Stephenson Railway Museum awarded funding from DCMS/Wolfson Foundation

17 January 2019

“Stephenson Railway Museum is a much-loved attraction, which welcomes people from far and wide, and this is absolutely brilliant news."

Stephenson Railway Museum in North Shields is delighted to announce that it has been awarded a grant of £94,500 from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund towards its project Pioneers from the Dawn of Railways: Killingworth Billy & the Willington Waggonway (The Stephensons – North Tyneside to the world).

The funding will be used towards the improvement of displays and interpretation within the Museum to enhance the visitor experience. A major element of the project is the moving and reinterpretation of the early locomotive ‘Billy’. Research published in early 2018 revealed Killingworth Billy to be the third oldest surviving steam locomotive in the world; it is befitting therefore that this locally and internationally significant locomotive be moved to a more prominent position in the Museum. The existing Willington Waggonway display will be relocated alongside Billy and, with the installation of a section of the Waggonway complete with rails and sleepers in its own display case, this will establish a logical and coherent early railways major display at the heart of the Museum. New and improved interpretation facilities throughout the Museum will significantly increase visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the pioneering days of railways. In addition, the physical reorganisation of public spaces will aid visitor circulation and new LED lighting across display areas will make the displays and panels easier to view.

Work on the project is expected to start in May this year with the re-positioning of Billy finalised in early 2020 and the public launch taking place the following March.

Geoff Woodward, Museum Manager, said:

“I am delighted that the Stephenson Railway Museum has received this generous grant.  North Tyneside played a key role in the development of railways – George and Robert Stephenson spent nearly 20 years working on their pioneering ideas, not far from where the Museum and North Tyneside Steam Railway stand today. This funding will help us present this internationally significant story the way it deserves to be told.”

Cllr Sarah Day, cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at North Tyneside Council, said:

“Stephenson Railway Museum is a much-loved attraction, which welcomes people from far and wide, and this is absolutely brilliant news.

These exciting improvements to the displays and interpretations, documenting our local heritage, are sure to enhance the visitor experience and attract even more people to the museum. I look forward to seeing the progress over the coming months.”

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism Michael Ellis said:

“Our museums and galleries are among the best in the world and we are rightly proud of these institutions. The DCMS/Wolfson Fund demonstrates how the government and philanthropic organisations can work together to boost our museum sector.

We want people up and down the country to enjoy culture and heritage wherever they are. The 35 grants awarded today will make important contributions towards improving the visitor experience; ensuring our wonderful collections are open to as many people as possible.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said:

“We are delighted to provide this funding through our longstanding partnership with DCMS – an excellent example of how we as a charity can work together fruitfully with government. We are grateful to DCMS for matching our funding. One of the great treasures of this country is the sheer quality and range of our heritage collections – stored and displayed in wonderful museums and galleries. This funding will help to provide even better visitor experiences and greater awareness of these fascinating collections. A particular joy of this funding round has been the impressive mix of the projects supported: from a dress collection at Carlisle’s Tullie House to temporary exhibition space in Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum.”

Media contact

Alison Maw,, (0191) 277 2309