The Plant

Taken from a leaflet of unknown date

Doncaster Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Works, known locally and to most railwaymen as ‘The Plant’, as built in 1853 for the former Great Northern Railway Company and on the amalgamation of the Railway Companies in 1923 Doncaster became one of the main workshops of the London and North Eastern Railway.

The Works, as originally built, covered an area of 11 acres and consisted of ten shops. Since 1853 many additional shops have been built, including new Wagon Shops built 2 miles away at the ‘Carr’ in 1889. These were closed down in 1965 when wagon repairs were transferred to ‘The Plant’. Today, the Works, now re-organised and modernised, covers an area of 84 acres and employs approximately 3,700 staff.

No new rolling stock was built at Doncaster until the appointment of Patrick Stirling in 1866 but since that date the Locomotive Works have been responsible for the construction of many types of locomotives of historical interest, such as Stirling’s 8-foot, ‘Single Wheel’, the renowned Ivatt ‘Atlantics and the Gresley, Thompson and Peppercorn ‘Pacifics’ most famous of which the Gresley streamlined ‘Mallard’, achieved the world speed record for traction of 126 miles per hour. The last steam locomotive to be built at Doncaster left the Works in October 197. In more recent times, diesel-mechanical and diesel-electric shunting locomotives have been constructed at Doncaster as well as the latest 25 kV AC electric locomotives.

Until 1960 the Carriage Works was responsible for the construction of new coaching stock in addition to the maintenance of vehicles. Originally the vehicles built at Doncaster were designed by the Great Northern Railway with timber frames and bodies, and later steel under-frames, followed by the L.N.E.R. vehicles with steel under-frames and timber bodies. These were later superseded by similar vehicles with steel exterior panels. The last new vehicles to be built were all of steel construction to B.R. design. The works has been responsible for all types of rolling stock and was considered as the major centre of the former L.N.E.R. for building special vehicles. Amongst many famous sets of coaching stock built at Doncaster were the ‘Silver Jubilee’, ‘Coronation, and ‘West Riding Limited’, high speed trains of the immediate pre-war era and for the special named trains inaugurated in association with the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’. Mention should also be made of the articulated stock built to the design of Sir Nigel Gresley which held a special place in carriage development between the two World-Wars.

All new building activities, however, have now ceased and the main job of the Works is to repair and overhaul diesel Main Line and Shunting locomotives, diesel multiple units and wagons. In addition, it overhauls rail and mobile cranes, fork lift trucks, and other handling equipment as well as repairing and testing the wide range of lifting tackle used on the railways.

Tour of the Works

Main Machine Shop

  • Here, machining and fitting of components for repaired rolling stock is undertaken, including replenishment of stores stock. The machines are grouped by type and are serviced by a fully equipped tool room and tool service centre. This shop also houses the Works’ maintenance fitters, the Oxy-Acetylene equipment repair section of the Works Tractor Repair section

The Steam Breakdown Crane Shop

  • This shop repairs those cranes used when locomotives or rolling stock are derailed in service. Cranes of up to 75 tonnes lifting capacity are completely overhauled and brought back to original condition. Each crane is load-tested before it is returned to service.

The Fabrication Shop

  • This consists of two main bays, one devoted to plate preparation, including cutting and sub-assembly, and the other focuses on the main assembly work. Spot checking of welding is performed by X-ray apparatus. Adjoining is a flanging shop, equipped with presses of 750 ton and 100 ton capacity.

The Crane and Chain Shop

  • This shop overhauls rail and mobile cranes and repairs and tests chains and lifting tackle. It is equipped with a 100 ton capacity chain testing machine. Comprehensive records of regional lifting tackle are maintained to ensure this is recalled for testing at the correct intervals.

Dismantling Shop

  • Here diesel locomotives are stripped, the components washed, cleaned and examined, before being dispatched to the section responsible for repair. Dirt is confined to this area and not taken into the main repair shop.

The Diesel Locomotive Repair Shop

  • This is the largest shop in the Works with a floor area of 140,000 sq. ft. It is devoted entirely to the overhaul and repair of diesel main line and shunting locomotives. There are separate sections for the repair of power units, train heating boilers, traction motors, generators and ancillary equipment.

