20 years of the brick train

Clay Technology magazine
18 Aug 2017

The Darlington Brick Train celebrated its 20th year in June 2017, having been opened in 1997 by Lord Palumbo of Walbrook. The sculpture is modelled on the Mallard steam locomotive, which set the steam locomotive world speed record in 1938, reaching 126mph. A celebration of the rich railway heritage of Darlington, UK, the train took a team of 34 bricklayers, labourers and apprentices 21 weeks to construct, and features an overlooking viewing platform.

Designed by sculptor David Mach, the train is seven metres high and 40 metres long, comprising a total of 185,000 Accrington Nori bricks and 170 cubic metres of concrete, weighing in at 15,000 tonnes. The train also features 20 ‘bat’ bricks designed to encourage animals to use the sculpture as shelter.  

The train caused controversy because of its bat-friendly design, with locals fearing it would cause a health hazard. The cost was also a cause of contention, coming in at £760,000, part funded by the National Lottery, Wm Morrison Supermarkets, Northern Arts, Department of National Heritage and Darlington Borough Council. 

The sculpture remains 20 years on, despite fears that it would suffer severe weathering by the year 2000.