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Local Railway History


This article is drawn from our collection. and has been digitised and edited from an original 15 page typed document.  It is too good to remain buried and forgotten so we have honoured the authors obvious intentions when it was given to us, of publishing it.  Unfortunately we have been unable to identify the author or its date and have carried out significant searches to try to ensure that it has not been copied from published, copyrighted text.  


The document provides a fascinating insight into the development, and demise, of the railways in the area.

Any supporting pictures are from our collection or from the archives of the Midland Railway Society.

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LOCAL RAILWAY HISTORY (1900-)    Pages 8 to 15


To mark its new status the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, the old 'Money, Sunk and Lost' or 'Muck, Sludge and Lime' altered its name to the Great Central Railway.


On the new line loco depots were established at Staveley, Annesley, Nottingham. Leicester. Woodford and Neasden. Charles Sacre was succeeded as Loco Superintendent, by Thomas Parker in 1886.  He remodelled Gorton Works in 1892, building a new erecting shop. Parker abandoned Sacre’s double frame method of loco building and his new designs had a more modern look. The company was in need of tank locos for short distance passenger work and Parker designed some neat, efficient 0-6-2 and 2-4-2 tanks which bad very long lives. One of his 0-6-2 tanks, built in 1891, was the first loco in this country to carry the square topped firebox designed by the Belgian engineer Alfred Belpaire. This became a standard fitting on locos of many companies afterwards.


Parker prepared for the opening of the London extension by designing a smart and fast 4-4-0 express loco with 7 foot driving wheels.  He retired at the end of 1893, and his successor, Harry Pollitt, continued building Parker’s 7 foot 4-4-0’s and other classes.


In 1897 be designed his own 4-4-0’s, and then in 1900 produced the last class of single driving wheel locos to be built in this country. They were very smart 4-2-2’s with inside cylinders. Six were built, but the increasing weight of trains on the London extension relegated them to Cheshire lines in 1904.


Pollitt resigned in 1900, and was succeeded by John G. Robinson, who was Chief Mechanical Engineer until the amalgamation of 1923. One of the great steam loco designers, he built sturdy, reliable engines for every type of work, and they were all aesthetically pleasing to behold.  Robinson’s first design for the G.C.R. was the 0-6-0 goods, which quickly became known as ‘pom-poms’ because their staccato exhaust sounded like a Boer War quick firing gun. 174 were built over the next few years and they had very long lives.


Sam Pay became General Manager of the Great Central in 1902. He was a man with great talent and energy arid a flair for publicity, In 1906 he had been entertaining some Canadian railway officials, and laid on a light weight train to take them to Liverpool to catch a transatlantic liner.  Robinson had recently completed a number pf elegant 4-4-0 express locos, more powerful than existing types. One of these, number 1040, hauled the special train from Marylebone to Nottingham 126 miles in123 minutes and then on to Manchester, 79 miles, in 96 minutes. The whole journey of 206 miles took 219 minutes.


Heavier trains, with better passenger facilities, including restaurant cars, were coming into service and to haul them Robinson produced his beautiful Atlantic 4-4-2 locos, with 6 foot 9 inch driving wheels, the first came out in 1903, and they were quickly named ‘Jersey Lilies’, after the actress Lily Langtry, reputed to be the mistress a King Edward VII.


Robinson also built a number of similar locos to the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement, these generally had smaller wheels than the Atlantics, being intended for fish and fast goods trains, but they did a lot of passenger work.


The most famous Robinson design was his 2-8-0 heavy goads loco which appeared in 1911. They were excellent steamers, with good adhesion. and were well liked by the men, who called them ‘Tinies’, or ‘Rods’. The reason for the latter nickname was because the Ministry of Munitions chose the type for large scale construction during World War 1 for the Army overseas, for use by the R.O.D., the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers.


The G.C.R. had built 126 of these locos up to 1914, and the Ministry built 540 more. After service in the war many of the locos were purchased by British companies.  The London and North Eastern Railway. of which the G.C.R. became part in 1923, eventually owned 421 of the class, but 92 were requisitioned in 1941, during the Second World War, by the Government and sent out  to the Middle East to work on the Palestine. Iraq and Egypt railway systems until they were scrapped in the 1960’s.


