Great Central Railway (Nottingham)

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Great Central Railway
Great Central Main Line
A52 road
Nottingham Express Transit
Line 2
Ruddington
Limit of current operations
Ruddington North Junction
Nottingham Transport
Heritage Centre
Gotham Sidings
Gotham Branchline
Rushcliffe Halt
East Leake
Barnstone Tunnel
Barnstone Sidings
Stanford Viaduct
over River Soar
Brush Traction
Midland High-Level
Loughborough
Midland Main Line
Loughborough Gap
Loughborough TMD (proposed)
Grand Union Canal
Loughborough TMD
Loughborough Central
Quorn and Woodhouse
Swithland Viaduct over
Swithland Reservoir
Mountsorrel Railway
Swithland Sidings
Rothley
Belgrave and Birstall
Leicester North
Leicester Central
Great Central Main Line

The Great Central Railway (Nottingham) is a heritage railway in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. The route consists of approximately 10 miles[citation needed] of the former Great Central Main Line between Loughborough South Junction (with the Midland Main Line) and Fifty Steps Bridge, plus a branch line from Fifty Steps Bridge to the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre which is built on a former Ministry of Defence site.

There are currently stations at Ruddington Fields (within the Heritage Centre) and at Rushcliffe Halt, but the GCR(N) aims to re-open the former station at East Leake in the future, and there are plans to build a high-level (interchange) station at Loughborough (as there is currently no platform there).

The railway is currently not connected to Great Central Railway (at Loughborough Central in Leicestershire), although there are plans to reunite the two preserved lines. This is a major engineering project that is expected to be completed in 2015. The line is used by gypsum trains to the British Gypsum works at East Leake.

Preservation history[edit]

At the same time as the Leicester extension was closed, the Ministry of Defence depot at Ruddington was also closed, so the four miles of track from East Leake to Ruddington were no longer needed by BR. It was also clear that British Gypsum were unlikely to bring in any more materials by rail. The GCR Northern Development Association was formed. Work initially concentrated on restoring Rushcliffe Halt, but when Rushcliffe Borough Council agreed to lease part of the former MOD site to the Association, the grand scheme of the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre was devised to encompass not only railway preservation but any transport heritage relevant to the area.

In the 1990s, work on what had become the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Ltd was concentrated mainly at Ruddington. The transfer of former BR property to Railtrack and then Network Rail hindered attempts to purchase the line. Ironically, it was British Gypsum's intention to renew rail freight traffic that was the catalyst that allowed the GCR(N) to buy the line and restore it initially for freight use.

At East Leake station, houses were built on the former goods yard in the 1980s and some were built only yards from the remaining track. The disused nature of the line combined with a solicitor's error led the new occupants to believe that the line was closed, but BR had never listed the line as closed and could have resumed operations at any time. However, when the GCR(N) applied for a Transport and Works Act 1992 Order to purchase and operate the line, objections from local residents resulted in a permanent speed restriction of 5 mph through East Leake and the station remaining closed.

For Network Rail to route freight trains onto the line during the week and GCR(N) to operate heritage trains at the weekend, a length of rail north of East Leake was removed to create two separate railways. However, with this 'rail break', the GCR(N) were unable to access Rushcliffe Halt, and a better solution was found in the form of a clip-on, double-sided wheel scotch, padlocked to the line at the site of the rail break. At weekends, the GCR(N) phone Network Rail to take possession of the line: Network Rail then lock the line out of use from their end and allow the GCR(N) to unlock the rail break and access the track to Loughborough. In 2003, regular services to Rushcliffe Halt resumed. Passenger trains further south now run on a regular basis to the site of a proposed Loughborough High Level station.

The railway route[edit]

Ruddington Fields is the main station on the line and the home of the GC Railway (Nottingham). It features a road transport building, locomotive sheds, signal box, miniature and model railways, cafe, visitor centre, toilets and car park. The Rushcliffe Country park surrounds the GCRN facilities here. In 2009, a new platform was opened. There is talk of a possible extension from Ruddington towards the River Trent on the outskirts of Nottingham called Nottingham Greenwood, which would expand the line to a total of 24 miles in length.

9389 is pushed past Asher Lane crossing by 56

The gated Asher Lane Crossing is on a private road which was formerly the MOD depot perimeter road. It is a short walk from the country park to the crossing, where it is possible to see trains passing and the crossing keeper at work. There was a set of sidings here, called Asher Lane Sidings, but they have since been removed.

