Researchers on track to help to make history more accessible

Tim Thompson and his team will be heading over to the Head of Steam museum in Darlington at the end of the month to make some 3D models of the original Locomotion engine.

Researchers at Teesside University are helping to make an important piece of Darlington’s railway history accessible to everyone.

Professor Tim Thompson and a team from the University’s School of Science, Engineering and Design, spent two days at the Head of Steam Darlington Railway Museum scanning Locomotion No 1 in order to produce a 3D model.

Locomotion No 1 was the first steam engine to pull a passenger carrying train on a public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in September 1825. It is currently on loan from the National Railway Museum in York.

The 3D model will be used by the museum to help provide an interactive feature which can be handled by visitors. The team of academics and PhD researchers also made 3D models of objects and tools belonging to Victorian railway workers.

Professor Thompson said: “We’ve been working with the museum on other projects creating teaching resources for primary schools and this developed from that relationship.

“We have been using two methods of scanning, a laser beam method and also using structured light which fires light at an object and the software recognises the shape to create a model.

“A 3D model can be created any size, so we are producing hand-held models to create artefacts which visitors can hold and interact with.”

Sarah Gouldsbrough, Learning and Access Officer at the Head of Steam Darlington Railway Museum, said: “We were doing some work with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) in Thornaby and they asked what we could do to make our collections more accessible.

“While we can describe what Locomotion looks like to someone who is visually impaired, being able to handle a scale model can really help to tell the story.

“We also get groups of schoolchildren visiting and we also go out to school visits, so the models will be really useful for children to handle. It is always nice to have something new for visitors as an attraction when they visit the museum.”

  • Pictured above (from left): Dr Amber Collings, forensic science lecturer; Rebecca Strong, research student; Professor Tim Thompson; Sarah Gouldsbrough, Head of Steam Darlington Railway Museum.