Between the wars 2-8-0’s had been sold to China and also to Colliery railways in New South Vales, Australia, where three of them are preserved.


Railway travel reached a high water mark of importance in the last years of the 19th century.  Worksop Station was typical of many towns’ stations and enjoyed good services, with 38 trains stopping for passengers each weekday, additional trains on market days, and five express trains each day would stop if requested. Three not-stop trains slipped their last coach as they approached the station.


The passenger from Worksop could reach Kings Cross in 3 hours 25 minutes, Manchester in one hour, 52 minutes, or Sheffield in 35 minutes. The first class fare to London was £1-0s-1d single, or third class 12s - 2 1/2d. The return fare was exactly double.


The third railway to come to the Shirebrook area was the grandiosely titled Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway. The driving force behind the idea of another West to East railway was William Arkwright. He had inherited the family estates at Sutton Scarsdale, to the East of Chesterfield. and rich coal deposits were found on his land.  Plans for sinking  collieries went ahead in the 1880’s, but Arkwright was not satisfied with the rail facilities provided by the Midland and the M.S. and L for moving his coal.


In 1891 an act of parliament authorised the new L.D. and B.C. railway to be a trunk route fron the Warrington Docks on the Manchester Ship Canal, eastward through Macclesfield, Buxton and the Pennines, Chesterfield and the new coal fields to Lincoln, and on to new docks, which were to be constructed at Sutton on Sea on the Lincolnshire coast.


Work began on the Chesterfield - Lincoln section of the line in June 1892, but by 1894, the Company was in deep financial trouble. The Great Eastern Railway Company was anxious to obtain a share of the new coal traffic, so the L.D. and B.C. directors appealed to that company for help. The G.E.R. provided £1/4 million pounds on condition that the Chesterfield - Warrington and Lincoln - Sutton on Sea sections were abandoned by the L.D. and E.C. This was agreed.


The Chesterfield - Lincoln line, running from the new Market Place Station at Chesterfield to Pyewipe Junction, near Lincoln, the junction with the Great Northern and Great Eastern joint line, was almost complete by the end of 1896. The Beighton branch from Langwith Junction was also complete and was already carrying coal from Barlborough Colliery by November 1896.


Passenger traffic from Lincoln to Edwinstowe began on 15th December, 1896.  Water seeping into the Bolsover tunnel workings delayed the opening of the Chesterfield to Edwinstowe section until 8th March, 1897, when the passenger service began. Stations were provided on the new line at Arkwright Town, Bolsover, Scarcliffe, Langwith Junction, Warsop, Edwinstowe, Ollerton, Boughton. Tuxford Central, Dukeries Junction. Fledhorough, Clifton on Trent, Doddington and Harby and Skellingthorpe. On 30th May 1900, the Clowne - Killamarsh Junction, the “Clog and Knocker”, as it was called, was opened for passenger traffic, with L.D. and B.C. trains calling at stations at Creswell and Welbeck, Clowne, Spinkhill and Killamarsh to join up with the Midland Railway at Beighton.


The L.D. and B.C. had been built for coal traffic, and passenger services took second place. There were four trains in each directon on the main line each weekday, and two each way each day between Langworth Junction and Clowne. Freight traffic built up from four trains each way daily in 1896 to 75 each way daily on the main line by 1907.  The L.D. and B.C. locomotive stock consisted of four types of tank loco, all built by Kitson’s of Leeds. The most numerous class, 18 locos were of the Class A 0-6-2 type, described as general purpose tank engines. They covered all duties, from shunting to excursion trains. Four specialised 0-6-0 shunting locos formed Class B, and they were intended for duties in the Warsop yards.


The Class C locos were 0-4-4 passenger tanks with 5 feet driving wheels. The final Class of 1000 built for the L.D. and B.C. was the Class D 0-6-4 tank. Six of these were completed for long distance coal trains. They carried .3,000 gallons of water arid four tons of Coal and could work from Pyewipe Junction to Grimsby without stopping at Market Rasen to fill the water tanks.


