Letter: Token gesture to rail heritage is not enough

The planned Doncaster museum, library, and archives building built around the former Doncaster Girls Grammar School
The planned Doncaster museum, library, and archives building built around the former Doncaster Girls Grammar School

As a boy train-spotter and member of the Doncaster Grammar School's Rail Society during the later 60s and early 70s I spent many a happy lunch hour in the school clock-tower, surrounded by all the fabulous and evocative memorabilia, that still form the priceless rail collection there.

I have also watched with sadness the demise of our once noble plant works, and even the demolition of important historic buildings there, such as Crimpsall. The real shame of it all is that given Doncaster's railway manufacturing pedigree, up there with any in the world, the town does not invest in and make the most of such a superb and unique legacy.

The news that there are plans to include a sizeable space dedicated to our locomotive manufacturing heritage in the new museum, to be built on the site of the old Girls' High School, is to be applauded. But compared with say the National Rail Museum at York, that houses many Doncaster-built examples, yet has no loco manufacturing history of its own, it is almost a token-gesture.

The UK is also probably the envy of the steam preservation community world-wide, given the amount and variety of superbly preserved examples we have, due the rapid de-commissioning of our steam stock, that led to many lying in scrap-yards for long periods, thus giving enthusiasts enough time to rescue and then lovingly restore them.

So, should the generous railway lovers and good people of Doncaster be asked to get excited and contribute to the building of another "new" example? One that will have minimal benefit to Doncaster, especially as like "Tornado" and the P2 loco already underway, it will be built in Darlington? By a Trust based in Darlington.

Would the millions needed not be better invested in a long-term legacy that benefits the town of Doncaster, something we can all be proud of for generations to come? With imagination, as well as real council support and belief, and even involving a possible tie-up with, and support from, the NRM at York (only a 25 minute rail hop away) in a similar way that the Royal Armouries built its outreach in Leeds, I certainly feel that that would be a better investment for us all, rather than building another, albeit lovely, loco; that we and subsequent generations would rarely, if ever, see or use.

Paul Iwanyckyj

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