Station Name: LEICESTER NORTH
|Location:||At the end of a short approach road (the Sidings) off Red Hill Way (A563)|
|Company on opening:||Great Central Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||Still open|
|Date closed completely:||Still open|
|Company on closing:||Still open|
|OS Grid Ref:||SK587083|
|Date of visit:||1.7.2008|
Notes: Following the restoration of heritage train services between Loughborough Central and Rothley by the MLST the Great Central Railway (1976) Ltd was formed. This company obtained a Light Railway Order to allow the heritage line to operate its own trains without British Rail supervision. The powers granted by the order allowed for the preservation of the line as far as Birstall allowing the GCR1976 to lay new track from its Rothley rail-head to the platform at Birstall. By summer 1984 it was felt that the railway's finances were now viable enough to allow what was to become known as The Birstall Extension.
By Spring 1985, discussion on the design of the new station to replace Belgrave and Birstall had begun. The appeal to fund the Birstall Extension was officially launched on 8 June 1985. Design ideas for the new station at Birstall all incorporated the original platform and bridge as part of the scheme, although schemes where the platform would be extended to the north of the road bridge were formally scrapped. By late 1987, however, it seemed that through co-funding via Leicester City, who planned to build a museum 'Industrial village' adjacent to the site, a wholly new station to the south of Belgrave and Birstall would be built, requiring the removal of the existing platform.
The Birstall Extension finally arrived at the bare platform of Belgrave and Birstall station during spring 1988. Only sufficient track was laid against the existing platform to enable its demolition. Delays in completing the road from the new Leicester Western Distributor Road caused further delays by preventing the delivery of ballast for packing. Feasibility studies for the industrial museum were put on hold, which in turn required the retainment of the island platform for longer than planned. In early 1989, plans were submitted for extending track from the limit of the existing LRO into the land under jurisdiction of Leicester City Council. The eventual outcome was that Charnwood Borough Council (the GCR's landlord up to Birstall) and Leicester City Council came to an arrangement for a slight extension of the railway into Leicester and a new LRO was submitted before Parliament for a new Leicester North Station.
Ballast was brought in and deposited on the Belgrave and Birstall platform for loading into rail ballast wagons, which then ferried the material along the extension to enable the new track to be correctly packed and aligned so that it would be fit for passenger traffic. All this allowed the Birstall Extension to be officially opened on Thursday 15 November 1990. GCR locomotive No.506 'Butler Henderson' hauled a train of MLST directors and local civic dignitaries from Loughborough Central to Rothley, where they changed to a specially fitted push-pull train for the return ride to Belgrave and Birstall. Regular passenger services, push-pull operated, soon resumed to a point just short of the old platform.
Full planning permission was granted on 7 October 1992 for the construction of the main
Development of the station since since opening has been slow due to the return of vandalism. The problems of travellers camping on the small car park at the top of 'The Sidings' access road was remedied in 1998 by the installation of a lockable gate.
In late 1998, planning permission was granted for a modest construction on the down platform, intended as waiting room, booking office and toilet. Permission was also granted for a canopy, however it was not intended to erect this at the same time as the building. Construction progress was hindered by repeat vandalism but the building was ready for use by August 2001
No substantial further development of the station has taken place since the opening of the
Immediately south of the new station the formation has been removed to allow the construction of the Leicester Western Distributor road, although a footbridge running close to the alignment of the former trackbed carries pedestrians to Thurcaston road, over which the line used to pass. The bridge here was removed in September 1979 although the southern abutment remains.
Over the weekend of 2 and 3 September 2006, Leicester North hosted the commemorative
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.
In the 1890's the MS&LR began construction of its 'Derbyshire Lines', in effect the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east - west main line at Beighton Junction, some 5 1/2 miles east of Sheffield, the line headed south through the Nottingham coal field with a loop line serving its new Central Station in Chesterfield.
In the 1890's the MS&LR began construction of its 'Derbyshire Lines', in effect the first part of its push southwards. Leaving its east - west main line at Beighton Junction, some 5 1/2 miles east of Sheffield, the line headed south through the Nottingham coal field with a branch line serving its new Central Station in Chesterfield. In July 1890 the MS&LR obtained another act to extend from Chesterfield to Heath creating a loop line. Work started on this new section, of some 4¾ miles, before construction on the original line was finished and opened in July 1893.
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.
After nationalisation, the line became part of British Railways Eastern Region but was transferred to the London Midland Region in 1958. By this time the service was already in decline with the increasing popularity of the car and it was unable to compete with other north - south routes as the line passed through sparsely populated areas south of Rugby. Manchester to London express services were withdrawn on 2nd January 1960 leaving only three semi-fast trains a day and it came as little surprise when the line became the first main line to close in the Beeching era. Beeching considered that the Great Central was a duplicate route which could be sacrificed in favour of the Midland main line.
The NTHC's aim was to reinstate the remaining line into Loughborough where it joins the GCR
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, Helmdon, Culworth, Woodford Halse, Charwelton, Braunston & Willoughby, Rugby Central, Lutterworth, Ashby Magna, Whetstone, Leicester Central, 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.