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Darlington Brick Train celebrates 20th anniversary

Brick train Image copyright Darlington Borough Council
Image caption Brick Train is modelled on the record-setting steam locomotive "Mallard", complete with a plume of billowing smoke

A sculpture which divided opinion when it was installed is now 20 years old.

Brick Train, designed by Scottish artist David Mach, stands next to the A66 on the outskirts of Darlington, and celebrates the town's railway heritage.

At the time of its unveiling in 1997 some questioned the project, and the cost, with one councillor saying Darlington "needed another model train like it needed a hole in the head".

However, it is now regarded as a "much loved, landmark".

The 23ft (7m) high and 130ft (29m) long structure commemorates the Stockton-Darlington Railway which opened in 1825 and was Britain's first permanent steam locomotive railway.

It consists of 185,000 bricks, and is modelled on locomotive Mallard, which broke the world speed record for steam in 1938.

Most of the £760,000 cost was from Heritage Lottery funding, but Darlington Borough Council, Northern Arts and supermarket chain Morrisons - which is responsible for the land on which it is set - also contributed.

Image caption The sculpture was officially unveiled by Lord Palumbo of Walbrook on 23 June 1997

Stephen Wiper, manager of Creative Darlington - a group which supports local arts - said that as a piece of art, there was a mixed reaction at first, but people now have "the real wow factor", when they see it.

"It's a really good symbol of our railway heritage", he said.

"There's something about a train that's fascinating, and I think that as it's next to the A66 it creates the impression that Darlington is a playful place, an imaginative place, a place that's on the move.

"It's a real good welcome for visitors, and shows Darlington is a place you can enjoy and find new things.

"And for locals, it's a much-loved site to visit and place to see."

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