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A New Art Project for Darlington

06 April 2020

The Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum has been awarded £36,900 by the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants to support the ‘On Track for Change’ project that will include working with the local community to create a work of art inspired by what is uncovered.

The plan that inspired the project, showing the Artificial Limb bench in North Road Works, Darlington. Image courtesy of Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum.

A plan of North Road Works revealed the history of artificial limb making at North Road Works by railway employees for those injured in railway accidents.

Further research found employee records of artificial limb makers based at North Road Works and the North Eastern Railway Company granting limbs to those who needed them.

The new arts funding will enable a group of amputees from the North East to work with artist Sophie de Oliveira Barata, founder and director of the Alternative Limb Project, to create a bespoke, fully functioning artificial limb inspired by the railway industry and museum collections.

Photograph of men leaving work, North Road Station, Darlington

Men leaving North Road Works at the end of the working day. Image courtesy of Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum.

The work of art will go on show as part of a special ‘On Track for Change’ exhibition at the museum, to run from Saturday 4 July to Sunday 30 August, which will document the making of the limb and bring to light the technology used in artificial limbs today.

An accompanying exhibition, Disability on the Tracks, will tell the story of how the pattern makers at North Road Works became limb makers and how railway companies throughout the country made artificial limbs for those injured in railway accidents or during war. Entry to both are included in normal admission and yearly passes.

Alison Grange, the Head of Steam’s collections and learning assistant, said:

“We are thrilled to be working with the Alternative Limb Project and our local community to shine a light on a history previously unseen in the museum. We’re really looking forward to seeing what Sophie and the group create and to be able to share it with visitors later in the year.”

Ray Holland, who has been taking part in the project said:

“I was pleased to be asked to become involved in the project as I feel, that as a new prosthetic user, my experience of what’s available now versus what was available to the workers on the railways will be a useful contrast.

As a lover of history, I’ll not only be able to give my views to assist the project but also learn a little about our industrial past. Meeting and working with Sophie will be an amazing experience and I am really looking forward to bringing whatever I can to the project. It will also benefit me too, by talking openly to other people about my own journey.”


Ray and Alison looking over some of the museums archive material.

To keep up to date with the project you can follow The Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museums social media here.