Rare pictures show how Mallard and Flying Scotsman defined Doncaster

Railways, like horse racing, are in Doncaster’s blood. But as today’s selection of archive pictures reminds us, the town in its heyday was not just a stopover on the London to Scotland route, but a powerhouse of the industrial revolution.

31st January 1931:  A locomotive being lifted on to its wheels at the LNER works, Doncaster.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
31st January 1931: A locomotive being lifted on to its wheels at the LNER works, Doncaster. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

The LMS ( London Midland and Scottish Railway) Sir Nigel Gresley designed Jubilee Class 5552 Silver Jubilee 4-6-0 express steam locomotive with A4-style streamlining being painted at the Doncaster railway works on 31 October 1935 in Doncaster, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

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.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

An A4 'Pacific' locomotive under construction at the L.N.E.R. works, Doncaster, 26th April 1938. The locomotive will be used on the 'Flying Scotsman' service. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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31st January 1931: Wheels of a locomotive being lifted in the LNER works, Doncaster. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson, Editor

31st January 1931: Locomotive manufacture at the London and North Eastern Railway works, Doncaster. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
All-Night Workers in the Loco Sheds, A 24-hour-day is completed by L.N.E.R. workers in shifts in the big locomotive sheds at Doncaster, to enable them to cope with the necessary urgent war traffic. Women workers going off night-shift are glad of a cup of tea in the canteen before going home, Doncaster. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
31st January 1931: A spot of welding on a locomotive part in the LNER works, Doncaster. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)