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Railway Archive: The Last Main Line

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Closure & Beyond - 1969 to 2003

After the closure of the London Extension on 5th May 1969, the bulldozers and scrap men were quick to move in. Much of the track was lifted for reuse or scrap, and many of the old buildings and structures had been razed by the mid-1980's. Only a century after it had been built, much of Sir Edward Watkin's dream had gone. Fortunately, even before the route had closed, thoughts had already turned to the possibility of preserving a section of Britain's last main line. By 1973, the Main Line Steam Trust had begun simple operations in the confines of Loughborough Central station. Today, the operation has grown into one of the country's leading preserved lines. A partner group is also working to restore the line between Ruddington and Loughborough - with the ultimate goal of linking Nottingham and Leicester.

Elsewhere, the 'Alternative Route', that bypassed the slow Metropolitan section by running through High Wycombe, is still being operated by Chiltern Trains, and even part of the London Extension is still in use between Marylebone and Aylesbury. Beyond Aylesbury, the track is still down as far as Calvert for use by rubbish trains, although these are now being wound down with withdrawal being likely in the immediate future. At Quainton Road Station, where the London Extension met the Metropolitan Railway, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre has set up home to preserve a piece of this much-lamented line. Amongst its expertly maintained fleet is a former Metropolitan Railway 'E' class locomotive.

As for the stations, Nottingham Victoria has been replaced by a concrete shopping centre, while Leicester Central is now an industrial park. The booking hall at Brackley is used to replace car tyres, and Rugby Central survives as a platform only. Many of the country stations, such as those at Ashby Magna, Finmere and Lutterworth, are no longer with us, and railway communities like Woodford Halse are still feeling the loss of the line. However, much of the route's formation can still be seen as it cuts across the countryside and, with talk of reopening a section south of Rugby for freight trains, who knows, in years to come we may yet see trains again operating over the old Great Central Railway.

This is page 3 of A Brief History of the London Extension.
View the complete story contents.

This depressing photograph shows a Hy-Mac excavator getting its teeth into an iron frame platform canopy at Leicester Central Station in December 1970. Like many of the former railway sites, the land had been sold for development after the line's closure the year before and is now home to an industrial park. Fortunately, the station frontage and main booking hall still survives.

This depressing photograph shows a Hy-Mac excavator getting its teeth into an iron frame platform canopy at Leicester Central Station in December 1970. Like many of the former railway sites, the land had been sold for development after the line's closure the year before and is now home to an industrial park. Fortunately, the station frontage and main booking hall still survives.
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The new Great Central Railway (operated by the Main Line Steam Trust) is one of the country's leading preserved lines, and as such is host to many large locomotives. One such visitor was this former War Department 'Austerity' 2-10-0 locomotive. The locomotive, carrying the fictitious British Railways number of 90775, runs around its train at Leicester North on 19th July 2002.

The new Great Central Railway (operated by the Main Line Steam Trust) is one of the country's leading preserved lines, and as such is host to many large locomotives. One such visitor was this former War Department 'Austerity' 2-10-0 locomotive. The locomotive, carrying the fictitious British Railways number of 90775, runs around its train at Leicester North on 19th July 2002.
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Nottingham Victoria station has often been described as being 'cathedral-like' inside. It certainly was a huge site, and it's therefore not surprising that the land would be snapped up for development. Even before the line closed in 1969, work was underway to build a shopping centre, appropriately named the Victoria Centre, on the site. The developers, however, chose to keep the original station clock tower as the focal point to the new centre. Here we see the tower looking rather ill at ease with its surroundings in September 2002.

Nottingham Victoria station has often been described as being 'cathedral-like' inside. It certainly was a huge site, and it's therefore not surprising that the land would be snapped up for development. Even before the line closed in 1969, work was underway to build a shopping centre, appropriately named the Victoria Centre, on the site. The developers, however, chose to keep the original station clock tower as the focal point to the new centre. Here we see the tower looking rather ill at ease with its surroundings in September 2002.
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