The ambassador Lion

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Let's look back to 24 May 1980 for this week's celebration of World Museum's 150 year history. Our Senior Editor of Educational Resources, Paul Rees, can tell us why this was an important day for the museum...
Steam engine

Lion locomotive

On 24 May 1980, the first day of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the replica of George Stephenson’s Rocket fell off the track while moving into position to head the cavalcade. The 'Lion' locomotive, from our collections, was then moved up to lead the procession instead. And worthy she was to lead the procession! She was the only remaining working locomotive to have been built by the L&MR.

Lion has a rich history. It was a luggage locomotive in 1838 and then retired to more peaceful work as a stationery pumping engine for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1859. It was later restored to haul the  ‘Old Time Train’ for the 100th Anniversary celebrations in 1930 and was the star of the film 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' in 1953. Finally, Lion came to rest in Liverpool Museum’s Land Transport Gallery in 1969. Just ten years later she was hauled out again and sent to Ruston Diesels works in Newton-le-Willows to be brought back into operating condition.

As education officer at the time, I was privileged to work with the curator of land transport and his colleagues, driving and supervising Lion as she visited different preserved railways around the country. Lion was an ambassador for the museum, bringing the past alive to enthusiasts, families and children alike.

You will be able to see the Lion when she goes back on display, this time at the new Museum of Liverpool, when it opens next year.