Fifty Steps Bridge is the end of the spur from Ruddington Fields, where trains reverse for the onward journey to Loughborough. The bridge itself originally had 'Fifty Steps' but subsequent modifications have increased that number. The former Ruddington station is further north, the trackbed now being owned by the charity, East Midlands Railway Trust, to support the eventual extension of services.

The Gotham branch-line was a short, freight branch connected to the Great Central Mainline via Gotham Sidings; it was lifted in 1969. The branch originally served a gypsum mine which was located on the north-western side of the village of Gotham. The sidings may one day be reinstated as part of a possible project to double-track the Nottingham side of the GCHR. Trains pass through pleasant countryside at Gotham Moor, which has lots of wildlife, and the line passes under a few bridges.

Rushcliffe Halt Station looking north towards Ruddington

Rushcliffe Halt railway station is named after the nearby "Rushcliffe Golf Club". Station development is ongoing. Just next to the station is the British Gypsum works. On weekdays, trainloads of gypsum are delivered to the works and unloaded on the concrete pad visible from the station platforms.

The original station near the centre of the village of East Leake is currently disused, but is proposed for reopening (for pedestrians only). This will provide the community with a station once again (and ties-in with the local Parish Plan in that respect), as well as a potential home for the thriving East Leake Historical Society. Visitors to the area arriving on the railway will also be able to visit the local pubs and restaurants.

Stanford Viaduct

Barnstone Tunnel (which is 98 yards long) is the only tunnel on the preserved line. It was built by the Victorian navvies and was dug out by hand. Located close to the "98 yard" Barnstone tunnel was another set of sidings, which although removed could be reinstated in the future for extra storage. Between Barnstone Tunnel and Stanford Viaduct, the line follows the ridge forming the Eastern side of the Soar Valley. The railway continues towards Loughborough, passing close to the hamlet of Stanford-on-Soar. The line travels over the River Soar at Stanford Viaduct. GCRN passenger trains first travelled across it in 2000.

GCRN services terminate at a Stop Board close to the A60 road. Beyond that is the connection to Network Rail and the Midland Main Line (MML). There are plans for a high-level station to be built there. The loco sheds of the Great Central Railway at Loughborough are just visible across the MML, about a mile away. There are also plans to reinstate a bridge across the MML and to join up with the GCR at Loughborough on the Leicester side.

Once the two preserved sections are re-connected (with the bridging of the Loughborough Gap within full completion), this would extend to a total of over 18 miles in length.[1][2]

Railway collection[edit]

City of Truro, the first steam locomotive in the world to top 100mph, leaves 50 steps junction with a December 2010 Santa Special Service

The railway operates classic steam / diesel hauled services to Rushcliffe Halt and Loughborough. Most trains are steam-hauled, but the resident classic heritage diesel collection is one of the best in the Midlands. GC Railway (Nottingham) operate every Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter through to October, and also Saturdays during school holidays, and during December ('Santa Specials' during weekends before Christmas and on Christmas Eve, and post Christmas services on 27/28 December). As well as regular services, GCRN also operate a host of Special Events and 'Gala' days. There are 7 steam locomotives permanently based at the railway, 6 of them being of industrial origin, 4 of these being locomotives which once worked at Stewarts & Lloyds at Corby, Northamptonshire. The line has also hosted locomotives of BR/Big 4 pedigree, notable examples in recent years being GWR 3700 Class 3440 City of Truro, LBSCR Terrier 662 "Martello" and LNER O4 63601.

Locomotives[edit]

