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Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway

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Title: Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway  
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Subject: Chesterfield, Great Central Railway, Shirebrook, Chief mechanical engineer, Locomotives of the London and North Eastern Railway, Chesterfield railway station, 0-6-4, Killamarsh, Lincoln Central railway station, Clowne
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Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway

The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway was a British railway built toward the end of the era of British railway construction.

It arose out of a perceived need for an East-West line, the plan being to take it from Warrington on the Manchester Ship Canal to Sutton-on-Sea on the east coast of Lincolnshire. It was largely financed by a group of coal owners, led by William Arkwright, a descendant of Richard Arkwright.

It was the largest railway scheme ever approved by Parliament in a single session. In addition to 170 miles (270 km) of line including branches there would be dock facilities at each end. The line from Chesterfield to Lincoln was opened in 1897, but this was to be the only part of the railway actually completed.

The railway was bought by the Great Central Railway in 1907.[1]


Like most new railways of the time its purpose was the carriage of coal. The project's leading light was William Arkwright, a descendant of Richard Arkwright who had made the family's fortune by mechanising the spinning of cotton. William Arkwright had settled at Sutton Scarsdale Hall near Chesterfield and with the land came extensive deposits of coal.

The rail network in the vicinity provided by the Midland Railway and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway was still in its infancy and would not meet his requirements. In 1887 the Chesterfield and Lincoln Direct Railway was proposed independently to join with Midland lines at each end. It would cross his land but received insufficient support. Arkwright initially supported the proposed Newark and Ollerton Railway authorised in 1887 as a branch from the Great Northern Railway at Newark to Ollerton The main trade of the latter at the time was the production of hops. However there were vast reserves of coal and the line was being promoted by the Nottinghamshire coal masters..

Arkwright suggested that the line should be extended through his own estate to Chesterfield but received no support from the GNR and decided to promote an independent line and greatly extend its scope to provide through roads to opposite coasts of the country. In time it became known as "The East to West". It would be sufficiently large to maintain itself in the face of competition from other railways. There were a number of lines already approved but not carried forward which could be incorporated. With the Newark and Ollerton there was the Macclesfield and Warrington Railway and the Lincoln and East Coast Railway. A number of other lines had been considered but not formally proposed and these, together with plans for dock works at Sutton on Sea which had been approved in 1884, gave Arkwright his route and support from the various landowners involved. The Lancashire Derbyshire and East Coast Railway Company was formed at 27 George St in Westminster and published its plans in 1890.[2]

There was initially a deal of opposition from landowners and other railway companies but, in the end, the main opponent was the MS&LR because the line would bypass its own line from Sheffield to Retford and thence to London. The Great Eastern Railway turned from opponent to supporteer, realising that the line could give it an entree to the Midlands coalfields. The Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway Act authorising building the line was given Royal Assent on 5 August 1891.[3]

A later Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway Act, concerned with changes, enhancements and agreements such as granting running powers to the GNR was passed by Parliament on 27 June 1898.[4][5]

The planned route

West of Chesterfield

From Warrington the line would proceed south eastward and pass to the south of Knutsford where a short spur would make a branch with the Cheshire Midland Railway. It would then proceed roughly eastward, making a junction to the northwest of Macclesfield with a new line from near Cheadle, where there would be junctions with the two lines of the Cheshire Lines Committee.

The combined line was initially envisaged as passing through Prestbury and Rainow[6] However rather than run a virtually straight line, it would take in Macclesfield by almost completely circling it before travelling eastward once again, passing to the north of Goyt's Moss in the Derbyshire Peak District, through what is now Lamaload Reservoir and Wild Moor, before dropping southward to Burbage and Buxton. (The Upper Goyt Valley at that time supported thriving coal and lead production,)[7]

Passing Buxton to the south along Ashwood Dale, it would pass through Blackwell, then cross the Midland Railway line at Monsal Dale in Derbyshire with a 300-foot (91 m) high viaduct. From there the line would run to Newbold Fields where there would be a branch from Sheepbridge, where there was a major ironworks, then turn southeast to enter Chesterfield.[8]

East of Chesterfield

Due to lack of investment, only the portion from Chesterfield to Lincoln was built. To have continued west of Chesterfield would have required some extremely expensive and difficult engineering works. It was an ambitious undertaking, with some extremely expensive engineering works, crossing the Peak District which had always been a major headache for railway builders. Even to the east it crossed lines of hills running north and south. In addition it would conflict with the lines of a number of other railway companies.

On leaving Chesterfield from the Market Place station, a 700-foot (210 m) long viaduct carried the line over both the Midland and the MS&LR lines at Horns Bridge.

To the east of this a series of limestone ridges necessitated building the 501 yard Duckmanton Tunnel and the notorious 2,624 yards (2,399 m) Bolsover Tunnel, followed by a long rock cutting which cut through the crest south of Scarcliffe. This was the summit of the line as built, with a smaller one eastward at Warsop.

Between these a further branch was planned from Langwith northward to a point just to the west of Killamarsh where it would join the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway to run into Sheffield Victoria. In the event it joined the Midland Railway at Beighton Junction.

From Warsop the terrain became easier and the line would proceed eastward across rolling country, with a junction with the proposed Newark and Ollerton Railway at Ollerton. Farther on at Tuxford, the line would cross the Great Northern Railway with a west to north spur. Here the company would build its main engineering facility.

Farther east the line would cross the River Trent flood plain by the Fledborough Viaduct, around 23-mile (1.1 km) long.

