Early history

Situated in the middle of England, the Old Dalby test track is a 13-mile (21 km) stretch of the former Midland Railway route, which connected Kettering and Nottingham. The line originally ran into Nottingham Midland Station from the east, which allowed through running between London, Nottingham and Sheffield etc. It was built with double track and opened in November 1879 for goods traffic and in February 1880 for passengers as an alternative to the route via Trent Junction, which was becoming increasingly congested at the time.

For an idea of the service provided in the 1920s look here.

The 123 milepost in Nottingham Midland station related to the route from St Pancras to Nottingham via Kettering, Melton and Old Dalby. The distance via Trent Junction is approx. 127 miles.


Here's a section of a 1947 map showing the line as it was before the Second World War with all the stations shown open. Note the connection between the Midland and the LNER via Holwell, at the bottom end of the line. The junction shown has now been re-instated to allow access to the Asfordby site.

There were a large number of railways in the area in those far off days! There's virtually nothing remaining today.

(Click on the map for a bigger image)

In 1940, early in the Second World War, the rural village of Old Dalby was selected as a site for a large army vehicle depot and in 1942 the REME workshops opened. This brought expansion of the existing sidings and a great increase in traffic for the line. The military complex had its own railway system which connected to the main line via the exchange sidings adjacent to the station yard, and its own locomotives. These were Ruston Hornsby Class 48DS 4-wheel Diesel Mechanical 0-4-0 locomotives Nos: 456 and 457 built in 1955. One of them is currently at the Rutland Railway Museum at Oakham, on loan from the National Army Transport Museum.

For a short history of the army presence in Old Dalby and what happened to the bases look here

However the army traffic did not prevent the line from being closed as a through route as part of the Beeching Axe by November 1968. Although it remained open from its south end for a further nine months to serve the army bases, it finally ceased to carry traffic in September 1969. The northern end connection at Nottingham London Road Junction was severed and the Ladybay railway bridge over the River Trent was converted for road use and is still in use today. An incinerator plant was built at Eastcroft, on the track bed just outside Nottingham Midland station and part of the embankment south of the river through West Bridgford was removed altogether, precluding the re-instatement of the line in the future.

Nottingham-map 1960's

This late 1960's map shows the route of the line from Nottingham (Midland) Station,  over the river via Ladybay Bridge, past Trent Bridge cricket ground, through the suburb of West Bridgford and on to Edwalton. Apart from some of the embankment and Devonshire Road underbridge in West Bridgford, little remains in Nottingham today to indicate that the railway was ever there.

(Click on the map for a bigger image)

As Nottingham's road traffic continues to increase it has no doubt been the source of extreme regret and frustration that the line is no longer complete, as a number of plans have been formulated over the years for its re-instatement as a commuter route. There is just a possibility that the NET tramway system might be able to make use of the line's formation but that is probably a long way in the future and there would be the problem of changes to the power supply being required.

A recent (2007) proposal by Rennaisance Trains suggests that 'A local promoter has identified opportunities for using the (Old Dalby Test Track) link to relieve infrastructure congestion in the East Midlands and provide new through services. As this is privately owned infrastructure different access conditions will apply.'

Quite how they intend to get from Edwalton through West Bridgford and into Nottingham station remains to be seen. My bet is still with an extension to NET - if Nexus can get to Sunderland then why couldn't NET go to Melton?

Test Line

Following closure in 1968 the Research Division of British Rail was searching for a suitable site to evaluate the gas turbine-powered experimental Advanced Passenger Train (APT-E), which was being built at the time. The line was considered to be ideal, having a number of suitable topographical features such as curves, cuttings and tunnels on the route. There are some amongst the old BR who say that the line was closed deliberately to enable the test track to be built for the APT.

Old Dalby Test Track

By 1970 the line had been singled and re-aligned and was approved by the Ministry of Transport inspector on 8th July 1970 following which it was re-opened as BR Research Division's test track. See here for an original report on the test line.  The Control Centre was situated on the former station site at Old Dalby, approximately halfway along the line.

Having been rescued by LUL in 2008 and commenced another stage in its life in the use by Metronet or their successors up to 2015/16, today (early 2016) it has new owners in Network Rail with new plans for its extended use

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