Darlington played a major role in the beginning of the railways and the town commensurates this with it Darlington Railway Center and Museum. The world's very first passenger railway trip took place in 1825 on the Darlington and Stockton railway. It took passengers from Shildon to Stockton-on-Tees and back.
Darlington later had three large railway works that lead to it being a center for railway manufacturing. The North Road Shops was open form 1863 to 1966 and manufactured main line locomotives. In 1902 Robert Stephenson and Co. moved to Darlington and in 1937 they changed their name to Stephensons and Hawthorns.
It was then absorbed in 1960 by English Electric and closed down in 1964. Last was Faverdale Wagon Works that was open from 1823 to 1962. During the 1950s it was a leader in the mass production techniques when it came to making railway wagons for transporting goods.
The Northern Echo newspaper was started in Darlington in 1870. It was a full bodied local newspaper that also had national and world news. Its first editor was William Thomas Stead. Today across from the Northern Echo building stands the William Stead public house with a restaurant and beer garden.
Recently the town center has been fully refurbished with a project called The Pedestrian Heart that has lead to most of the town center to be pedestrianised. The project met with criticism at first because of the change in public transportation it required and the removal of many Victorian features that adorned High Row. Once completed though it has gained public approval.
Permission was granted in 2007 for the planning of a new shopping center that will take the place of the Queen Street shopping center that is out dated and unsuccessful. The main store for the retail and leisure development is going to be Debenhams. The shopping center is planned to open in 2010.
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