Little remains of the vast factory in which some of the world’s premier locomotives were built.
Coveted steam engines such as the Flying Scotsman and Mallard were once crafted by thousands of skilled workers at Doncaster Plant Works in Hexthorpe in pre-war Britain.
Most of the old factory has since been flattened, and many of Doncaster’s former rail powerhouses have long-been scrapped or sit as exhibits in museums.
But loco enthusiasts are steaming ahead with ambitious plans to keep the town’s railway heritage alive - by constructing an updated version of the famous Cock O’ The North locomotive, built in Doncaster during the golden age of steam.
The Doncaster P2 Locomotive Trust wants to raise £6 million to re-build the streamliner, which members hope will thunder on the tracks again one day and form the centrepiece of a new railway museum.
Trust chairman and former steam driver David Court, 68, of Sprotborugh, says: “Cock O’ The North is perhaps the best of the lot. It is an elegant shape and screams power. To see it working again would be a dream come true.”
Since the campaign launched 15 years ago, trustees have spent years looking over old blueprints, raising funds and figuring out how to tackle what will become a major engineering project.
But the cause is starting to shift through the gears, as initial building work for the loco’s mainframe has been completed, along with new blueprints, and trustees are planning to organise a series of fundraising events and exhibitions to raise the profile of their plight. The first of which was held at Doncaster’s Mansion House last Saturday.
At a fundraising convention, attended by rail enthusiasts from across the country, trustees issued a rallying call for people to get on board to ensure their dream becomes a reality.
Mr Court adds: “We have raised less than £100,000 but there has been a lot of background work going on. We are now starting to move forward with it - and there is more to come.
“We have the resources, we just need the funding so please support us.”
The trust was set up when a group of former engineers, railway workers and businessmen gathered in a town pub and decided to set about how to build the first steam engine in Doncaster for more than 50 years.
Cock O’ The North was first built in 1934 but was modified to make it more streamlined in 1938.
It was the first of the new P2 class built for the Edinburgh to Aberdeen route. Only six were made, but none have survived and Cock O’ The North was scrapped in the late 1950s.
However, the original designs by Sir Nigel Gresley survived and the trust paid £5,000 for copies from the National Railway Museum in York, which is also the home of the Flying Scotsman and Mallard, the world’s fastest steam loco.
Over the last several years, an estimated 800 original plans have been adapted into a modern, computerised format, which a team of today’s engineers could use to re-build the loco.
Neil Waller, 64, of Bessacarr, a loco engineer in Doncaster for 30 years and project advisor, says: “You have to play detective by finding ways to adapt some of the old parts for modern use, such as new safety and signalling systems.
“But as much as possible will be the same as the original. Sir Nigel Gresley is one of the greatest engineers. It is exciting to be working form his designs.”
The loco’s mainframe was completed in the spring at a cost of about £25,000 and is being stored in Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire. The next phase will be to start putting stretchers on, which will add shape to the engine.
Mr Court says: “Each time we raise enough money bit by bit, then another part can be constructed. This may be done in different parts of the country, but the loco will be assembled in Doncaster, it’s true home.”
Trustees hope to raise further funds at a week-long convention at the Mansion House due in February, in which memorabilia from the town’s rail heritage will be put on display.
This will also serve as the launch-pad for a £1m funding appeal within their wider cause to build the loco’s boiler. The group hopes to have the loco finished and operational within the next decade.
Trustees are looking at different premises in the town, which they hope to use as a base to build it and then transform the space into Doncaster’s very own railway museum.
The loco would be exhibited in between making tourist trips along existing steam railways, such as the York to Scarborough and Leeds to Carlisle routes.
Mr Court says: “We haven’t got any formal plans as it is still early days.
“But we have seen an old depo near the railway station which would be ideal.
“When we get to the point of building the loco, our senior engineers would look to recruit apprentices and trainees to help out.
“It has the potential to be a fantastic project, we just need to raise the money.”
*To support the trust, visit www.cockothenorth.co.uk