The Diesel Multiple Unit Repair Shop

  • This was originally used for carriage repairs and has been re-organised to handle DMU’s. The body is lifted from the bogies and passed down the repair line while the bogies are transferred to a separate bay for cleaning and overhaul. The machine, fitting and electrical sections repair the various components and there is another bay for the final finishing of the vehicles. Facilities are provided for wheel turning, balancing, and flaw detection.

Wagon Repair Shop (Light)

  • Repairs to wagons are undertaken here on a progressive system. Traversers at each end facilitate movements of wagons in and out of the shop. The bodies can be lifted for the wheels to be changed and reconditioned axles and bearings fitted.

Wagon Repair Shop (Heavy)

  • Repairs to brake vans, covered goods, and open wagons are undertaken here in three main bays. Traversers are again provided at each end of the shop and the centre bay is the main bay for the removal and replacement of wheels and axle-boxes, a staging is also provided for painting. At one end of the shop, wheels, axles, axle-boxes, and bearings are removed and renovated. Adjacent is a sawmill which machines timbers for use in all sections of the Works.

Hot Brass Pressing and Die Casting Shop

  • This supplies the whole of the railway with pressings and produces light alloy die castings, such as vacuum hose couplings.

Smith Shop

  • Here flash butt welding is undertaken in addition to normal smithing and forging. Various tools used in the Works are heat-treated here.

Spring Shop

  • This shop repairs springs for Locomotives, DMU’s, and Wagons and is laid out on a flow-line basis with the extensive use of roller conveyors.

Sheet Metal Shop

  • This makes sheet metal components and its equipment includes a sheet forming machine which facilitates the forming of complex shapes, and is a considerable advancement over normal panel-beating. The shop is also fully equipped for welding aluminium.

Diesel Locomotives Test House

  • This is one of the most modern in the country. Two locomotives of up to 2000 h.p. each can be tested simultaneously or alternatively one of up to 4000 h.p. It is fully sound-proofed and no noise reaches the outside world.

Works Training School

  • This fully equipped school can accommodate 80 craft trainees. The boys spend one year in the school before continuing their training in the Works.

The Works has three modern medical centre staffed by State Registered Nurses and trained first aid men are always available in the shops. There is also a well-equipped canteen consisting of 2 dining halls where 450 staff can be accommodated for meals at one sitting. The Plant Works Athletic Club boasts 1750 members and caters for practically all sports and hobbies.

3 responses to “The Plant

  1. Forgot to mention BR issued me a special pass to travel FOC on all trains including the driver’s cab/ footplate . Once I travelled in the HST driver’s cab with Mr Peacock from Doncaster to York. What an exciting experience it was !! By the way, I’m proud to mention that I was born and grew up in the town where the first railwayline was built in colonial Malaya. Why “colonial”? Well, Malaya (now Malaysia) was a British colony then, rich in tin and rubber. In exchange, so to speak, we learned from the British your systems of public admin., judiciary, education and parliament. There was a time that the school leaving certificate was called the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate.

  2. I was a Malayan Railway, Malaysia Instructor (Apprentice training) when I visited “the Plant” as a Colombo Plan scholar, courtesy of the British Government, in 1982. Specifically, I was attached to the apprentice training school and the drivers training school for more than a month where I did a study on the BR apprentice and drivers training schemes. It was a very enriching experience for me and it was my privilege to have befriended trainers like Messrs John Gregory, Arthur Shaw, and Frank Milner and many others whose names have now escaped me. Here I would like to mention also my instructor’s training stint at Faverdale Hall in Darlington where I met trainee instructors like Messrs Jeffrey Moss, Bill MacCracken, Mike Crawley, John Bates. They came from places like, I remember, Crew, Glasgow, Newcastle, Easley, Cardiff etc. Like all railwaymen the world over one of the most interesting sessions I had with British railwaymen was when they sit down the talk was always railway. What has happened to Faverdale Hall, I wonder? While in Doncaster I stayed at the Belmont Hotel in Thorne North. Other depots that I visited were Finsbury Park, Barnsley, Lincoln and York. And yes, who can forget that magnificent railway museum and the Roman Walls. It was in York that I met the Chief Loco. Inspector, Mr Percy Peacock.

  3. Jennifer Talbot (nee Liversidge)

    I visited the Plant many times with my Dad while I was a school, and had a ride on the footplate of the “Flying Scotsman”. Looking forward to being in Doncaster on holiday in August.
    So good to be in the loop with Doncaster History. Keep up the good work.

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