Station Name: HELMDON
|Location:||North side of an un-named minor road.|
|Company on opening:||Great Central Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||4.3.1963|
|Date closed completely:||2.11.1964|
|Company on closing:||British Railways (London Midland Region)|
|Present state:||The platform is intact but heavily overgrown, the platform edge is partly visible along the down side, the footings of some of the platform buildings can also be made out. The lamp room beneath the bridge can still be entered. The goods shed is of timber construction with corrugated metal panels with an open loading platform facing onto the track; there is a roofless brick goods office alongside. The goods shed is in a dilapidated condition but largely intact with an open section of platform, a brick weighbridge building also stands nearby; this was in reasonable condition in 1989 but is now roofless. The adjacent stationmaster's house is in private occupation. The trackbed to the south of the station is a public footpath.|
|OS Grid Ref:||SP586430|
|Date of visit:||August 1975 and 21.5.2008|
Notes: During the construction of the Great Central large camp was built, together with various sidings, underneath the viaduct at Helmdon and many navvies lived there for some time. The construction work provided much needed traffic for the Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway. There was also a small brickworks beyond the Sulgrave Road bridge which provided many internal bricks for the structures although bridges, viaducts, etc. were faced with blue bricks from elsewhere.
Helmdon was never a busy station with a small goods yard on the up side of the line, the yard mainly handled domestic coal and had one siding and a small goods shed.
The station closed to passengers with the withdrawal of the local service in 1963 but goods traffic lasted until 2nd November 1964.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GREAT CENTRAL RAILWAY BETWEEN SHEFFIELD AND LONDON
In 1854, Edward Watkin became General Manager and then in 1864 chairman of the Company. Watkin's ambition was to build a rail link between the industrial heartland of Manchester and Sheffield, south to London and through a tunnel beneath the channel to reach Paris and the expanding markets of Continental Europe.In order to fulfil his ambitions, Watkin also became Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway who were in the process of extending their line northwards towards Rickmansworth and the South Eastern Railway connecting London with Dover. Initially, Watkin tried to convince other companies to build links with the MS & L allowing him to reach London but he was unable to reach agreement and eventually was left with little option than to build his own line southward from Sheffield to reach the Metropolitan.
new section, of some 4¾ miles, before construction on the original line was finished and
opened in July 1893
In 1893 the MS&LR obtained Parliamentary approval to extend this line to London (known as the ‘London Extension’. Construction of the 92 mile route started in 1895 and on 1st August 1897 the company changed its name to the Great Central Railway; it was the last 'main line' to be built until the Channel Tunnel rail link in 2003.
Due to its late construction, the company was able to take advantage of the latest technology including steam excavators. It was heavily engineered with viaducts and wide cuttings with a maximum gradient of 1 in 128; there were no sharp curves or level crossings which would ensure a fast service for both passengers and freight. Most of the stations on the ‘London extension’ were built to a standard design consisting of an island platform with the booking office located on the platform. All the stations were built on an embankment or in a cutting adjacent to a road bridge, with access via stairs from the middle of the bridge; only the larger intermediate stations like Rugby and Loughborough had street level buildings. Because Edward Watkin also expected his trains to reach Europe through a channel tunnel, the line was also built to a larger continental (Berne) loading gauge. The Great Central opened for coal traffic on 25 July 1898, for passenger traffic to a new terminus at Marylebone on 15 March 1899 and for general goods traffic on 11 April 1899.
The new line was built from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to join the existing Metropolitan Railway which had now reached Quainton Road in Buckinghamshire, where the line became joint Met/GCR owned (after 1903), it returned to GCR metals near Finchley Road for the final section into Marylebone. In 1903, new rails were laid parallel to the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow to the junction north of Finchley Road, enabling more traffic to use Marylebone. Although the new line had now reached London, Edward Watkin was unable to fulfil his ambition as he was forced to retire through ill health.From the outset, the line had to compete with established north – south routes and the first train only carried a disappointing four passengers so the company had to work hard to win passengers from its rivals; with a well managed Advertising campaign and the introduction of a fast and efficient train service the companies fortunes slowly improved although it was never a match for its rival lines.
