Plans to bring steam engines to Doncaster as centrepieces of railway heritage centre

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Doncaster could have its own Railway Heritage Centre by 2020 - complete with locos that were built in the town,

An initial conversation has taken place with the National Railway Museum about the possibility of the borough taking engines on loan, and a collection of around 10,000 items or rail memoribilia has already been earmarked to be put on public display.

Two iconic steam locomotives visit Chesterfields Barrow Hill Roundhouse. Unveiling of a plaque commemorating Bittern's historic 90mph runs in 2013 in honour of Mallard's world steam speed record in July 1938. The A4 will be lined up alongside its sister A4s visiting from Canada and America and A2 Blue Peter.

Two iconic steam locomotives visit Chesterfields Barrow Hill Roundhouse. Unveiling of a plaque commemorating Bittern's historic 90mph runs in 2013 in honour of Mallard's world steam speed record in July 1938. The A4 will be lined up alongside its sister A4s visiting from Canada and America and A2 Blue Peter.

The display would also look to the future, touching on the borough's involvement with high speed rail travel through the National College for High Speed Rail, at Lakeside.

Culture bosses at Doncaster Council are looking to dedicate a floor to the project at the planned new Doncaster Museum at Waterdale.

Nick Stopforth, head of libraries and culture at Doncaster Council, confirmed to the Free Press that he is committed to a space in the new building for rail heritage, with two lines of railway tracks which would be in place to allow locomotives to be brought into the building.

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There would be an entrance to allow an engine to enter the building onto the rails.

The locomotives would be taken on loan from another organisation. Although contact has been made with the railway museum in York, the door is still open for arrangements to be made with other organisations.

Mr Stopforth said: "One of our ambitions for the new library and museum that's being built later this year, on the site of the girls school, on Waterdale, is for it to include a rail heritage centre, which would be the first time that we've have a venue in Doncaster which can really showcase and celebrate our fantastic rail heritage and engineering heritage in the borough.

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"I had investigated opportunities for a railway heritage centre in the past, I think that when we look at other towns and cities around the country that already have a rail heritage centre, you can see how it pulls people in from around the country, so that means an increase into our visitor economy, it means more secondary spend in the area, but most importantly it means we have a learning resource that will be used by our children, our young people and our families in the borough.

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"What I really want is for people to get inspired by our fantastic rail heritage, when we think about the fact that we had Sir Nigel Gresley designing and developing engines in the works just across from Doncaster station, we've got the boardroom table in Doncaster museum which Sir Nigel Gresley used to work at, and we of course had some fantastic engines which were designed and built here as well. Some of that we've lost, and I'm trying to bring that back to life, which is what we'll be doing in parts of the museum on Waterdale in the future when it opens post 2020.

"From my perspective, the railway heritage centre, that's going to happen, I'm now working with a range of partner organisations to see if we can bring back a Doncaster-built loco to the town and borough so that we can use it as an exhibit and sell it to the world, what a great place Doncaster is to live work and study."

The railway engine would possibly be rotated, so that visitors could see different locos over the months and years.

The plans would also see a team of Doncaster volunteers working within the building to build a P2 locomotive, a type of railway engine designed and built in Doncaster after World War Two. Their work would be carried out in public.

It would also be possible to see what it would be like inside the engine through virtual reality computer technology as part of the centre.

The museum would also look to host touring art exhibitions. The £14million museum project, which was announced last year, is to replace the current borough museum, art gallery, library and archive, with a state of the art building. Work is expected to start later this year, with the design including the former Doncaster girls grammar school building's entrance.

Loan deals

Doncaster Museum would not be the first venue in the country to take locomotives on loan from the National Railway Museum.

Several engines from the York based museum have previously been loaned out to other collections, including the STEAM museum, in Swindon, which commemorates the Great Westerm Railway.

Swindon, like Doncaster, was one of the major manufacturers of steam engines in the days of steam trains.

Engines which have been loaned out to STEAM have been King George V and City of Truro, both loaned out to Swindon in 2015.

They were joined by a third engine last year, when the NRM announced the transfer of GWR 2-8-0 28XX Class locomotive No. 2818 to STEAM.

The NRM, and all the other national science museums loan out items, as long as the borrower is able to meet a stringent list of conditions including security, insurance, and conservation issues.