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On Track for Change

14 July 2021

A new exhibition has opened at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum. The exhibition will run until August 30th and looks at the creation of artificial limbs on the railways that resulted from some railway injuries.

A woman sits on the floor looking up. She wears an artificial leg with a cut out on the shin where a model railway track sits. The top of the leg is welded in an art deco style.
Welly O’Brien wearing the model railway artificial leg designed for the project at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum.

The culmination of a two-year project exploring the history of artificial limb making by railway workers sees a new exhibition open this week at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum.

On Track for Change began after an ‘artificial limb bench’ was spotted on a plan of North Road Locomotive Works.

Research has now uncovered not only a history of artificial limb making, but also of disability on the railways.

The museum was awarded £36,900 from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants to commission The Alternative Limb Project to create a new installation dedicated to railway employees and passengers who suffered the loss of limbs while working on the railways.

The installation has been created in partnership with artist James Kearney, prosthetist Chris Parsons and Uckfield Model Railway Club and stars performers Welly O’Brien and Dan Richards.

The finished artwork conveys a love story from one limb to another – touching on themes of love, loss, connection, transhumanism and nostalgia.

The museum also worked with members of the local community to produce an accompanying exhibition that explores the history of artificial limb making by the railways, including stories of the individuals who received them.

Alison Grange, collections and learning assistant at Head of Steam, said:

“It’s been really exciting working with our local community and The Artificial Limb Project to highlight an important part of railway history and hope our visitors will find the new artwork and exhibition both fascinating and interesting.”

Sophie de Oliveira Barata, founder of The Artificial Limb Project, added:

“This was the most exciting opportunity we’ve had to date, enabling us to push our boundaries conceptually and creatively. We hope this emotive piece will stimulate new conversations and new audiences around body difference and the railways.”

Dan Richards showing off the model railway limb.

The exhibition opens on Saturday (3 July) and runs until Monday 30 August. Included in normal admission.

Please make sure to book your visit in advance, all details are available on the museum website here.

For more information about the Alternative Limb Project visit their page here.