David Mach's Train, Darlington
As you travel along the A66 on the edge of Darlington you'll see a train on one side of the road. Nothing unusual there except that this one isn't going anywhere. Designed by leading contemporary artist and sculptor David Mach, Train is made from 185,000 local "Accrington Nori" bricks and commemorates Darlington's illustrious heritage as "home of the railways". (The Stockton-Darlington Railway which opened in 1825 was Britain's first permanent steam locomotive railway). Mach describes his train as "as much a piece of architecture as a sculpture". 60 metres long and 6 metres high, it is a perfect rendering of the 1938 classic locomotive "Mallard", complete with plume of billowing smoke.
Creating a large scale, life-like whole out of thousands of commonplace objects is Mach's trademark. Apart from Train he has made a number of artworks worldwide such as The Temple at Tyre out of car tyres and his Big Heids beside the M8 near Glasgow out of steel piping. He puts his interest in mass-production down to a job in a bottling plant he had as a young man back home in Fife. But even though the constituent parts may be common, the end result is far from throwaway and his work is usually thoughtfully designed and painstakingly constructed with sensitivity to the local area and its long-term future.
To create the train a 5 metre long maquette was built - "a substantial piece of sculpture in itself" according to Mach. This was then scanned and produced in drawing form, then redrawn on computer. The construction was "a painful, boring process" involving a team of architects, engineers, bricklayers, quantity surveyors, mortar experts and the artist himself, there to make sure that each brick was in exactly the right place. The team of 34 took 21 weeks to build it and thoughtfully included 20 special "bat" bricks to encourage our nocturnal friends to nest there.
There's a fine view of the train from the main road, but if you want a closer look entrance is through the Morrisons car park in Morton Park Industrial Estate on Yarm Road. There is ample car parking beside the sculpture and a short walk up some steps will take you up to the train itself and a viewing platform. The surrounding area is not particularly scenic. As David Mach says himself "What I didn't plan for very well was the site around the sculpture. That was allowed to more or less hang as it grew." There are plans to develop the site further, expanding the train to include a building behind it and creating a "people's park" in the vicinity.
As with all public art projects like this it has its opponents, with critics suggesting the money could have been put to better use elsewhere. However, from a distance it brightens up an otherwise featureless journey along the A66 and close-up you can't help but marvel at the mind-boggling detail that has gone into it.
How to get there
Train is situated next to Morrisons Supermarket at Morton Park Industrial Estate on Yarm Road. The actual location is approximately midway between Darlington town centre and Teesside Airport and is AA sign posted. Google map.