top of page

Shildon, County Durham

Soho Engine Shed

Last Updated:

11 Oct 2023

Shildon, County Durham

This is a

Engine Shed

54.626532, -1.640527

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):


Listed Grade II*

This fairly simple shed in Shildon is one of the most important railway buildings in the world. I seem to be saying that a lot about Shildon!

This is the Soho Engine Shed, first used as a warehouse in 1826 but later part of Timothy Hackworth’s locomotive works. It was built for Messrs Kilburn of Bishop Auckland, an iron merchant, to store their goods, and was strategically placed to exploit the riches of the Stockton & Darlington.

By the 1840s it was leased by the Soho Works, established by the Hackworth’s a decade earlier who built locomotives for home and abroad. This includes the Sans Pareil which took part in the Rainhill Trials alongside Rocket. In fact, Hackworth actually worked at Forth Banks in Newcastle for a short time under Stephenson.

It was later used as the site where freshly painted locomotives would dry off with underfloor heating. The chimney was added around this time.

An incredible but humble survivor.

Listing Description (if available)

Soho Engine Shed was built in 1826 for Messrs Kilburn of Bishop Auckland as an iron merchant’s warehouse, taking advantage of the opening of the adjacent Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) in 1825. It is thought to be the oldest surviving railway related building in Shildon. In 1842 it was leased by the Soho Works which lay immediately to the north. These works were established in 1833 by Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) and, under the management of his brother Thomas (1797-1877), built many early steam locomotives for the S&DR and other railways both in England and abroad. Timothy Hackworth was the S&DR’s first Superintendent of Engines and one of the key individuals who was responsible for the success of the company, influencing the early development of railways. An 1850 plan of Soho Works depicts the building, although it is one of the few that is unlabelled. In 1855 the S&DR purchased the Soho Works from Thomas Hackworth, also buying what later became the Soho engine shed from Kilburns. Shortly after the 1857 survey for the first edition Ordnance Survey map, the building was converted into a locomotive engine shed that was entered from the north-west by a siding off the Surtees branch line, possibly when the S&DR merged into the North Eastern Railway in 1863. Subsequently, at least ten more locomotives were built at Soho Works before production was transferred to the locomotive works in Darlington in 1871, however locomotive maintenance still continued at Shildon into the early C20: the Soho Engine Shed was retained as a locomotive paint shop, with paint-drying being facilitated by an underfloor heating system. It is recorded that two locomotives a week were being repainted in Soho Engine Shed in the 1870s. Map evidence indicates that the paint store and tall chimney attached to the south-east gable were added between 1857 and 1895. The building was later taken over by Shildon Railway Institute, being used as a gymnasium for a nationally renowned boxing academy and the practice room for Shildon Works Silver Band. In 1975 it was one of the buildings which became part of Shildon’s railway museum. Details Warehouse converted into a locomotive shed. Built in 1826 for Messrs Kilburns iron merchants, leased in 1842 to Timothy Hackworth’s Soho Works, converted to a locomotive shed after the 1855 purchase by the Stockton & Darlington Railway. MATERIALS: roughly coursed sandstone rubble with dressed quoins, Welsh slate roof. PLAN: an undivided shed for two standard-gauge lines entering via the north-west gable, a chimney and a single-celled lean-to attached to the south-east gable. EXTERIOR: the main building is a tall, nine-bay shed, the end bays being blind, the other seven bays have regular, high-set, lintelled windows with external shutters. Gables are coped, supported by shaped kneelers. The north-west gable has a large opening formed with a timber lintel supported by a central post, each side of which there is a pair of double doors wide enough to accommodate a locomotive. Above there is a square ventilator and a lamp hung on a cast iron bracket. Attached centrally to the south-east gable is a tall, stone-built, square-sectioned chimney which has a short upper section that tapers from an overhanging course. Projecting from the gable on the north side of the chimney is the paint store, a small extension with a lean-to roof. This has a pedestrian door in the south-west wall, but no other openings. INTERIOR: the shed retains two standard-gauge railway lines, both with shallow inspection pits, running the length of the building. Central to the south-east end there is a large hearth served by the chimney. To the north-east is the substantial iron door to the paint store, this store having a fire-proofed roof of stone flags supported on iron joists.

The Ordnance Survey maps above illustrate the Soho Works are from the mid 19th century through to the turn of the 1900s. The engine shed is illustrated but not annotated in the centre of the plan.

The layout is very much retained through the decades, but gets gradually more dense with the inclusion of Shildon Colliery and the Marshalling yards to the east. The village of New Shildon itself also expands significantly with the growth of industry in the town, complete with another colliery near the Shildon Brickworks. By the 1890s Shildon was outgrowing itself. The Sebastapol roundhouse in the west of the village was replaced with Shildon Wagon Works.

This map was published in 1924 but was surveyed just before WWI. Little had changed since the 1890s, but further amenities can be spotted for the people of Shildon as they started to strive for a better standard of living outside of work. A golf course can be seen, alongside a number of churches. Just outside of view there was a football ground at Shildon Wagon Works.

At this time, the shed was used as a paint shop and underfloor heating was added to speed up the process.


The Soho Engine Shed can be seen adjacent to the old Surtees Railway trackbed in 2023.. It led to Shildon Lodge Colliery.


A view of its south elevation in 2023. The chimney was added in the latter half of the 19th century.


Shildon-built locomotive number 190 - name Summer - outside the Soho shed in 1870. Source : Newsquest

bottom of page