A fully equipped loco and vehicle repair plant was built at Tuxford and the main loco depot was close by.  At first all the locos were shedded there except for one class C passenger tank at Chesterfield, two engines in a shed at Langwith Junction, two class B shunters at Warsop Junction and one engine at Pyewipe Junction.    

The L.D. arid B.C. had only one general Manager throughout its independent existence, Mr Harry Willmott,  a disciplinarian but fair in his dealings with the staff. The Company was perennially short of cash, and perhaps that was one reason why the line had five Locomotive Superintendants between July 1896 and July 1902. Then Robert A. Thom. a Scotsman took over the precarious post arid he remained until the end of the Company’s existence.


The line had its moments of glory when the Prince of Wales travelled from Tuxford to Ollerton in 1899 and 1900 and later, after becoming King Edward VII, he made the same journey in 1903, 1004, 1905 and 1906.  Very fond of hourse racing, he liked to attend the St Ledger meeting at Doncaster, staying either at Welbeck Abbey with the Duke and Duchess of Portland, or at Rufford Abbey with Lord and Lady Savile.  For the later visits the train was hauled by the immaculate Class A, No 26, with the driver and fireman wearing white tunics.


The L.D. and. B.C. established a north bound link with the Great Northern at Tuxford, the line running from Tuxford West Junction to Tuxford North on the G.N.  A South bound link was never completed, although the embankment was built.  A link with the Midland at Warsop Junction opened in March 1899 and gave the L.D. and B.C. access to Shlrebrook Colliery, and allowed Midland passenger trains through  from Mansfield to Edwinstow and Ollerton.


In October, 1904, the Midland opened a line between its Shirebrook Station and Langwith Junction which was always known as the “New Pound Out” locally. This cut out the reversing at Warsop Junction and made Langwith Junction a more important station.


With its dead end at Chesterfield and the impossibility of reaching the East coast over its own rails the L.D. and B.C. remained a small company and at the end of 1905 a takeover bid by the Great Central was made.  This was to take effect from 1st January 1907.  To make connections with the new owners lines, curves were laid from Duckmanton on the the L.D. and B.D. near Arkwright town, and from the Beighton branch of the L.D. and B.C. to Beighton on the G.C.R.


The fourth railiway company to reach the Shirebrook area was the Great Northern. This company was formed to provide a direct link from London to York, and was authorised by Parliament in 1840.  From a temporary station at Maiden Lane in London the line was opened to Peterborough In 1850. At first the route went through Boston, Lincoln and Gainsborough to Doncaster, but the direct route from Peterborough, through Grantham to Retford and Doncaster was opened in July 1852. The new terminus at King’s Cross was also opened in 1852.

From Boston the G.N. followed the East Coast to Grimsby, and from Grantham a line was built to Nottingham in 1850 and on to Derby in 1878.


The Great Northern never completed its railway to York. The main line ended at Askern Junction, 4 miles North of Doncaster, but a connection was made with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, so that trains could run via Knottingley, and then over the York and North Midland Railway to York.  A King’s Cross to York service began in the early 1850’s, but it was not until 1870 that the North Eastern Railway Company opened a more direct route to Doncaster, via Selby, to join up with the Great Northern at Shaftholme Junction.


The G.N. main line was laid out for speedy running but at first the loco stock was not remarkable. Benjamin Cubitt was the first Locomotive Superintendant but he died before the line really opened. He had ordered 50 locos from Sharp Brothers of the 2-2-2 type.  Cubitt was succeeded by Edward Bury, who had his own loco building firm at Liverpool. Bury was well known for building very small two axled locos, and he did not reign long.  In 1850 he resigned.


Archibald Sturrock, who had been manager of the Great Northern Railway’s Swindon Works was appointed Loco Superintendant of the G.N. in 1850 and it was he who planned and built the Doncaster Locomotive, carriage and wagon plant which opened in 1858,  All Sturrock’s locomotives were built by outside firms but he brought out some good designs of 2-4-0 and 2-2-2 locos which were much more powerful than anything else on the line.