Resident RSH 'Ugly' 0-6-0ST 63 'Corby' stands at Ruddington Fields station in December 2011
  • Operational Steam Locomotives
  • RSH (Ugly Class) 0-6-0ST No. 63 "Corby".
  • LMS Class 8F 2-8-0 No. 8274.
  • Steam locomotives undergoing overhaul, restoration or repair
RSH Ugly class 0-6-0ST No. 56 preparing to depart Ruddington with a passenger train in May 2009
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No. 54 "Julia". (Undergoing restoration)
  • Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST No. 1762 "Dolobran". (Undergoing restoration)
  • Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST No. 2009 "Rhyl". (Undergoing Restoration)
  • S160 2-8-0 No. 1631. (Stored in kit form around the yard at Ruddington complete with a large number of spares. Long Term restoration has begun on small scale, and will increase in pace once Rhyl is completed)
  • Unrestored and stored steam locomotives
  • Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST No. 2015 "Arthur". (Stored in Ruddington Yard awaiting restoration)
  • RSH (Ugly Class) 0-6-0ST No. 56 "Ruddington" (Does not carry nameplates, awaiting boiler repairs).
  • Main line diesel locomotives
  • Class 20 Bo-Bo No. 20154. (BR Green, full yellow ends, stored out of use)
  • Class 25 Bo-Bo No. D7629. (Two Tone Green) Operational
  • Class 37 Co-Co No. 37340 (37009). (Undergoing restoration to BR Blue with full yellow ends)(Restoration nearly complete)
  • Class 41 Prototype Intercity 125 power car BR blue grey livery Operational
  • Class 46 1Co-Co1 No. 46010. (BR Blue) built in 1962. Undergoing body repairs
  • Class 47 Co-Co No. 47292. (variation of BR Large Logo Blue) built in 1966. Operational
  • Class 47 Co-Co No. 47765. (Undergoing repaint to ScotRail livery from RES livery) Otherwise operational
  • Class 56 Co-Co No. 56097. (BR Trainload Coal) Operational
  • Class 73 Bo-Bo No. E6016. (BR(S) Electric Blue) Operational
13180 has been in use at the railway since 1997
  • Operational Diesel Shunters
  • Class 08 0-6-0 No. 08220. (BR Blue) (Currently on Hire to EMD Longport)
  • Ruston and Hornsby 165 0-4-0DE No. D2959 (BR Green)
  • Ruston 88DS 4w "Marblaegis". (Ruston Green Livery)
  • Simplex 4wd No. 2028 "Morris". (BR Black)
  • Ruston 4w No. 371971 "Qwag". (Ruston Green Livery)
  • Non operational Diesel Shunters
  • Class 03 0-6-0 No. D2118. (Undergoing overhaul)
  • Class 08 0-6-0 No. 13180. (BR Green)
  • Diesel multiple units
  • BR Class 116 hybrid unit 51138+59501+51151 running with Class 117(BR Mid-Brunswick DMU Green)
  • BR Class 108 unit 53645+53926. (Under Restoration) (Blue and Grey)

Carriages[edit]

56 propels the Maroon rake (16168, 16190 and 9389) on the last Santa Special of 2008
Mk1 BSK (will be Buffet Car) 34249 undergoing restoration
GatEx rake 488310 in action departing Rushcliffe Halt
  • BR Mk1 carriages
  • Mk1 RMB (Restaurant Miniature Buffet) 1811 in lined maroon. (Operational)
  • Mk1 CK (Composite Corridor) 16168 in unlined maroon livery. (Operational)
  • Mk1 CK (Composite Corridor) 16190 in lined maroon livery. (Operational, one side is unlined)
  • MK1 BFK (Brake First Corridor)17023 in lined maroon livery (Operational)
  • Mk1 TSO (Tourist Standard Open) 4207 in lined maroon livery. (Undergoing overhaul)
  • Mk1 RSO (Restaurant Second Open) 1012 later Cinema Coach 150353. (Stored awaiting restoration)
  • BR Mk2 carriages
  • Mk2 BSO (Brake Standard Open) 9389 ( Operational, lined maroon livery)
  • Mk2b TSO 5497 (Operational, painted BR blue and grey)
  • Mk2a BSK 35512 (Operational, painted BR blue and grey)
  • BR Mk3 carriages
  • Mk3 SLEP (Sleeper Coach) 10602.
  • Br Mk3 carriages
  • Mk3 1st class Virgin livery
  • Mk3 buffet car Virgin livery
  • Mk3 2nd class Anglia livery


  • Six wheelers
  • MSLR 6 wheeler 946. (Undergoing restoration in No.1 shed)
  • MSLR 6 wheeler 373. (Stored)
  • GCR Barnum carriages
  • GCR Barnum dining coach 664. (Stored)
  • GCR Barnum brake coach 695. (Stored)
  • GCR Barnum Dining coach 666. (Stored)
  • GCR Barnum bar coach 228. (Stored undercover)
  • Other carriages
  • GCR Clerestory brake coach 1663. (Stored)
  • GCR Suburban brake coach 555. (Stored)
  • GCR Suburban composite coach 799. (Stored)
  • Non-passenger carrying stock
  • BR Mk1 GUV (General Utility Van) 86565.
  • BR Mk1 GUV (General Utility Van) 86129 in lined maroon livery. (Operational)

Wagons[edit]

