No. 251 Locomotive Returns to Doncaster
By Kim Drabyk, Heritage Doncaster Manager
On a cold Sunday morning in January, and at an early hour, the Great Northern Railway Atlantic locomotive No.251 made the 90 mile journey from Shildon, south down the A1, to its new home. Following years of planning by Heritage Doncaster and partners, colleagues from our team waited with me expectantly at the purpose-built Rail Heritage Centre. At 10am, team members on the lower ground floor of the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum welcomed the 251 in without a hitch.
On behalf of Heritage Doncaster, I am grateful for the time and expertise of a number of people to make this happen, not least the curatorial team at the National Railway Museum, who provided professional oversight and support. Without good partnership working between the two organisations, this move and installation would not have happened.
The 251 locomotive was built at Doncaster Plant in 1902. It was designed by Henry Ivatt and was the first of 80 C1-class locos designed and built at the Plant. Over the years, a number of modifications and improvements were made which went on to inform the design of Sir Nigel Gresley’s A1 Pacifics.
After 45 years in service, No. 251 retired in 1947. The locomotive returned to steam in preservation just once, in 1953, to celebrate the centenary of the Doncaster Plant Works.
The Rail Heritage Centre will showcase two Doncaster-built locomotives, as well as memorabilia from the Doncaster Grammar School Railway Collection and many other items which celebrate the importance of the railways for Doncaster.
Another successful partnership to have helped make this new venture happen is in our work with the trustees of the Grammar School Railway Collection. This collection is a cornucopia of railway-related artefacts collected over 70 years. We have sought to replicate the experience of viewing the original collection, which was an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of memorabilia, in the displays and wall-mounted name plates that you will be able to see in the Rail Heritage Centre.
The 251 is displayed on purpose-built rail tracks, which residents and visitors will be able to view through a virtual tour of the building in March. The building will be opened 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 are being loaned to the museum as static exhibits for an initial three-year period. The Heritage Doncaster team look forward to seeing you there!