One of his 2-2-2’s, number 210 was involved in a spectacular accident at Retford where the G.N. main line crossed the M.S. and L main line on an open level crossing.    A M.S. and L goods train was drawing over the crossing on its way to Lincoln when 210 came down the bank towards Retford with a north bound express. The G.E. driver realised that be couldn’t stop, so he opened the throttle and ploughed through the wooden wagons of the M.S. and L train, his loco and train remaining on the rails and not suffering much damage.


In 1853 Sturrock built a very large 4-2-2 which was capable of working f rom London to York, or even through to Edinburgh, but it remained a solitary example. He also built some 0-6-0 freight locos with tenders fitted with cylinders ad driving wheels supplied with steam from the boiler. The men didn’t like them, thinking they were working two engines for one lot of wagons.


Sturrock retired in 1866 at the age of 50 and was succeeded by Patrick Stirling. who built the first loco at Doncaster Works, an 0-4-2 goods type, in 1867.  He believed in domeless boilers, single driving wheels for express work and fitted all his locos with cabs, although they were rather spartan affairs. In 1*70 ha produced his most famous locos, the 4-2-2 express locos with outside cylinders and 8 foot driving wheels. They worked the best expresses for 25 years but trains were getting heavier by the time Stirling died in office in 1895.


Henry Alfred lvatt was appointed Loco Superintendent in 1895, and soon had to provide more powerful locos. He re-boilered many of Stirling’s locos and also produced a class of 4-4-0 passenger locos.  A big express loco, the first: British 4-4-2 Atlantic, was completed in1896, and then an even bigger Atlantic started work in 1903.  Altogether100 Atlantics were built and they were very long Iived.  Ivatt also built 0-8=0 locos for freight work.  He retired in 1911 and was succeeded by Herbert Nigel Gresley.

The trend for bigger, more powerful Iocos continued under Gresley, with his 3 cylinder 2-8-0’s for freight, 2-6-0’s for mixed traffic and finally, at the end of the Great Northern’s separate existence, the 4-6-2 Pacifics for express work.


The G.N. had established marshalling yards and a large loco depot at Colwick and had built a line northwards to connect with Bestwood. Hucknall, Linby, Newstead and Annesley collieries.  When the M.S. and L reached Annersley, the G.N. built new line from Kirkby South Junction to connect with Kirtby Summit Colliery, Teversal and Silverhill Collieries vra a branch line from Skegby Junction, Pleasley Colliery and Shirebrook Colliery and through to Langwith Junction.  Passenger stations were built at Sutton rin Ashfield, PleasIey and Shirebrook South, and passenger services- to Shirebrook South began on 1st November, 1901. Later they were extended to Langwith Junction.


As a lad I was puzzled by large wooden table shaped structures, made from sleepers, in most of the sidings. At one time loco coal was stored in them for some very large 0-8-2 tank locos which worked the collieries from Colwick.  Harry Ivatt had originally built 41 of these locos for work on the G.N. London suburban lines in 1903. They were very heavy on coal, so after a few years were moved to Colwick. The Colwick firemen replenished the small coal bunkers from the wooden platforms as necessary.


The advert of the Great Central gradually made Langwith Junction loco shed more important, and some of Robinson’s 0-6-0 ‘Pom poms’ and his 0-8-0 heavy goods locos were stationed there. The G.C.R. had built a mainly coal port at Immingham, which was opened by King George V on 22nd July, 1912. Sam Fay was knighted by the King on the same day. When the First World War started in 1914 the British Fleet had a very large number of battleship and. other warships fired by coal, and the port of Immingham was used by the supply collier ships.


The Langwith men with their Pom poms ran Grand fleet coal trains to Immingham and brought empties back. The working day was ten hours, and the company thoughtfully provided big square nosed shovels for the firemen to trim the coal on the tenders at Immingham.


The purchase of Robinson 2-8-0’s from the War Department when peace came brought some of them to Langwith and Tuxford where they were always known as ‘Rods’


The 1923 grouping brought the G.C.R. and the G.N.R. into the London and North Eastern Railway Company and H.N. Greslev, of the G.N.R. was appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer.

