Train carriages took over where the horse-drawn variety left off, and the route of the old Great North Road – later the A1 – was roughly where the first rail companies laid the track that forms the main line to this day.
The first locomotive and carriage building works were opened on the outskirts of the town in 1853, by the Great Northern Railway, as replacements for yards in Boston and Peterborough. By 1891, around 100 locomotives a year were being produced there and by the time steam production ended in 1957, more than 2,000 had been turned out.
The Scottish engineer Patrick Stirling was the first of Doncaster’s railway greats, turning out his “Stirling single” locomotive which could haul up to 26 passenger carriages and which at the turn of the last century achieved speeds of more than 60mph.
But it was in the next decades that the names which would stand as enduring symbols of the steam age were forged. Sir Nigel Gresley, the most famous railwayman of them all, made Doncaster the design centre for the newly-merged London and North East Railway, and Flying Scotsman – the first locomotive to reach 100mph – became its standard bearer.
In the 1930s Doncaster gave birth to Gresley’s crowning achievement, the new class of A4 locomotives – one of which, Mallard, managed to clock 126mph, a steam record that remains unparalleled to this day.
The steam age has long gone but Doncaster’s importance to the rail industry remains, and today it is home to the National College for High Speed Rail.
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