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 has now joined the first.


    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!

    September 2015

    On Monday 5th October 3Z10 will run with a Class 37, UTU2 & a DBSO.- timings here

    800002 is in the process of arriving by road at Asfordby, the two power cars and first two coaches having arrived on 8th September from the brand new factory at Newton Aycliffe (County Durham) which was officially opened for business by David Cameron and Nick Clegg late last week. One power car is in the standard plain livery but the other sports red vinyls and various logos including Network Rail, Virgin Trains, Hitachi and PTM Design (who I assume provided the red vinyls).

    A link to one of the news articles regarding the factory opening, including an image of the stylised power car:

    97303 with UTU4 & DBSO 9703 worked 3Z10 & 3Z11 on 7th Sept and is pictured passing Rotherby on the approach to Melton running 103 minutes late

    Ben Wheeler

    3Z10 & 3Z11 ran on  Monday 7th Sept and although it was *officially* the first ever test train to be operated by Colas Rail who took over the infrastructure monitoring contract from DB Schenker the chosen loco was not one of their own liveried 37s but the ERTMS-fitted 97303. Doh!. Colas Rail will now supply both traction and drivers, some of whom have been transferred from DB Schenker. Once again Colas avoid Old Dalby but it's got to happen sooner or later

    The use of 67's is expected to cease under Colas and therefore the previous visit of 67003 & 016 to the test track the other week (photos on this site courtesy Neil Booton!) could well have been the last for the foreseeable future. However the advent of Colas will undoubtedly bring many other unusual locomotives to the line.

    Activities at the test track on 3rd - photos courtesy Neil Booton

    97303 & 97304 visited the test track with 3Z10 on a slightly earlier path. Unfortunately Colas liveried 37219 should have provided the first Colas liveried 37 to visit the test track was substituted by 97304

    97303 heads 3Z10 into Melton station on 3rd September

    97303 at the rear of 3Z10 passing Asfordby GF on 3rd September

    August 2015

    On 19th August 67016 and 67003 visited the line and IEP 800 001 was running

    67016 heads a short consist with Mentor in tow and 67003 at the rear - pictured at Asfordby GF

    67003 at the rear passing Asfordby GF

    800001 passes Widmerpool

    Some pictures of the iEP returning to Old Dalby are here

    The visit of the NMT on 7th August - photos courtesy Neil Booton


    Near Plumtree

    Near Plumtree

    Two new photos from Ben Wheeler

    67023 leading top'n'tailed 3Z10 through Rotherby on the approach to Melton on 4th August

    67008 alongside 800101 & 800001 at Asfordby on 4th August the latter having just arrived behind 66751 following overnight ECML testing which saw both units operated in multiple for the first time on the mainline.

    3Z10 is booked on Tuesday 4th August with 2 x class 67 top and tail conveying PLPR1or two days calibration and then return to Derby on Thursday evening. Look here for timings

    The NMT will visit the test track on Thursday 6th August returning on Friday 7th -  timings here

    Future activities

    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.

    66762 & 66728 top and tail ten 'Autoballaster' wagons worked 6G40 on Thursday 11th.

    Some more news: GBRf are to modify 66750 to haul the IEP's as well, the loco is currently in the non-standard blue livery of Rush Rail (the continental arm of Beacon Rail Leasing Ltd) but with GBRf branding. It is assigned for a repaint and modification work next week, giving GBRf two dedicated IEP haulage locos.

    Very interesting working on Thursday 11th June. GBRf ran a train of ballast from Whitemoor to Old Dalby. I'm assuming this is just in connection with the general upkeep of the line as IEP testing gets into full swing. Full timings here.

    3Z10/11 were scheduled to run on Monday 15th with a class 37 & DBSO plus UTU3 in the following revised paths:



    The chances of seeing class 31's on these trains is now ever decreasing with 233, 285 & 465 having all failed in service within the last month, two of these with serious wheel defects. The possibility of seeing Colas locomotives on them in the future has been mooted though, with today's news that they have won the infrastructure monitoring work off DB Schenker.

    IEP testing on the ECML on weeknights continues in earnest. No testing took place last week but 001 has been in action again week beginning 9th June.
    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:800101 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.

    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 Highspeed 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 29th September 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 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.

    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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