Iconic Green Arrow steam loco delivered to Doncaster museum as major railway heritage centre unveiled
You wait for years, and two turn up almost at once.
Four weeks after the arrival of a first historic steam locomotive, called number 251, to the new Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, a second was delivered to the £14 million venue, which is nearing completion at Waterdale in Doncaster, as bosses revealed the new rail heritage exhibition inside.
Green Arrow, built in 1936 at the Doncaster railway works in Hexthorpe, was delivered on a lorry, arriving just after 10am on Sunday.
This particular arrival was running late – it was originally intended to travel the previous weekend, but snow meant it was delayed a week.
Today, the engine which was used on the national network until 1962, and on heritage railways until 2009, is parked next to last month’s arrival. They are part of a rail heritage centre in the new building which also includes previously unseen items from a collection of railway memorabilia.
Dozens of engine nameplates are now attached to the walls, and display cabinets are now in place to hold historic items from the Doncaster Grammar School collection – a selection of items collected by school children over several decades and stored in a water tower at what is now Hall Cross Academy.
Information panels are already in place, telling stories from the early days at the works, to its work building diesels.
The latest engine, on loan from the National Railway Museum, was delivered from Locomotion, part of the NRM, in Shildon, County Durham. Loaded on Saturday night, it set off at 6am on its four hour trip to Doncaster, where it is on a three year loan.
Conservation assistant at the National Railway Museum, Chris Binks, said the V2 class of engines, of which Green Arrow was one of only a few to have its own name, were sometimes described as the engines that won the war.
“She’s the only one left, and she’s in original condition,” he said. “It was named after a fast express parcel service the LNER ran at the time."
Among the NRM staff bringing the engine to Doncaster was Beth Furness, who was a fireman on the engine while it was running on loan at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. “It’s nice to see it here in a building like this.” she said.
Also welcoming it to the venue were two former Doncaster Grammar School pupils, who had been secretaries of the school’s railway society, the school club whose memorabilia collection is going on display.
Chris Barron, who now lives in Campsall, was one of the volunteer project managers involved in moving the collection into the museum.
The 70-year-old moved back to Doncaster in 2014 after working for BR and then Network Rail.
He said: “It really is the icing on the cake, to have two Doncaster built engines that complement each other very well.
"I’ve recently had my first grandchild. He’s only two months old, but I can’t wait to take him here when he’s a bit older.”
Simon Ward, aged 68, was brought up in Wheatley Hills when he was a pupil at the Doncaster Grammar School. Both his father and his grandfather built railway engines at the Doncaster works. His wife is a former pupil at the Doncaster Girls High School, the building which the new museum has been built around, retaining the old school’s frontage.
"My grandfather was a boilersmith who worked on the last steam engine built in Doncaster,” he said. “It’s great to see the engines here. I always felt it such a shame that more was not made of Doncaster’s railway history.”
Both were pupils at the grammar school in the 60s.
Chris said the Doncaster Grammar School Collection had been built up as members of the school’s railway society gradually picked up items of railway memorabilia, for little or now cost
Simon said: “We were doing that at a time when there wasn’t a heritage value on these things. Companies were just glad to have someone taking things off their hands.
“Another former club secretary, Tony Peart, was the driving force behind the collection.”
Chris and Simon’s job as project managers involved drawing up a legal agreement for the collection going on display, and physically moving the Grammar School collection out of its previous home in the water tower.
Some Items were too big to get down the tower’s spiral staircase, so were lowered from the room using a cherry picker. Originally due to be done in March 2020, lockdown saw it postponed to October half term, as it had to be done during school holidays.
Chris said there were around 10,000 items in the collection.
He said: “The cabinets are a tremendous opportunity to show some of the smaller pieces, ranging from buttons to posters and bills.
"These things will be seen by the public for the first time and I think that’s fantastic. These things have been hidden for 70 years.”
Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, said the engines would spearhead a remarkable display of Doncaster’s great railway heritage, with many items on public display for the very first time.
She added: “It’s a great achievement to have delivered this public building during these difficult economic times and signals our intent and ambition for Doncaster. It will be a joy to behold.”
Coun Nigel Ball, cabinet member for culture, said: “Having worked at Doncaster Plant in the past I look at Green Arrow and the other rail exhibits with great fondness. Our heritage is a treasure we must remember by sharing our many great achievements with residents and visitors."
Andrew McLean, Assistant Director and Head Curator at the National Railway Museum, said: “In the longer term we still see an operational future for Green Arrow, as outlined in our operational vehicle strategy. But for now to see this locomotive to return to where it was built will be a sight to behold.”