A line from Clipstone West Junction on the G.C.R. had been started in 1910, known as the Mansfield Railway, with passenger stations at Mansfield, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Kirkby -in-Ashfield. The line linked up with the G.C. main line at Kirkby South Junction, but was not fully opened for passenger service until1917. The line provided the G.C. with access to Clipstone and Mansfield Collieries, and from a branch line at Rufford Junction to Rufford, Bilesthorpe and Blidworth collieries.


A marshalling yard for coal and empty coal wagons was established at Mansfield Concentration Sidings.  In later years the heavy shunting duties were always done by the Robinson 2-8-0’s. Prior to the advent of diesels.


At Tuxford the passenger tanks and the shunting tanks were dispersed to other areas after the G.C.R. takeover and the L.D. and B.C. passenger trains were later worked from Langwith shed, mainly by Pom poms or 0-6-2 tanks.


After the grouping G.N.R. Ivatt built 4-4-2 tanks or 4-4-0 tender engines appeared. but they were not liked by the men.  In the final years of the service Robinson’s 4-4-2 tanks aria 4-6-2 tanks proved much more popular. The 4-6-2’s had a huge appetite for lubricating oil.

A few years after the 1923 grouping, the L.N.E.R. closed the old G.C.R. Nottingham Loco shed, and much at the local passenger work went to Colwick. They worked the Nottingham - Mansfield - Edwinstowe service except for a couple of turns worked by Annersley men.  Langwith men worked the Mansfield – Chesterfield Market Place service.  


During the 1940’s a number of elderly 4-4-4 tank locos, build by the old Metropolitan Railway, were moved to Colwick for local passenger work.  Yhey were very run down, with burned and ill-filtting smoke box doors, and were very poor steamers.  Colwick men considered they had been sent by the enemy and nicknamed them ‘Luftwaffers’.  One of them staggered into Hucknall Station with a Mansfield train on eday and the driver said some hard words to the fireman, criticising him for the shortage of steam.  The fed-up fireman promptly put on his jacket, went up the steps and caught a Trent bus home!


H.N. Gresley’s locos came to Tuxford and Langwith in the 1940’s.  Tuxford got a batch of J39 0-6-0’s which were well liked and Langwith got the three cylinder 02 class 2-6-0’s which were very run down.  The Langwith boilersmiths and fitters worked hard to improve the 02’s which were known as ‘Straight eights’ at Langwith.  Compared with the Robinson 2-8-0’s, the footplate was cramped and it was an acquired skill to swing the coal to the front of the narrow nine foot long firegrate.  Once that was achieved they were excellent steamers and could pull very heavy loads at their own pace.


After World War Two, the Austerity 2-8-0’s buil for the war department came to LAngwith and they did a lot of hard work, running 33 of the 24 ½ ton coal wagons into the new power stations at High Marnham.  At this time at Langworth were two 0-8-0 tank locos rebuilt from old Robinson 0-8-0 tender locomotives.  These two worked the Cresswell and Langwith Colliery turns.  If the water level in the boiler was allowed to get too high it ‘primed’ out of the chimney when the loco was worked hard, and we got lots of complaints about dirty washing.

Withdrawal of passenger services began before the Beeching era.  The Great Northern Line from Shirebrook to Nottingham lost its passengers in 1931, and the line itself closed in 1968.  It was said that the high embankment across Shirebrook that carried the line saved the main part of the village from blast damage when a German parachute bomb exploded during World War Two.


Bolsover Tunnel was closed in December 1951, ending the old L.D. and B.C. Chesterfield Market Place service and closing that part of the line.  The Langwith Junction – Lincoln service closed in September 1955.  The Mansfield Central service to Edwinstowe and Nottingham went at the end of 1955.  Closure of the old Midland – Nottingham – Worksopservice in 1964 left Mansfield as the largest centre of population in the country without a passenger rail service.


The G.C.R. London extension had become part of the London Midland Region on nationalisation and in 1967 Watkin’s dream of a railway to the continent ended when the line was closed.









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