The Old Dalby Test Track

(and Mickleover)

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.

In late 2000, after a few years with minimal use by DM&EE & later Serco, the lease was re-negotiated and was transferred to Alstom Transport Limited who upgraded and electrified the line during 2001, specifically to test and commission the Virgin Pendolino trains. Although the line was formerly known as the Old Dalby Test Track, Alstom renamed it the Alstom Midlands Test Centre (AMTC), and under their ownership the HQ was moved from the original Old Dalby site to Asfordby, occupying various buildings at the former mine complex. 

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 and subsequently London Midland Trains' class 172/3 but it has been a bit thin on the ground since then.

The use of the line by Bombardier's 'S Stock' trains for LUL is a long term prospect expected to last into 2015.

BRB Residuary Ltd was abolished w.e.f. 30th September - look here for extracts from the consultation documents

The list of organisations which have taken on BRBR’s functions and responsibilities includes the following entry.

  • Network Rail is now responsible for a small number of properties closely associated with the operational railway that should have been transferred during railway privatisation or which should be maintained by the owner of the operational railway, various memorials commemorating those killed in railway accidents or rail employees killed during the world wars and the Old Dalby test track in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire
  • So after 40 years as an independent part of the railway the Old Dalby test track has new owners who are responsible for the national network too - the last remaining vestiges of British Rail are dead and buried.

    A REMINDER!

    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

    2014 News - not necessarily the latest!

    July 2014

    3Z10 ran today instead of tomorrow, 31233 with load four (UTU1) & DBSO 9708. The 31 was pushing from Derby. Assume it will now return to Derby tomorrow evening 23rd in the 3Z11 path

    Reported on 16th that a large amount of ballast and 2 diggers were noted in the yard at Widmerpool . The Pullman Inn appears to be closed yet again!

    3Z10/11 ran on Monday 14th with 31233, UTU3 & DBSO 9714.

    Should be running again Wednesday 23rd with UTU1 and will be staying overnight, returning Thursday 24th in the usual 3Z11 path.

    Bad News

    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

    A bank slip had occurred in early 2008 between Old Dalby and Upper Broughton (visible from the lane to Old Dalby) and this was repaired by Balfours and the line readied for its new role.

    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.

    History

    Early History

    Class 89

    The Class 89 locomotive

    Trip

    A trip down the line

    Current collection

    The HSCC Project

    Trains

    Trains on the line

    BR Brecknell Willis pantograph

    1959

    The line in 1959

    Almost flying

    Pantograph aerodynamic tests

    Midland Pullman

    Midland Pullman

    IVA Hamburg

    The IVA88 train

    1965

    Train Performance 1965

    ATP

    ATP trials

    From the press

    Snippets of interest

    Serco Railtest

    Serco Railtest Days

    Closure

    Closure

    Supertrain

    The Pendolino

    E-train

    APT-E

    How it's changed

    Then and now

    R & DD

    BR Research 

    What's happening?

    The Present 

    How we operated Old Dalby

    BR's Operational Details

    ETCS

    European Train Control System

    Staged accident

    Nuclear Flask Test

    A good read

    Further reading

    Talk to me

    Feedback

    Other interesting sites

    Links

    Mickleover

    BR's other test track  

     Last updated 22nd July with info on present and future activities.

    Disclaimer

    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 in allowing their photographs to be used and for the information supplied.

    Any omissions are purely accidental and apologies are offered to anybody affected.

    Site hosted by Gingertomcat Internet Services

    www.gingertomcat.com

    Copyright © 2000-2014 Dave Coxon. All rights reserved

    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

    www.traintesting.com

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