Rail enthusiasts and visitors up and down the country are being invited to Frenchgate Shopping Centre, Doncaster to see a haul of rare rail artefacts that have remained hidden for years.
The artefacts will be displayed from 6 February to 7 March as part of the Making Tracks – Past, Present and Future exhibition. It will showcase the borough’s rail heritage, the present day rail sector and the future of rail in Doncaster.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Frenchgate Shopping Centre, Doncaster Council, Business Doncaster, and Doncaster Museums and Art Gallery. It will feature historic exhibits including locomotive name plates and pictures of the Silverlink train signed by Sir Nigel Gresley - the railway engineer responsible for the world-famous Doncaster-built Mallard and Flying Scotsman steam locomotives.
The famous Doncaster Grammar School collection will also be on display. This collection 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.
Dave Rogerson, trustee of the collection, who is helping to put on the exhibition at Frenchgate, said the exhibition was of ‘national importance’.
“It is an amazing collection, but has been hidden away for too long. It’s well-known among railway circles, but it is time it was brought to a much wider audience. We are hoping many people will come out to see the items at Frenchgate - only a few people have had a glimpse, so hopefully this will make people aware of what is within the archive.”
The exhibition will also coincide with half-term activities and attractions at Frenchgate, including train-related workshops for youngsters on Wednesday February 22 and Thursday 23, plus a meet and greet opportunity with Thomas the Tank Engine and the Fat Controller on Friday February 24.
Paddy Mellon, Frenchgate Shopping Centre general manager, said: “Playing host to an exhibition of artefacts of national importance is a fantastic opportunity for Frenchgate – we can’t wait to have the rare ‘railwayana’ on display at the centre and play our part in promoting Doncaster and encouraging visitor numbers to the town.
“We are keen to develop Frenchgate as more than simply a shopping destination and this exhibition is a perfect way for us to continue to enhance our leisure and cultural offering.”
Cllr Bill Mordue, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills, Tourism and Culture, said: “Doncaster is known the world over for its rail heritage - the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard were both built here. We not only have a wealth of rail history but we are embracing rail into the present day and our future. The National College of High Speed Rail, which will open in September, will help inspire and train the rail engineers of the future.
“The exhibition will really be a tourist attraction for the borough and there will be lots of fun and interactive activities for all to take part in. This is a great way to learn more about the rail industry and it may spark the imagination of children who then might become the next generation of rail drivers.”
The exhibition will go on display at Frenchgate in two units on the ground floor of the West Mall, from February 6 until March 7.