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Railway Archive: The Last Main Line

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The Fall of Dr. Beeching's Axe

It is often said that the end of the London Extension came about on 3rd September 1966. In a sense, this is true, but it certainly was not the end of the line - so to speak. In fact, this date only marked the railway's closure as a trunk route, and with it the end of services to Sheffield and Marylebone. From here onwards, all that would operate would be a diesel multiple unit service between Nottingham Victoria and Rugby Central. North of Nottingham the line would be lifted and scrapped, as would much of the line between Rugby and Quainton Road.

However, Leicester Central was unusually busy on that September day as many enthusiasts and commuters alike turned out to travel on the last trains to London. The timetable remained the same as usual, but the trains themselves had to have extra carriages added to meet the demand; there was even a special train that ran from Waterloo to Sheffield and back. Some people just came out to watch, rather than ride on, the last trains. Some of them had been present at the opening of the line, and now they were witnessing its closure. It was a very sad day.

The new service started almost immediately, with six trains making the return journey each day. From Leicester Central, the few passengers could travel to Rugby, Lutterworth and Ashby Magna to the south, or Loughborough, East Leake and Nottingham to the north. Before long, Nottingham Victoria was closed and the service called at the reopened Arkwright Street station in the city instead. The closure of Victoria also heralded the withdrawal of staff from the stations, with tickets for the new service now being bought from the guard on the trains. Unfortunately for the Leicester Central staff, this meant that their jobs had become, like the railway itself, surplus to requirements. The service continued until early 1969, but was finally withdrawn completely on 5th May.

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This is page 13 of 'All Change!' - The Rise and Fall of Leicester Central Station.
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Most of the London Extension's intermediate stations closed in 1963/64 after stopping services on the route were withdrawn. Following this move, the bay platforms at Leicester Central Station were no longer required and eventually fell into disuse. This image shows the southern bay platforms sometime around 1965.

Most of the London Extension's intermediate stations closed in 1963/64 after stopping services on the route were withdrawn. Following this move, the bay platforms at Leicester Central Station were no longer required and eventually fell into disuse. This image shows the southern bay platforms sometime around 1965.
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Ex-LMS Black 5, No. 44984,  leaves Leicester Central on the last through working to Marylebone - the 17.15 from Nottingham on the 3rd September 1966. To honour the occasion, a wreath was hung on the front of the locomotive's smokebox. This locomotive was a last minute replacement for another class member, hence No. 44984 was in a filthy external condition. However, it kept to time to London and also on the last working out of Marylebone to Manchester later that night.

Ex-LMS Black 5, No. 44984, leaves Leicester Central on the last through working to Marylebone - the 17.15 from Nottingham on the 3rd September 1966. To honour the occasion, a wreath was hung on the front of the locomotive's smokebox. This locomotive was a last minute replacement for another class member, hence No. 44984 was in a filthy external condition. However, it kept to time to London and also on the last working out of Marylebone to Manchester later that night.
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The British Rail notice that finally signalled the end for the Last Main Line. Although in September 1966 the Great Central had effectively ceased to exist, the Nottingham to Rugby service was retained, and following the closure of Nottingham Victoria in September 1967, Arkwright Street became the new terminus for this short lived act of mercy.

The British Rail notice that finally signalled the end for the Last Main Line. Although in September 1966 the Great Central had effectively ceased to exist, the Nottingham to Rugby service was retained, and following the closure of Nottingham Victoria in September 1967, Arkwright Street became the new terminus for this short lived act of mercy.
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