The Old Dalby Test Track
Welcome to my web site describing the history and present use of the Old Dalby railway test track situated in the UK.
In the late 1960's BR Research Division acquired two stretches of redundant lines near their HQ in Derby and these were subsequently converted into test tracks and used for numerous tests and trials which could not easily be conducted on the main lines.
The high speed line is situated on the Nottingham/Leicester border and was known as 'Old Dalby' after the name of the village next to the site of the control centre. The line is 13¾ miles (21 km) long and runs between Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and Edwalton on the southern outskirts of Nottingham and originally formed part of the Midland Railway's route from Nottingham to Kettering.
The low speed line ran from Derby's former Great Northern station in Friargate to the junction with the line from Derby to Crewe at Egginton. The line was later truncated to run between Mickleover and Egginton but was closed in the 1990's when a new road was built over the formation and this coincided with the desire to reduce the Research Division's costs prior to privatisation. The site incorporates pages related to the Mickleover test track which I hope will be of interest.
After rationalisation of the Research Division in the late 1980's the Old Dalby line was taken over by the DM&EE and finally by Railtest but remained leased from the BR Property Board.
Following privatisation of the railways around 1994, the Old Dalby test track ownership was transferred to BRB (Residuary) Ltd. which was part of the Department for Transport and had taken over the remaining functions of the British Railways Board including the former BR Property Board. In 2010 the government announced their intention to abolish a number of Quangos and BRB Residuary was amongst them.
In 1997 Serco Railtest came into being following purchase of part of the former DM&EE by Serco PLC. The assets from the purchase included not only the operational responsibility for the Old Dalby test track but also the vehicle testing and infrastructure monitoring functions as well.
However after completion of the Pendolino testing at the end of 2005, and the demise of Alstom as a train builder in the UK, the line remained little used for a couple of years and looked as if it might be closed altogether, but in early 2007 it was announced that Metronet had taken control of the line for its own future testing requirements with London Underground trains and Serco Assurance would operate it on their behalf. Balfour Beatty Rail Projects were invited to undertake a dilapidation survey and submitted proposals for over £3 million of work needed to bring the site up to the required standard.
The use of the line by conventional test trains, on what remains the only high speed test track in the UK was a distinct possibility, although it was a long time coming it finally happened in March 2010 with the arrival of Bombardier's London Overground 2-car class 172/0 DMU.
In October 2013 the BRB Residuary was abolished and the line passed to NR ownership since when various changes have taken place to the OHLE. A class 395 was tested with a different pantograph and recently a number of Hitachi IEP sets have been commissioned.
The use of the line by the SSL trains is a long term prospect expected to last into 2016 and it would appear now that the line's future is secure.
I understand that Arriva Crosscountry class 170 Turbostar's are due to visit soon for ERTMS trials. 38 of their drivers have been briefed on the line in readiness for this. Also the New Measurement Train HST is making another two-day visit later this month, timings to follow nearer the dates.
Photos on the test track are quite difficult to get now as the foot crossing at Asfordby Hill has been removed and fenced off, also the yard at Widmerpool has a locked gate and a no access sign and general overgrowth of vegetation has made shots few and far between.
Locomaster Profiles are releasing a cab ride DVD which was filmed from 20301 on 8X09 from Asfordby. The footage starts at the depot and features an extensive part of the train's route, all the way to Banbury but I can't discover whether it has actually been released yet.
There are two videos on YouTube by 'Daveszed' featuring cab rides up and down the test track - here and here
I intend to continue to expand the site and add new or different pictures as they become available. If you have any questions about either of the test tracks, past or present, or can offer any anecdotes or material which would enhance the site, please feel free to e-mail me - see Feedback page for details
During its history the line between Melton and Nottingham has seen many changes. Below is a selection of pages which describe the test track today and in its distant and recent past, including numerous photographs of the different eras with comments where appropriate. I have also included a few related topics, which I think may be of interest too.
Click on the buttons to view the pages. All photos are the author's unless otherwise credited (where known). Apologies for any omissions.
|Early History||The Class 89 locomotive|
|A trip down the line||The HSCC Project|
|Trains on the line||BR Brecknell Willis Highspeed pantograph|
|The line in 1959||Pantograph aerodynamic tests|
|Midland Pullman||The IVA88 train|
|Train Performance 1965||ATP trials|
|Snippets of interest||Serco Railtest Days|
|APT-E||Then and now|
|BR Research||The Present|
|BR's Operational Details||European Train Control System|
|Nuclear Flask Test||
BR's other test track
This site is totally unofficial and the views expressed are those of the author and have nothing to do with any of the organisations mentioned. The author acknowledges the permission of various companies and individuals in allowing their photographs to be used and for the information supplied.
Any omissions are purely accidental and apologies are offered to anybody affected.
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Copyright © 2000-2017 Dave Coxon. All rights reserved
I have 2 Powerpoint presentations entitled 'An Illustrated History of the Old Dalby Test Track' and 'An Illustrated History of the Mickleover Test Track' which I am willing to present to any interested organisation without charge except for my expenses
Please contact me for details
If you have any queries about the any of the subjects or can add any further information or photos to the site, please contact me and I shall be pleased to help.
All material and images on this site are copyright of their respective owners. They may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of the site owner. Any requests should be directed through this site
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If you have found this site of interest you may wish to have a look at the site concerning my involvement with the testing and commissioning of various trains on BR since 1971
or my new sites covering railways home and abroad over the last 45 years
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