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.


    Due to certain parties infringing copyright 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

    2014 News - not necessarily the latest!

    September 2014

    The NMT is arriving on Wednesday morning17th for calibration, and will run as 1Z24 from the RTC arriving onto the test track around 1030. Returns Friday afternoon 19th, departing at 1615.

    WARNING! - again!

    Reports have been received of over zealous 'security staff' who have returned to the yard at Widmerpool but don't appear to be able to afford either uniforms or ID badges. If you are challenged ask to see their ID and company details. They still seem to think that they can warn you off even when you are in a public place such as the roadbridge!

    I should imagine the car park in the former Pullman Inn is okay.

    Monday 15th September was a busy day on the test track.

    Pictures courtesy Neil Booton

    NR Test Train

    31465 with test train including Mentor heads north past Widmerpool

    NR Test Train

    DBSO 9714 with 31465 propelling through Plumtree curves

    110 mile/h Electrostar

    387102 and 387101 near Asfordby Depot

    110 mile/h Electrostar

    387101 leads 387102 through the curves south of Plumtree

    110 mile/h Electrostar

    387102 leads 387101 heading for Stanton Tunnel

    110 mile/h Electrostar

    387104 on the former Up line at Widmerpool

    31465 arrived on time hauling 3Z10 then the class 20s departed  early with another S Stock delivery as 7X09 for Melton.

    After lunch 387101 and102 headed out with some VIPs and they were photographed north of Stanton Tunnel. 387104 was also  spotted and photographed at Widmerpool where my contact encountered the staff described above.

    Some news on the S-stock movements:

    The focus soon will be solely on the new deliveries to Old Dalby and subsequent movements to Amersham/West Ruislip. As a result 20107 & 20901 will be going out of traffic for top end overhauls. This will leave just six 20's, four main locos plus two spare. The moves between Derby and London should finish. 20142 & 20189 (Balfours livery) are on hire to DCR for freight and stock movements currently.

    Info courtesy Ben Wheeler

    387104 was moved  to Old Dalby on Wednesday 10th as 7M33 17:06 Litchurch Lane to Old Dalby, arriving 20:06

    Info courtesy 'Sparkyscrum'

    Plus an update for August too! See below in italics

    3Z10/11 ran on 1st September with 31285 and UTU4 with DBSO 9703.

    August 2014

    3Z10 ran on Thursday 28th in an earlier path, 0800 arrival into Melton from Derby RTC.

    On Tuesday 26th 66539 ran from Litchurch Lane to Old Dalby as 7M33 17.00 ex Litchurch Lane to Old Dalby arriving at 20:00 with 387102 in tow. This is the second 110 mile/h Electrostar to be moved to the test track.  Locos returned with the barriers as 6M72 ex Old Dalby at night as per last time.

    The first 110mile/h Electrostar EMU 387101 was moved to the test track on Friday 15th as 7M33 hauled by 66507.

    It achieved 110mile/h a few days later. Look here for some pictures and more info on the testing plans

    Info courtesy 'Sparkyscrum'

    Lots going on in the yard at Widmerpool during week ending 9th. It looks like they were renewing track on the up line, and  re ballasting both the up and down lines. At the gate to the Pullman Inn there is a Planning Application to change from a restaurant to a private dwelling - the end of an era stretching back to the mid 1960s.

    3Z10/11 ran on Monday 4th with 31465, UTU4 & DBSO 9703. Didn't run last Monday 28th but was to have been UTU2

    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.


    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 16th September with info on present and future activities.


    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 © 2000-2014 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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