A secret collection of memorabilia from the golden days of Britain’s railways is to steam into Doncaster today.
A hidden haul of artefacts stretching back through the decades and which has remained from public view for years will finally be put in the spotlight with a week long exhibition at the town’s Mansion House which kicks off this morning.
The Doncaster Grammar School collection was started in the 1930s when pupils and teachers at the school – now Hall Cross Academy – set up a railway society.
Over the years, members collected signs, nameplates, lamps, signal posts and thousands of other items of railwayana, building up an archive of items from the golden age of steam.
Now they are to see the light of day after decades in storage – and there are hopes the collection could be put on permanent view if a suitable base is found in Doncaster town centre.
Dave Rogerson, who is helping to put on the exhibition as part of Doncaster Rail Week, said: “It is an amazing collection, but has been hidden away for too long. It is now time it was brought into the public arena.
“It is only in the last few years people have started to become aware of it. It has been well-known among railway circles, but it is time it was brought to a much wider audience.”
The collection has its beginnings in 1937, when members received a signed photo of famed railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley, the man responsible for the world famous Doncaster-built Mallard steam locomotive.
Over the following decades, they amassed a collection of rare and precious items, including the original nameplates of the Gresley-designed Cock O’ The North steam locomotive, a huge collection of miscellaneous items and the nameplates of other engines including Doncaster and Hush Hush.
The collection takes up every available inch of space in a cluttered room rarely seen by the public.
A selection of some of the best items will be made open for the first time from today until Thursday, February 12.
The collection came to a wider attention a few years ago, when it featured on popular TV programme Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys.
Mr Rogerson said: “It is a collection of national importance. We are hoping many people will come out to see the items at the Mansion House.”
If the display proves a success, there are hopes the entire collection could go on display permanently within the Mansion House, alongside the town’s Tourist Information office.
Mr Rogerson said: “Where it is kept now is not really accessible to the public.
“Only a few people have had a glimpse, so hopefully this will make people aware of what is within the archive.”
The exhibition will be open between 11am and 4pm each day. Entry is free.
Other events during Doncaster Rail Week include a fundraising dinner for the Cock O’ The North, the Doncaster locomotive a group of local enthusiasts are attempting to rebuild. Tickets, priced £47.50, are now on sale for Friday’s dinner, which takes place at the Mansion House.
The Mansion House will also hold the Doncaster Railway Convention, a series of talks on the Cock O’ The North project, on Saturday, February 7, from 11am to 4pm, while the Festival of British Railway Modelling will take place at Doncaster Exhibition Centre on Saturday and Sunday.