Darly in the community

The magical story of a time-travelling train is being used by the Society to keep a creative project on track at a popular community railway.

The Society has donated copies of its children’s book, Darly’s Magical History Ride, to be sold on ‘The Story Train’ at Stanhope Station in Weardale, with the proceeds being used to boost literacy.

The Story Train is a community arts project, launched last December in partnership with The Weardale Railway and Citizen Songwriters.

The project is making creative use of the buffet car of a retired high-speed train that operated on the East Coast Mainline between 1978 and 2021. The aim is to inspire children and adults to tell stories of the railway through art, music, and creative writing.

Darly author Pete Barron and The Story Train curator, Sam Slatcher

Where it all began

Darly’s Magical History Ride is about a little train that goes back in time through enchanted tunnels and meets characters from history. He was created by Darlington Building Society to promote the Darly Savings Account, with children receiving a money-box train when they open an account, and adding carriages as their savings grow.

Darly was later brought to life in a book, written by journalist and author Peter Barron, who is a non-executive director of the Society. Proceeds from sales of the book are used to support literacy in local schools.

Now, additional copies have gone on sale on The Story Train, with the money raised going towards educational materials and activities.

Stanhope Railway now home to Darly books.

Next stop, Stanhope

Sam Slatcher, curator of The Story Train, said: “We are thrilled to have this creative link with Darlington Building Society, which has such a reputation for supporting the community.

“Darly’s Magical History Ride is a beautiful book, and the story is the perfect fit for a community railway with such a rich history, including links to the world’s first passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington.”

Darlington Building Society is already one of the key sponsors of Darlington Borough Council’s plans to celebrate the bicentennial of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025.

Andrew Craddock, the Society’s chief executive, said: “The Weardale Railway is a wonderful asset to County Durham, attracting visitors from far afield, and we are delighted that Darly is now playing his part on The Story Train.”

Over the past year, The Story Train has featured in events such as the Bishop Auckland Food Festival, Weardale Wordfest book festival, and has hosted a holiday club during the summer.

Preparations are now underway for a Christmas exhibition on The Story Train, with local schools creating light installations. The exhibition is open on November 25 and 26, and December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23.

Organisers are appealing for volunteers to help man the Christmas exhibition. If you can help, please email thestorytrain2025@gmail.com.