returned to earth in, was on display.

  3. We visited in the summer holidays for the first time and were as equally as impressed. Every point you made in your blog was exactly how we felt when we visited. I didn't know about the train rides though, so will check the train ride times and see if we can time that for next time we go!


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