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. In September 2014 Bombardier's 110 mile/h class 387 EMU's were trialled at the tests track.

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 2013 - look here for extracts from the consultation documents.

The list of organisations which took on BRB-R’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
  • Interesting that it is included in a paragraph entirely divorced from railway testing and appears to be merely an afterthought! So after 40 years as a specifically 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.

    See here for NR's take on the new world, in which they have renamed Old Dalby 'the Railway Innovation and Development Centre RIDC Melton - why, oh why, oh why? It will always be known as the Old Dalby test track!

    The latest developments have included commissioning and some testing of the first Hitachi IEP 5-car set. A second is expected to arrive shortly.


    Due to certain parties infringing copyright, and settling out of court for the privilege, it is necessary to include the following statement.

    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 - THIS MEANS YOU and includes the written word so please don't plagiarise the site!

    2015 News - not necessarily the latest!

    May 2015

    On Monday 18th 31233 with UTU1 & DBSO 9708 was booked on the 3Z10 Derby RTC - Old Dalby & 3Z11 Old Dalby - Mossend return. but it worked back as 3Z11 1500 Old Dalby - Derby instead of Mossend and 7X09 was cancelled on 18th but ran on 19th via Coalville & Burton, 20118/132 & 20905/901. The other 20's have gone back to Barrow Hill again!

    This week also sees the Derby - West Ruislip/Amersham and West Ruislip/Amersham - Derby moves starting up again as S-Stock units return to Litchurch Lane for yet more modification work. There is also a 7X09 1147 Old Dalby - Derby running today with a set returning directly to Bombardier having just completed initial testing at Old Dalby. 20096 & 107 are now paired with orange duo 20311 & 314 for these moves, the latter making their first appearance of 2015 on S-stock moves.

    At this moment in time there is no planned IEP testing this week, although 66751 remains at Asfordby on hand should it be required

    800001 was successfully hauled onto mainline metals this week and was duly tested over the ECML overnight on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Monday's move was cancelled due to paperwork issues. It attained a top speed of 125mile/h between Peterborough and Tallington on the Tuesday night and the plan was to try and reach 140mile/h on the Wednesday but still awaiting confirmation.

    The second IEP No:800002 has now arrived on site at Asfordby, the second of two 5-car trains which were built in Japan. The rest will be constructed in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

    A Derby - Old Dalby and Old Dalby - Mossend (via Derby) test train is due to run Monday but with the planned strike action by Network Rail I assume this won't now run.

    Above info courtesy Ben Wheeler

    I may construct a new page for IEP activities away from Dalby if I get enough info!

    Meanwhile here are a few more pics of set 800001

    800101 car of the 5-car IEP set at Asfordby on 12th May 2015l


    Close up of the cab of 800101


    After numerous hiccups the first main line IEP drag and subsequent testing on the 5-car set on ECML is finally scheduled to take place tomorrow night 11th/ early Tuesday morning 12th. The train will be tested on Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peterborough, where amongst other things a Class 91 and a Mk4 set achieved 162 mile/h in September 1989

    Timings as follows...

    Mon 11/05 5E98 Old Dalby - Tallington:

    Tues 12/05 5M98 Tallington - Old Dalby:

    Also, 66751 was named 'Hitachi Rail - Inspiration Delivered' on 27th April at Asfordby and will, as mentioned previously, undertake all of the class 800 movements utilising it's specially geared 'Scharfenburg' coupler. An article regarding the naming can be found on the GBRf news page here:

    5-car IEP set at Asfordby on 28th April

    Ben Wheeler

    Close up of the cab

    Ben Wheeler

    On the subject of Network Rail test trains, there has been no recent activity and there are none planned for the coming week as far as I'm aware. However, 20905 & 20901 are now back on the S-Stock movements following attention at Barrow Hill, joining 20118 & 20132 on such duties and were parked up at Derby on 9th. Their reintroduction onto these trains has seen 20096 & 20107 return to Barrow Hill for routine maintenance. 20311 & 20314 remain out of traffic at Barrow Hill but there are indications that GBRf may be looking to take on even more of the type so would expect these to re-emerge at some point.

