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

News - not necessarily the latest

November 2015

3Z10/11 ran on Monday 30th with Colas liveried 37421 plus UTU4 & DBSO, running in the normal paths although 3Z10 was around an hour early arriving into Melton at 0850.

Finally a Colas liveried 37 put in an appearance! 37175 became the first such one to visit the line on Monday 23rd working 3Z10 Derby RTC - Old Dalby & 3Z11 return. The original 3Z11 path was cancelled upon arrival back at Derby and then continued to Slateford in a new schedule, under the same headcode but following a loco change to 37667.

 7X09 1147 Old Dalby - West Ruislip passing through Asfordby on Thursday 26th with the colourful combo of 20107 & 20314 leading with 20132 & 20118 on the back

Ben Wheeler

          3Z10 is booked to run on Monday 23rd with a class 37, UTU1 & DBSO. Unusually 3Z11 is scheduled to run to Slateford but via Derby RTC, possibly for a loco change. Timings here.

          7X09 ran on Monday 16th from Old Dalby to Amersham as did last week's delivery to London, rather than West Ruislip as with most of the more recent moves.

            A couple of photos courtesy Paul Hadfield

2 x IEP sets outside the depot at Asfordby on 16th November 2015

Former Anglia class 47 No:47714 outside the shed with a class 321 in tow, and an SSL set on commissioning trials in the background on 16th November 2015

        37057  visited on 13th November along with Network Rail's 97301 with one of the radio survey trains.  It returned to Derby the same evening as 3Z11

BR green (but Colas-owned) 37057 near Upper Broughton on 13th November

Jason Cross

3Z10 passing Frisby with 37116 pushing what appears to be two UTU sets.

Ben Wheeler

3Z10 ran on Monday 16th with a class 37 and UTU3 with DBSO - timings here

An extra 3Z10 0834 Derby RTC - Old Dalby ran this morning 13th . Booked Spondon 0853, Loughborough 0917, Syston East Jn 0935, Melton Up Loop 0957-1019. Colas green 37057 again with load four and 97301 bringing up the rear. Return times here

Finally a Colas 37 makes it to the test track! BR green liveried 37057 worked 3Z10/11 on Monday 2nd with UTU3 & DBSO 9708. Sadly no pictures on this occasion but it is believed to be not only the first Colas 37 to visit the line but also the first BR green 37 to visit since the 1960's. Two more UTU visits are scheduled for this month, more details nearer the time.

October 2015

Bit of a surprise but Colas hired DB Schenker liveried 67015 & EWS liveried 67022 to haul 975091 MENTOR for yet another ad hoc spin up the test track, running out and back ton 27th in the usual 3Z10 & 3Z11 paths. 3Z10/11 is down to run again on Monday 02/11, traction will be a class 37 with UTU3 & DBSO, timings below.

66751 worked 5X08 on 23rd as planned, hauling just IEP set 800002. This leaves units 001 & 101 at Asfordby

           5X08 to North Pole is booked to run on Friday night 23rd Timings here

Track Recording Unit 950001 is down to visit this coming Friday 23rd. Timings here

5X08 to North Pole was cancelled on Friday night and I have no date as yet for an attempted re-run. The outward ballast working from Whitemoor to Melton did run but no info on which loco/locos worked it. The return working didn't run though curiously so a bit of a perplexion there! Will try to do some more digging on that.

The S-Stock moves to West Ruislip are starting up again w/c Monday 19th , 7X09 1142 Old Dalby - West Ruislip is booked for Mon & Weds and 7X23 0933 Derby Litchurch Lane - Old Dalby is in for Friday.

Timings for the outward ballast working Friday 16th which terminates at Melton before running up to the test track are here

LUL battery loco 'L29' was on test at Old Dalby on Thursday 15th having arrived during the last few days.  In other news, 37601 & 610 have completed a whole week of testing with MENTOR at Old Dalby and are booked to return to Derby Thursday evening 15th  in the usual 1628 path off Old Dalby (3Z11).

LUL battery loco 'L29' on the test track on Thursday 15th

Iain Wright

37610 leading MENTOR through Upper Broughton on Thursday 15th

Iain Wright

GBRf are moving one, possibly two of the IEP's from Asfordby to North Pole Depot, London on Friday night 16th (Timings here). There is also a GBRf operated ballast train booked to depart shortly afterwards to Whitemoor (Timing here too). Not clear what the traction is for this or what sort of wagons it will be conveying. The movement to North Pole should be 66751.

7X23 is down to run on Friday 16th in the normal path via Coalville (0933 ex Litchurch Lane). Most likely to be the same class 20 pairings as last week. 7X09 to West Ruislip is once again a non-runner this week due to insufficient space on the LUL to accommodate any further units at present.
37601 & 37610 have arrived on the test track having worked 3Z10 0830 Derby RTC - Old Dalby on Thursday morning (8th October) with 975091 'MENTOR'.

It transpires that further tests with MENTOR are required on the line next week so after stabling over the weekend the train will be back out tomorrow and during the early part of next week. At present there is no schedule for it to return to Derby. I'll let you know as soon as one appears though.

7X23 ran for the first time this month on Friday morning (9th) but was routed via Spondon, Loughborough & Leicester Humberstone Road (reversal) instead of Burton & Coalville due to engineering work on the Coalville branch. With 20901 & 905 currently outbased at Tonbridge for RHTT work with GBRf, the train was handled by 20118 & 20132 top and tailed with the unusual pairing of 20107 & 20314.

Some recent photos from Ben Wheeler

 37601 & 37610 with MENTOR working 3Z10 0828 Derby RTC - Old Dalby passing Rotherby on Thursday 8th October 2015.

20118 & 132 tailing 7X23 0908 Derby Litchurch Lane - Old Dalby (via Spondon, Loughborough & Leicester) at East Goscote on Friday 9th October 2015. 20107 & 314 were at the front.

Balfour Beatty track machine No. DR 73939 'Pat Best' being moved by road out of Asfordby Depot (destination unknown). Picture taken just after the entrance to Holwell Works / Asfordby Depot on the back road around Asfordby Hill. 25th September 2015.

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 30th November 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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