In the 1923 grouping, the Great Central became part of the London & North Eastern Railway which brought an increase in freight traffic from the south Midlands and south west England but the LNER's main north - south route was into London Kings Cross so the Great Central was always considered as a secondary route.
In 1968 the London Railway Preservation Society chose Quainton Road as its new base, the society being renamed as the Quainton Railway Society; this has now developed into the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre covering 25 acres. The Centre boasts one of the largest private railway collections in the country with numerous steam locomotives, many housed in the former listed trainshed from Oxford Rewley Road which was dismantled and rebuilt at Quainton Road in 1999/2000.
North of Loughborough, the line remained open for freight traffic after closure to passengers in 1969 serving the gypsum mine at East Leake and the Ruddington Ordnance Storage and Disposal Depot south of Nottingham. This traffic ceased in the 1980's and the track north of Loughborough was mothballed by BR. In the early 1990's a group of transport enthusiasts set up the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Ltd with the aim of redeveloping the derelict Ruddington Ordnance depot as part of a country park project. The depot was turned into the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre (NTHC) and trains were run on a small length of line into the depot.
The NTHC's aim was to reinstate the remaining line into Loughborough where it joins the GCR
With our motorway network now working at capacity there have been a number of proposals to reopen other sections of the Great Central main line and in 2006 Central Railway was formed to look into the feasibility of building a new rail link from central England to the Channel Tunnel which would include rebuilding part of the Great Central route south of Rugby reviving a 1990’s government proposal to reopen that section of the line as part of a fast rail link from Scotland to the Channel Tunnel.
Preservation group web sites: The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, The Great Central Railway (steam service between Loughborough and Leicester North) & Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre (steam service between Ruddington and Loughborough)
Selected other web sites: The Transport Archive contains further detailed history of the Great Central plus a vast collection of 2344 'on line' photographs many ( the Newton Collection) taken during the construction of the London Extension. Chris Ward's Annesley Web site featuring numerous photographs of the Great Central around Nottingham and the Annesley Motive Power Depot. Great Central Railway through Leicester. Nigel Tout's web site with numerous photographs of the Great Central remains around Leicester and a series of archive photographs of the line. Bridging the Gap details ongoing work to reinstate the link between the two preserved lines. The Great Central Railway Society promotes an historical interest in the Great Central Railway.
Selected further reading: Great Central Memories by John MC Healey published 1987 by Baton Transport ISBN 0 85936 193 4 - heavily illustrated history of the London Extension. Great Central Then and Now by Mac Hawkins - published (2nd edition) by BCA 1992 ISBN 0 7153 9326 X , station by station photographic survey of the Great Central between Sheffield and London with numerous 'then and now' photographs. See also Sheepbridge & Brimington Station and construction of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway through Brimington by Philip Cousins. Published in St. Michael & All Saints, Brimington parish magazine. (Click here for full text). All tickets from Michael Stewart.
Too see other stations on the Great Central Railway between Sheffield Victoria and Aylesbury click on the station name: Aylesbury, Waddesdon, Quainton Road (1st site), Quainton Road (2nd site)**, Calvert, Finmere, Brackley Central, Culworth, Woodford Halse, Charwelton, Braunston & Willoughby, Rugby Central, Lutterworth, Ashby Magna, Whetstone, Leicester Central, Leicester North***, Belgrave & Birstall, Rothley**, Swithland****, Quorn & Woodhouse**, Loughborough Central**, East Leake, Rushcliffe Halt**, Ruddington, Ruddington Factory Halt, Arkwright Street, Nottingham Victoria, Carrington, New Basford, Bulwell Common, Bulwell Hall Halt, Hucknall Central, Annesley South Junction Halt, Hollinwell & Annesley, Kirkby Bentinck, Tibshelf Town, Pilsley, Heath, Staveley Central, Renishaw Central, Killamarsh Central, Beighton (1st site), Beighton (2nd site), Woodhouse Junction, Woodhouse*, Darnall*, Sheffield Victoria & Sheffield Bridgehouses.