    Above info and photos courtesy Ben Wheeler

    April 2015

    Another cancellation I'm afraid, none of the planned overnight IEP testing took place last week. 66751 has remained on site at Asfordby for the duration though and has been observed sporting some additional coupling gear for attaching to the IEP without use of barrier vehicles. However it went to Doncaster light engine on 25th

    A pair of LUL Clayton battery locos have turned up at Asfordby for testing. These were converted from old Schoma diesel locomotives and are numbered L8 & L4 respectively. They are sporting a yellow and red colour scheme with LUL logos. 3Z10/11 is booked for Monday again with a UTU set and 31/37, if it actually runs!

    IEP testing on the ECML should have begun on Wednesday night 22nd April but see above. As expected 66751 will be dragging the unit from Old Dalby to a possession site between Grantham and Peterborough and back each night. It is expected that these moves will be taking place for several months. Timings below for the overnight outward moves (down to run Weds, Thurs & Fri this week), no timings available for the return moves yet but will advise once they are. 66751 is already on site having arrived light engine from Peterborough yesterday morning.

    The NMT worked 3Z10 0834 Derby RTC - Old Dalby yesterday morning 16th. It spent two days on the line for calibration and returned to Derby on Friday 17th as 3Z11 departing 13.00.

    3Z10/11 was again booked for this coming Monday (20th) - UTU3 in the consist with a 31 or 37 & DBSO but was caped yet again on Friday

    20905 & 901 are now back in the fray for S-stock movements having returned from their escapades on the Southern Region. Thought they might partner 20311 & 314 on Friday's 7X23 0933 Derby Litchurch Lane - Old Dalby but turned out 20107/096/118/132 ran instead.

    Above info courtesy Ben Wheeler

    Serco's modified 08956 on site at Asfordby on 17th April shunting S-Stock without the aid of any barrier wagons.

    Ben Wheeler

    3Z10 on Monday 30th March produced 37688 & 37603 with eight vehicles however it only got as far as Melton Up Loop before reversing and going straight back to Derby. 67012 & 67027 were then pencilled in for the PLPR2 visit on Wednesday 1st April but this similarly was cancelled at Derby prior to departure.

    Some class 800 news, it is anticipated that 800001 will be leaving by rail very soon. I also understand that GBRf's 66751, which visited the line the other week to perform tests with the unit, has in fact been modified to haul the class 800 trains and should be the dedicated loco for moving them to/from Old Dalby (for now at least).

    Also of interest is that DRS are looking at testing their brand new class 88 Electro-Diesel locomotives at Old Dalby. The first is due in October this year with the rest being delivered every few months there after. The locos, although electric initially by means of pantograph/OHLE, will all come equipped with a 'last mile' diesel engine for running into non-electrified yards and terminals.

    Three S-stock moves scheduled this week, two to West Ruislip on Monday and Wednesday and a third from Derby to Asfordby on Friday.

    2015 began with these future events to look forward to:

    Because the Hartford Loop test track is only available to NR for a limited period, ERTMS testing will continue at other locations, such as Old Dalby where first-in-class testing of onboard equipment will be carried out. The track is currently being equipped with GSM-R in preparation for the start of ERTMS testing. A key advantage of Old Dalby is that trains can be tested at up to 180km/h.

    Testing of an ERTMS equipped HST set is rumoured

    Also the first IEP set is due to arrive by boat at Southampton in March. It will then be hauled to the test track by GBRf. In April the train should begin live running tests, once the necessary measuring equipment has been installed.

    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

    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

    Class 89

    The Class 89 locomotive


    A trip down the line

    Current collection

    The HSCC Project


    Trains on the line

    BR Brecknell Willis pantograph


    The line in 1959

    Almost flying

    Pantograph aerodynamic tests

    Midland Pullman

    Midland Pullman

    IVA Hamburg

    The IVA88 train


    Train Performance 1965


    ATP trials

    From the press

    Snippets of interest

    Serco Railtest

    Serco Railtest Days




    The Pendolino



    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


    European Train Control System

    Staged accident

    Nuclear Flask Test

    A good read

    Further reading

    Talk to me


    Other interesting sites



    BR's other test track  

     Last updated 19th May with news of current and forthcoming activities and an advert for my talks and presentations at the bottom of the page


    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

    Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave Coxon. All rights reserved

    I have a Powerpoint presentation entitled 'An Illustrated History of the Old Dalby Test Track' and my latest offering entitled '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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