Just after Skellingthorpe it would join with the joint GNR and GER line into Lincoln at Pyewipe Junction. This was in fact the end of the line, though the original intention had been to continue eastward toward the coast.

East of Lincoln

From Lincoln the line would continue eastward over the Lincolnshire Wolds, with a junction near Stainfield as it crossed the GNR Louth to Bardney line. Proceeding well to the north of Horncastle it would cross the East Lincolnshire Railway to the southwest of Alford passing to the south. It would then join that line's loop (at that time known as the Willoughby Railway) near Thurlby turning north east to Sutton on Sea, where the North Sea port would be built.

The Sheffield branch

In 1900 a branch was built from Sheffield to meet the line at Langwith Junction near Shirebrook, using Midland Railway lines and the nominally independent Sheffield District Railway for part of the way. The branch was occasionally referred to as the Sheffield Branch, but far more commonly as the Beighton Branch.

Takeover and later history

From 1 January 1907 the line was taken over by the Great Central Railway.[9]

Run down

Bolsover Tunnel was a continuing problem, not only because of water ingress but also mining subsidence. In 1951 it was closed completely and the section of the line between Langwith Junction and Chesterfield was closed to passengers, though Chesterfield Market Place remained open for goods until 1957, Markham Junction remained open until the mid-1950s and Arkwright Colliery was still accessed from the north via Duckmanton Junction until the 1980s. Passenger services over the rest of the line to Lincoln finished in September 1955. They had ceased on the Beighton Branch at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The line was progressively reduced in scope from the 1960s, with the Beighton Branch being closed in stages, and collieries closing or rationalising one by one. A major source of traffic was lost when High Marnham Power Station closed in 2003. At 10 August 2013 production at the sole remaining colliery in the Nottinghamshire coalfield - Thoresby - hung by a thread.[10] If it closes, ex-LD&ECR lines will have lost their final connection with King Coal.

At 10 August 2013 the only other source of revenue was traffic to and from W H Davis's wagon works at Langwith Junction[11] which is accessed via a single line connection known to erstwhile Langwith Junction railwaymen as the "New Found Out".[12][13] This track is a South-to-West connection which leaves the Robin Hood Line opposite Shirebrook Junction signalbox. The track and its West-to-South flyover counterpart were lifted shortly after World War II. The South-to-West curve was relaid in 1974; it gives access to the wagon works via a headshunt in what was Shirebrook North's Platform 4.[14]

The only other stretch of LD&ECR line in place is a short siding southeast from Beighton Junction which constitutes the last remaining part of the Beighton Branch.[15]

The line today

Main article: High Marnham Test Track

The only substantial part of the line which still exists runs eastward from a triangular junction north of Shirebrook West on the present-day Robin Hood Line. This extends to just beyond Tuxford across the ECML. It served a power station and various collieries, of which only Thoresby remains open.[16]

At 10 August 2013 the line is single eastwards from Boughton Junction. In 2009 the line was reopened by Network Rail as far as Lodge Lane, just to the east of the site of Tuxford Central.[17]

From January 2010, Network Rail has put the facility to use, with several examples on the internet.[18][19]

At least one enthusiasts' railtour has run over the line, on 5 January 2013[20] and was widely reported in the railway enthusiast press.

Motive power


The company had 37 locomotives divided into four classes, all of which were built by Kitson & Co of Leeds:

  • Class A, 18 0-6-2T built 1895-1900 for goods trains, which became LNER class N6 and were withdrawn between 1933 and 1938[21]
  • Class B, 4 0-6-0T built 1897 for shunting, which became LNER class J60 and were withdrawn between 1947 and 1948[22]
  • Class C, 6 0-4-4T built 1897-1898 for passenger trains, which became LNER class G3 and were withdrawn between 1931 and 1935[23]
  • Class D, 9 0-6-4T built 1904-1906 for coal trains, which became LNER class M1 and were withdrawn between 1939 and 1947[24]

All passed to the Great Central Railway and their successor the London and North Eastern Railway; but only two (both of Class B) survived long enough to be inherited by British Railways.

Tuxford locomotive works

A small establishment for the maintenance of the company's locomotives was built at Tuxford; it employed about 130 men; only four locomotives could be maintained at once. Nearby there were carriage and wagon shops which could handle four carriages and 20 wagons simultaneously.[25] The loco works was kept fully utilised by the GCR, but the LNER closed it in May 1927.[26]

Locomotive Superintendents

The first locomotive superintendent was Charles Thomas Broxup, who was appointed on 1 July 1896, having served as temporary locomotive inspector from May 1895. Like most of his successors, his term of office was short, since he resigned in May 1897. His former duties were then combined with those of the maintenance engineer, and T.B. Grierson served as Maintenance Engineer & Locomotive Superintendent from 14 March 1898, but he resigned in December the same year. The post was then split again, and William Greenhalgh was appointed Locomotive Superintendent on 21 April 1899; he resigned on 15 June 1900 because locomotives which he was responsible for had not been properly maintained. James Conner was appointed next, on 11 September 1900, but he later resigned with effect from 31 December 1901. His successor, J.W. Dow, only served seven months, from 1 January 1902 until 31 July 1902, during which time the job was downgraded to Locomotive Inspector. On 24 October 1902, Robert Absalom Thom was appointed Locomotive Inspector; later the post once again became Locomotive Superintendent, and he remained in office until the end of the company's existence in 1906.[27]




Further material

External links

  • Pictures of the line showing former Stations and Signal boxes and also news and pictures of the Network Rail test line
  • An early journey along the line
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