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.

    A REMINDER!

    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!

    August 2015

    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

    July 2015

    A pair of class 37's were booked to visit on Tuesday 21st with TIC2, PLPR4 & MENTOR for two days calibration and returned to Derby on Wednesday evening 5th

    Yesterday afternoon 19th a visit to Widmerpool revealed that Trackwork were there tiding up, the Up line through the station is back in place re ballasted and clipped
    The MPV was back in the siding , the security men had gone  and 2 Underground trains (SSL) were  parked just over the  A46 bridge . The OHLE is now  restored between Plumtree and Stanton Tunnel

    At Widmerpool on 11th 'Trackwork' were busy on the Up line where the track and sleepers have been removed through the station area. The MPV was back in the siding after working at Plumtree. The overhead wires have been removed from Plumtee to Stanton Tunnel .

    66544 returned the HOBC set from Old Dalby to Toton as 6M37 on Thursday evening.9th  It had been observed in operation on Asfordby West Curve earlier in the day being hauled by 47714

    A visit to Widmerpool on 8th July revealed a very busy scene. 'Trackwork' were  there, as well as a ballast cleaning train but the MPV had gone .

    At the Plumtree end next to Bridge 29  there were a large number of vans and cars and it appear that engineers are working on the overhead  wires  .Also in the cutting towards Plumtree Station BGS has put in some equipment to check any movement in the cutting sides as there were issues with slipping in the 1970s. Presumably all this activity is in connection with further testing of the IEP and the EMUs which appear to become a major work stream for the line in future

    .66602 worked the 6M37 0900 Toton North Yard - Old Dalby on its own on Monday 6th. The train was conveying a short High Output Ballast Cleaning set (HOBC). The 66 ran-round in Melton Loop due to the lack of rear locomotive. The set is due to return to Toton tomorrow evening as 6M37 once again, timings for this are here

    6M37 near Rotherby (between Syston and Melton) en route to Old Dalby on 6th July 2015

    Ben Wheeler

    Rail Operations Group successfully delivered unit 321448 to the line on Friday evening (3rd July) with Riveria Trains liveried 47815 'Great Western' providing the horses. The 47 returned to Derby with the barrier coaches at 1915, having arrived at Asfordby some 160 minutes ahead of schedule from Ilford. The unit is visiting following re-motoring at Ilford and is the first of a handful of EMU's that will be hauled to the line for similar tests. Understand that a 317 is on the cards at some point and then more 321's next year.

    The photos below show the now incredibly busy scene at Asfordby as depicted on Friday, showing the new arrival in the midst of several other units and locos and also another pic of 5Z21 passing Ashwell nearing journey's end.

    20311 & 314 are in the background having arrived with another S-Stock from Derby yesterday, along with 20132 & 118 which are out of sight on the rear. These should depart on Monday at 1142 with the next S-Stock delivery to West Ruislip.

    This coming Monday 6th sees another visit by a ballast train, this time under Freightliner and most likely using top and tail 66's.

    The scene at Asfordby on Friday 3rd July

    Iain Wright

    5Z21 pictured near Ashwell

    Iain Wright

    47815 plus translator vehicles at Derby on 4th July

    Author

    Plus a link to some further information and a few pics of the new overhead conductor system now installed inside Stanton Tunnel:

    http://stantontunnel.webs.com/

    Some reports of activity at Widmerpool on 2nd July-  the viewing platform was being knocked down and there was a large pile of ballast in the goods yard and a Network Rail Windhoff MPV train in the siding . Also at Plumtree two  Portacabins  have been placed in the old goods yard there .

    5Z21 on 3rd July ,hauling a black liveried 321448 being moved following re-motoring at Ilford EMU Depot and not a 379. Barrier coaches are Arlington Fleet Services green liveried ADB975974 & ADB975978.

    Riviera Trains blue liveried 47815 is now going on hire to Rail Operations Group, allocated 0Z47 1115 Barrow Hill - Eastleigh Arlington on 2nd July and will then work Eastleigh Arlington - Ilford EMU Depot with the translator coaches. Then on Friday 3rd  will work the class 379 unit move from Ilford to Old Dalby, vice Colas 47727 which is required for other traffic. Did not run the early this week due to problems with the translator coaches at Eastleigh. Timings here http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/O08241/2015/07/03/advanced

    It is the first of several moves to Old Dalby with these units but the rest aren't expected until some time in 2016.

    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:

    3Z10: http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U49505/2015/06/15/advanced

    3Z11: http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U49506/2015/06/15/advanced

    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:800002 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.

    History

    Early History

    Class 89

    The Class 89 locomotive

    Trip

    A trip down the line

    Current collection

    The HSCC Project

    Trains

    Trains on the line

    BR Brecknell Willis Highspeed pantograph

    1959

    The line in 1959

    Almost flying

    Pantograph aerodynamic tests

    Midland Pullman

    Midland Pullman

    IVA Hamburg

    The IVA88 train

    1965

    Train Performance 1965

    ATP

    ATP trials

    From the press

    Snippets of interest

    Serco Railtest

    Serco Railtest Days

    Closure

    Closure

    Supertrain

    The Pendolino

    E-train

    APT-E

    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

    ETCS

    European Train Control System

    Staged accident

    Nuclear Flask Test

    A good read

    Further reading

    Talk to me

    Feedback

    Other interesting sites

    Links

    Mickleover

    BR's other test track  

     Last updated 4th August with news of current and forthcoming activities and an advert for my talks and presentations at the bottom of the page

    Disclaimer

    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

    www.gingertomcat.com

    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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