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.


    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!

    April 2014

    67016 & 67020 worked 3Z10 Derby - Old Dalby on Thursday 3rd with one of PLPR sets, returning on Friday afternoon as 3Z11. Here are a couple of pictures at Melton station on Friday as the 67's departed back to Derby;

    67016 67016 heads the Radio Survey Train at Melton station

    Ben Williams

    67020 67020 brings up the rear

    Ben Williams

    Also I hear rumours that the S-Stock movements could now be ending in the Winter of this year as they are ahead of schedule with deliveries. There is also a strong possibility of class 47's appearing on the moves at some point, GBRf are now hiring 47812, 47815 & 47843 from Riviera Trains with potentially a few more to follow. 843 was to have appeared on Friday 4th but instead partnered 20118 on the 6K50 Toton to Crewe and return departmental.

    The Javelin 395011 left on Tuesday evening 1st April with Colas Rail handling the move. 47727 arrived on Monday 31/3 with the barrier coaches from Eastleigh running as 5Z95. Then on Tuesday it departed as 5X95 to Ashford with the unit, departing Asfordby at 1907 and through Melton station at 1924.

    March 2014

    3Z10 didn't run on Monday 24th

    Here are a couple of shots of 395011 from Neil Booton being hauled out of Asfordby depot
    and running north of Stanton Tunnel on Monday 24th

    Leaving Asfordby 47714 hauls Javelin 395011 out of Asfordby depot on 24th March
    Next stop Nottingham - we wish! 395011 north of Stanton Tunnel on 24th March
    Experimental pantograph A close up of the pantograph on 395011 - two strip head with aerofoils at the knuckle - this is the prototype for IEP

    Neil Booton

    395 pantograph The pan normally fitted to Javelins is basically a Japanese design with single strip head and no aerofoils. On the French OHLE of CTRL the aerodynamic principle of uplift increasing with speed is accepted since the OHLE is under high tension and can withstand higher forces.

    Dave Coxon

    Asfordby Tunnel has had a concrete slab base laid through it and rails attached. There are some photos of Flickr - search on  'Asfordby Tunnel' and you will find a few shots by Sam Tait.

    Network Rail Class 150 track inspection DMU 950001 visited on Thursday morning 20th until Friday afternoon for calibration. Worked as 2Z08 0834 Derby RTC - Old Dalby (arr 1030) then returned as 2Z08 1630 Old Dalby - Derby RTC on Friday.

    Also on Wednesday morning 19th an observer noted that re-ballasting work has begun between Grimston Tunnel and Asfordby Triangle. There appears to be rather a large amount of engineering work going on around the junction area at Asfordby of late.

    London Underground promotional white liveried 66721 together with GBRf liveried 66737 were on 6T77 Whitemoor - Old Dalby / 6T77 Melton Junction - Whitemoor engineers on 18th March.

    7X09 was cancelled on 17th March but 7X23 is still planned for Friday 21st .

    3Z10/11 is running with top and tail 31's / 37's and sets UTU2 & UTU4 next Monday 24th then same again but with UTU3 & UTU1 the following Monday (31st March).

    LU red liveried 20189 worked 7X09 1147 Old Dalby - West Ruislip on 10th March and on Monday 3rd, paired with 20142 and in top and tail with 20132/118. These four also appeared on Friday 7th's 7X23 Derby - Old Dalby.

    Colas Railfreight's 47727 worked 0Z47 0900 Washwood Heath - Old Dalby on 10th to fetch the two barrier vehicles which were used to bring the Javelin unit in last month. It took them to Doncaster West Yard as 5Z47 via Loughborough and Chesterfield, departing Asfordby Depot just after 1300. The Javelin is staying for the time being it would seem.

    Last week saw further visits by GBRf engineering trains from Whitemoor, locos used included 66722, 66743 & 66732. More are expected next week too.

    Heavy handedness by the security firm once again reported at Widmerpool on 31st December

    The following was reported to me by a member of the public who had been to Widmerpool on New Year's Eve afternoon to look at the goings on. He was on the bridge south of Widmerpool station, which is on a public footpath, looking down on the test track. He then walked back to his car parked in the lay-by on the A606 and when he got there a security guard asked him what he was doing! He said he was just looking at what was going on, the security guard then asked for his name and took his car registration number. The matter has been reported to the BTP by the individual concerned as these security guys appear to be overstepping the mark (not for the first time).

    Beware of people in lime green jackets when visiting Widmerpool !!!

    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 10th April 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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