952282 and 287664
81353 (left) and 941602 stand together at Ruddington
  • Brake vans
  • GWR 20-ton Toad Brake Van 68500 built in 1947. (Part way through overhaul, painted GWR Grey)
  • LMS 20-ton Brake Van 357488 built in 1926. (painted BR Bauxite with LMS lettering)
  • BR 20-ton Brake Van 952282 built in 1954. (Operational, painted BR Bauxite)
  • LMS 20-ton Brake Van 357771 built in 1927. (Awaiting resumption of overhaul)
  • BR 20-ton Brake Van 954353 built in 1958. (Operational, painted in BR Bauxite)
  • Vans
  • BR Palvan 779761 built in 1958. (painted army green)
  • BR Widefit 784455 built in 1962. (painted BR Bauxite)
  • BR 29-ton VAA 200631 built in 1976.
  • BR Widefit 783447 built in 1962. (painted army green)
  • BR Palvan 778771 built in 1959. (painted BR Bauxite)
  • BR Palvan 776155 built in 1957. (painted army green)
  • BR Palvan 782111 built in 1960. (painted army green)
  • BR Widefit 783257 built in 1962. (painted army green)
  • Railfreight Pressed Steel Box Van 786902.
  • Railfreight Pressed Steel Box Van 201055.
  • BR Ferry Van 786902 built in 1962.
  • Ballast wagons
  • BR Dogfish ballast hopper wagon 993039 built in 1959. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • BR Dogfish ballast hopper wagon 983586 built in 1960. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • BR Dogfish ballast hopper wagon 993597 built in 1959. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • BR Dogfish ballast hopper wagon 993230 built in 1957. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • BR Grampus open wagon 991831 built in 1958. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • BR Shark ballast plough 993874 built in 1959. (Operational, painted BR Black)
  • Open wagons
  • LMS 12-ton open wagon 411453 built in 1937. (painted BR Bauxite)
  • Flat wagons
  • LMS 50-ton Warwell 721218 built in 1949. (Operational, painted Brown)
  • BR Weltrol 900936 built in 1960. (Operational)
  • LNER 22 ton Lowmac wagon 230964 (Operational, painted BR Grey)
  • BR Bogie Bolster 943545 built in 1953. (pained brown)
  • BR Bogie Rail Sturgeon A 994271 built in 1956.
  • BR Bogie Rail Sturgeon A 994770 built in 1953.
  • BR Weltrol 900937 built in 1960.
  • Rail cranes
  • LNER Cowans Sheldon 45-tonne Steam Rail Crane 941602 (9017). (painted Lined BR Black with early crest)
CUV 218C, ORC 545P, ARC 666T and GSU 841 on display
C444 KVH, D544 REM and FBC 56T in the road transport depot

GCR Rolling Stock Trust[edit]

A group called the GCR Rolling Stock Trust based at the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre owns the third largest (after the Bluebell Railway and Isle of Wight Steam Railway) collection of pre-grouping rolling stock known to exist in the UK, including the famous 'Barnum' carriages (so named as these were the type hired by P.T. Barnum's travelling circus) and some items that even herald from the days of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway—the GCR's title before completing the London extension. The details of the stock are below.

  • Six Wheeler GCR No 946. The group's current restoration project. The main attention is currently focused on the interior, which is half-way towards completion.
  • Barnum Bar coach No 228 built in 1910. The framework, chassis, floor and roof are in good condition. It is planned to fit a bar in once finished. Restoration planned to start once the new Barnum building is built.
  • Barnum Brake Coach No 695 built in 1910. Currently in No 5 shed (intended to store running locomotives) undercover but a building is being made up which will hold all four Barnums. Restoration is planned to start once 946 is completed. A kitchen will be fitted to this during restoration. No work ongoing.
  • Barnum Dining Car No 666 built in 1910. Outside No 5 building but to be moved into the planned Barnum building, work due on it once 695 is completed, should go inside No 5 building to have its body, roof and windows repaired once 664 has had similar work done on it. No work ongoing.
  • Barnum Dining Car No 664 built in 1910. Will be moved into the planned Barnum building. Work is planned to start once 666 is completed.
  • Clerestory 1st and 3rd class No 1663. Body stored on a flat wagon but frames are nearly ready to hold the body to take the weight of the body, shortly to be moved onto its own frames. Final frame work and bodywork restoration will begin once Barnum No 664 is complete.
  • Suburban No 799. Outside with good framework and the roof has recently been tarpaulined. Work due to start once 1663 is complete.
  • Suburban GCR Coach No 555. Parted from its frames at the moment. Work due to start once 799 is complete.
  • Six Wheeler No 373 GCR. Stored with poor body and major work needed on the frames. It will be the last carriage to be restored.

GCR suburban 1905 No.793, not part of the RST collection but under the wing of the GCR 567 Group is currently stored at Swithland Sidings - just been examined and found to be in reasonable condition. Now placed under a new tarpaulin for further weather protection.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°53′13″N 1°09′43″W / 52.887°N 1.162°W / 52.887; -1.162

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