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.

 Last updated  12th January 2024 - more photos

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 a number of Hitachi IEP sets have been commissioned. Several Electrostar EMUs have also been tested

The use of the line to test and commission the latest Aventra class 720 for Greater Anglia continues, with the Rail Operations Group again handling the transfers to/from Old Dalby.

It would appear now that the line's future is secure.

News - not necessarily the latest

Latest visitors included a class 710374 in May, the class 398 tram train in June and class 720513 and 720583 arrived. In July 73002 and 73007 were present and in November  Avanti West Coast's new Hitachi 805001 unit arrived.

The Pullman Inn at Widmerpool was demolished in August 2022

In March 2021 GB Railfreight announced that they had signed an agreement with NR to take over the operation of the test track from 1st April for 4 years

ETCS work is likely to bring a class 180, an HST and a class 66 to the test track. 

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  

Talks and Presentations


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 © 2000-2024 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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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

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