Shildon Brick Show 2023

Although not a Northern Brickworks event, you’ll always find plenty of NB members taking their MOCs to Brick Alleys event at Locomotion, the Northern Annex of the National Railway Museum.

Robert Martin takes readers through his visit to the show. Pictures from R Martin/M Kraska

Shildon Brick Show is one of the established events in the North East circuit, alongside Discovery Brick Show in Newcastle, and both are organised by Brick Alley RLUG.  Shildon has been running for at least 7 years, I was exhibiting there back in 2016, and it happens in the middle of November every year.  It takes place in a huge railway museum called Locomotion in the town of Shildon in County Durham, just off the A1.  Shildon boasts of being the cradle of the railways, having been part of the very early days of steam industrialisation and the trains that made history, and the Brick Show’s backdrop is the trains in the museum that are lined up on permanent display.  Exhibitors and traders set up and operate within the remaining space, but that makes it very atmospheric. 

Shildon Brick Show is free entry, as the museum itself only requests donations, but that has previously meant huge entry queues during the event.  Tickets are now allocated to time slots to reduce pressure and demand, and I booked tickets for my family for 10:45am on the Saturday morning for this year’s show, mainly as I knew it would be a bit quieter, which should help my son who can get overwhelmed by large crowds.  Information was sent out via social media that parking would be more limited than usual for this year’s event, as they are building new facilities on the site next to the museum, and when we got there just after our time slot, we were told by a friendly operative that the parking on site was now full.  We were given a map with a postcode for a parking area across the town centre – and when we found it we found a set of spaces with a nice walk up the railway line back up to Locomotion, so it wasn’t a massive inconvenience.  There was only a short queue to get in, where online tickets were scanned.  We were offered the chance to purchase a minifig competition sheet for £1, but declined, and instead my wife and I went exploring with our two young kids.  There were some good big models near the entrance, but then it was case of working up and down the aisles to see everything else.  Space is quite tight between the trains, so there isn’t much room or opportunity to stand around displays, and most of the ones in these spaces were limited to a single table width.  There are bigger spaces at the entrance to the museum and in a middle section – this was where larger displays and traders were focused, with most of the traders in the central area.  The railway displays from key exhibitors are very appropriate for this venue, and they keep a level of movement to contrast with the static models of a lot of the other exhibits, which is helpful to catch the attention of younger fans.  Looking at the range of t-shirts and hoodies on display, this isn’t just a Brick Alley show – I saw several Northern Brickworks members around the building, along with some Brickish, Brickset and specialist railway model clubs taking part.  For our visit, being in the earlier part of the Saturday, it didn’t feel too busy or cramped inside the building, but we were all but done after an hour, especially once our kids had picked up some minifigs from the excellent LJOMinifigs stall. 

For the past couple of years, the event has set up a marquee outside the main museum hall – it isn’t well publicised, but this is the free build tent where Richard ‘Bricks McGee’ installs his big tubs of loose 2×4 bricks of various colours to give kids of all ages the chance to dive in and have some building time, with chairs and tables for parents to take a well-earned break.  After being not to told to touch most of the displays, this is a welcome opportunity and space at the end of the visit.  There is also a small playground just off the site, where our kids enjoy burning off some energy.  We then had a pleasant walk down the railway line to get back to the car, having spent a couple of hours there in total.

More pictures can be found here