Railway Preservation, by Ken Simms

Great Central Railway 50 Years of Preservation 

On the 15th March 1899, the first passenger trains operated on the Great Central Railway between Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and London Marylebone. 
Under the ongoing Beeching Cuts of 1963 on 3rd May 1969 the final train departed from Loughborough Central, Leicestershire signalling the closure of the station and the line as a whole after 70 years of operation as part of the country’s railway network.
The country stations including nearby Quorn and Woodhouse, Rothley and Belgrave and Birstall had already closed to passengers in 1963. Trains to London also ceased in 1966.
Early in 1969 a group of like-minded people met and set about saving a section of the line on which privately owned steam locomotives could run at speed.
In January1973 the first single track trains of the preservation era successfully ran at Loughborough  Central and by June returned to Quorn and Woodhouse, when I first visited aged 23.
June 2023, saw the railway celebrated its 50th Anniversary in Preservation. My project highlights some of the tremendous achievements I’ve captured in saving the railway for future generations.
During 50 years of preservation:

  • 125 year old bridges repaired and those missing replaced
  • Locomotives and rolling stock restored and maintained
  • Derelict stations and buildings renovated, a new station and other new buildings erected. 
  • Track relayed and a Double Main Line created with sidings and passing loops
  • Signals and telecommunications installed

There are still two independent halves of the railway that operate today with a long-held ambition to replace the missing kilometre of track through Loughborough coming together as one.
The vision and unfinished work of creating an 18 mile railway by re-unifying the separate sections,  North and South of Loughborough, shown in last seven images continues apace – projected completion by 2032.