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Iconic Doncaster loco returns for town’s new railway museum

photograph of a steam locomotive on a trailer being loaded onto track

Picture Charlotte Graham

The first of two locomotives made at Doncaster’s famous Plant Works arrives back in the town as the centrepiece of a new railway museum

Doncaster is, and always will be, a rail town; perhaps most famous for producing locomotive 4472, Flying Scotsman, which was just one of hundreds built at Doncaster Railway Works, known locally as ‘the Plant’.

Now two locomotives built at the famous plant works are to return to the town and become the showcase attractions at a new rail heritage centre which will celebrate Doncaster’s rich local railway heritage.

Thanks to a partnership arrangement between the National Railway Museum and Doncaster Council, the Great Northern Railway ‘Atlantic’ locomotive no.251 – built at Doncaster Plant in 1902 – is the first exhibit to be formally announced for the town’s Danum Gallery, Library and Museum.

Designed by H A Ivatt, Atlantic was the first in a series of 94 locomotives, which were altered versions of the original C1 class of locomotive. Built with a larger boiler it was the first example of the wide firebox express passenger engine in Britain.

After 45 years in service, hauling passenger trains along the East Coast Mainline, No. 251 retired in 1947.

It returned to steam in preservation for a one-off appearance in 1953 to celebrate the centenary of the Doncaster Plant Works and has most recently been part of the national collection at Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon.

photo of a green steam loco being manoeuvred onto tracks next to an office building

GNR Atlantic arrives at the Museum. Picture Charlotte Graham

photo of the front of a steam locomotive

Picture Charlotte Graham

As soon as it hit the tracks in the early 1900s it proved an immediate success, and further improvements to the model over the next few years meant that this class of locomotive was able to pull very heavy passenger trains at considerable speed well into the 1920s and 1930s.

Today Atlantic is the only one of its class to survive and it will take centre stage in the exciting new rail heritage centre alongside another yet to be announced locomotive. The new museum will also showcase an array of memorabilia from the Doncaster Grammar School Railway Collection and other fascinating items which celebrate the importance of rail for Doncaster.

Displayed on purpose-built rail tracks, people will soon be able to view the newly acquired locos and other artefacts through a virtual tour, which will go live in March prior to the building opening for the public later in the year. All opening plans are subject to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The locomotives will remain part of the national collection and will be loaned to the museum as static exhibits for an initial three-year period.

GNR ‘Atlantic’ Locomotive No.251 arrives at Doncaster. Photo Charlotte Graham / Science Museum Group

Danum Gallery, Library and Museum is in Doncaster’s Civic and Cultural Quarter on the site of the former Doncaster High School for Girls. It’s one of a number of council-led regeneration schemes helping to transform Doncaster town centre and benefit the whole borough.

The locomotive arrived at the new heritage centre on Sunday morning after travelling 90 miles via lorry from its current home at Locomotion in County Durham. A team of specialist conservators and rail operations staff then successfully manoeuvred the historic locomotive into place.

Find out more about Doncaster’s new Danum Gallery and Museum. 

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