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.

In October 2013 the BRB Residuary was abolished and the line passed to NR ownership since when various changes have taken place to the OHLE. A class 395 was tested with a different pantograph and recently a number of Hitachi IEP sets have been commissioned.

The use of the line by the SSL trains is a long term prospect expected to last into 2016 and it would appear now that the line's future is secure.

News - not necessarily the latest

October 2016

A picture of the new class 345 Crossrail train 345101 on test courtesy of Richard Bingham

The unit heads south through Plumtree curves on 4th October 2016

August 2016

Some pictures from Neil Booton of the first Crossrail unit 345101 arriving at the test track on Monday 19th with 67005 dragging the set wrong road towards Melton Junction GF and the test track access line.

April 2016

Some pics of IEPs on test on 28th April from Iain Wright

March 2016

47773 visited again on Tuesday 29th .

It ran light engine from Tyseley to Peterborough to pick up the barriers and 321 that were dumped there earlier in the week after suffering a brake fault on the previous move, then the whole train ran back to Old Dalby as 5Z47. Timings here

47 should then work 5Z21 Old Dalby - Colchester Goods Loop hauling both 321's together, timings still to be finalised but will likely be after dark anyway.

47773 on hire to ROG, visited again on Thursday 24th to take one of the class 321 EMU's back to Ilford. Timings here

A nice B&W shot of 47773 heading north at Burbage Common en route to Old Dalby on 24th March

James Power

Some other activities at the test track on 21st March when 37219 and 37421 top'n'tailed 3Z10 with two Ultrasonic Test Unit sets and also Structure Gauging Train 2 (SGT2) in the consist all for calibration.

Some interesting news here related to RVEL operating test trains to and from Old Dalby spotted by Ben Wheeler

What sort of workings exactly we will see I'm not sure but note that these aren't anything to do with the Colas operated 3Z10/11 test train calibration runs.

Timings here for the next lot of mainline IEP runs from Old Dalby W/C 22nd February, all showing as DMU moves on the system so presumably it is one of the IEP units under its own power utilising both diesel and electric.

This will be the first instance of an IEP running under its own power from the test track onto the mainline without the aid of 66751

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 26th November with a new pictures of APT-E at the Mickleover test track


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 © 2000-2016 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

The Railway SiteRing
Formerly "The Railway Webring"

Previous SiteList SitesRandom SiteJoin RingNext Site

FastCounter by LinkExchange


This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.


Where are you going in our ring?
Previous Site | Next Site | Skip A Site | Random Site | Join

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

or my new sites covering railways home and abroad over the last 45 years

Welcome, Bienvenue, Willkommen, Benvenuto, Recepción, Boa vinda


Back to the top of the page