Great Northern Railway
& North Western Railway Joint Line
The Barnstone Branch
Harby & Stathern
Long Clawson & Hose
Waltham on the Wolds
Marefield and Tilton
Hallaton and Medbourne
Leicester Belgrave Road
and the GNR spur
The Iron Ore Branches
This site seeks to make available the research undertaken by D L Franks in his
book 'Great Northern and North Western
Joint Railway' published in the 1970's, with additional material and a
look at the present day track bed. Much of the text is lifted directly
from the hand of D L Franks. I have attempted to include as much photographic
material available. Material will be added as time
permits. I also recognise the invaluable work of P
Anderson, Anthony J Lambert, V Forster, V R Webster, W Taylor and Alfred
Click on pictures to
Great Northern Railway
& North Western Railway Joint Line from
Market Harborough to Bottesford and Saxondale via Melton Mowbray
market town of Melton Mowbray had the benefit of rail connections from a
reasonably early date. By 1848 the town was connected to Syston in the
West (1846), and Stamford in the East in (1848). The London & North
Western had reached Stamford from Peterborough in 1846. The West –
East railway link would eventually become a useful branch of the Midland
Railway with its eyes on the creation of a connection between Nottingham
and London via the town.
To examine, in any
depth, the background of interests of landowners, industrialists and
previous canal networks, who were put out of business by the arrival of
the railways, will require the reader to investigate other works. Here, through photographs and visiting some
of the main issues we will look at the line, its traffic and stations.
battles over proposals for railways in the nineteenth century are
voluminous. The power of landowners, industrialists and the railway
companies themselves cannot be underestimated. After a complex legal
battle in 1851, which culminated in a House of Lords ruling, the
Ambergate line became the unlikely ‘Ambergate, Boston and Eastern
Junction Railway and Canal Company’. Thankfully, the eastern end of
the line would become part of the Great Northern network and play its
part in our story of our joint line. The Great Northern purchase of
shares in the ‘AB&EJ Railway and the subsequent running powers
gained, enabled the GNR to run trains from Kings Cross to Nottingham via
Grantham. The Midland Railways anger over this development caused the
confiscation of a GNR locomotive for seven months. A resolution could
only be found by building a line from Colwick, the western end of the
leased AB&EJ Railway, to a new station at London Road, Nottingham, a
terminus that would endure until the end of the Second World War.
The latter half of the
nineteenth century had found Nottingham added to the rail networks. From
the west by the Midland Railway, and from the east by the Great Northern
Railway, each vying for its share of the lucrative coal traffic from the
Nottinghamshire coalfields. Charles Cecil John Manners, 6th Duke of
Rutland, an affirmed foxhunter, looked out from his seat at Belvoir
across the rolling countryside to Melton Mowbray where the winter
hunting season attracted the jet set of the time, European aristocracy,
Indian Rajahs and on occasion even the blood of the Royal House itself.
Much of the countryside, or The Vale as it is known, was owned by the
Duke who had consistently opposed the railways crossing his land. But
during the 1850’s a geological survey revealing iron ore deposits near
Waltham on the Wolds would alter attitudes and later enable the joint
north south railway.
By 1868 representations
were being made to the Midland and the GNR about the possibility of
building a branch line to Waltham to enable the extraction of the iron
ore. Interest was luke-warm but clearly the Duke felt that revenues from
leasing land for ore extraction were attractive enough to persuade him
to reverse his decision to keep the railways out of the Vale. The
ironstone deposits drew the attention and interest of William Firth who
was a GNR director and had interests in the Yorkshire iron industry. He
gained support from colleagues in the wool trade who bought fleece
from Leicestershire, to form the Newark & Leicester Railway Company.
The company enterprise was adopted by the GNR in 1871.
In 1871 the Midland
deposited a private bill to build a line from Nottingham to Melton,
skirting the north of the Melton Mowbray to meet their line at Saxby.
This would have the effect of reducing the freight traffic on the
Eastern Counties main line. Arrangements were also to be made for
passenger trains to cater the needs of Melton via a spur. In addition a
‘Croxton’ branch was proposed to service the iron ore deposits near
Waltham. The proposals were accepted by parliament for the Nottingham
– Melton line but the Holwell branch to Waltham was thrown out, which
assumes some Ducal influence to keep the Midland out, perhaps as the
plans would not have provided a station at Redmile near Belvoir Castle.
counter-proposed a Newark to Leicester line in 1872 but again the
foxhunting landlords made their presence known and only the Newark to
Melton section was authorised. The GNR renewed its application in 1873
with an additional line from, what was later, Marefield Junction to
Welham, three miles short of Market Harborough on the LNWR's Rugby to
Luffenham line, with a junction just over the border in Northamptonshire.
At a late stage in the proceedings the LNWR joined the GNR and the
following agreement resulted in the joint line as it was finally
constructed. The Newark spur at Bottesford and the line from Marefield
Junction to Leicester were reserved solely for the GNR. To make the
proposition acceptable to the LNWR a connecting line was added from
Stathern Junction to Saxondale Junction on the GNR line from Nottingham
The Bottesford south to
west curve was to have been the original connection between the Joint
Line and the Great Northern and it was built as a through line and
worked in the first years, but soon fell into disuse. It was not until
1894 that the Joint Committee took action and severed the line at
Bottesford South Junction. The Great Northern took over the lines
and put buffer stops in, quite close to the South Junction. In the last
years these two lines were brought back into use and the Barnstone
branch closed. The branch was used by the LNWR much more than by the GNR.
The belated interest by
the LNWR was driven by the bargaining over running powers. At the time
of the bills being in Parliament it was clear that the LNWR had an eye
on an entry to the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coal field and that it
became deciding factor for them. In later years when the Great Central
reached Annesley, north of Nottingham, the LNWR’s running powers would
extend to a southern entry into Sheffield. The other extensive running
powers the LNWR obtained beyond the Joint Line were to Doncaster giving
them access to the south Yorkshire collieries and also a nearer exchange
for Hull traffic. When the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway
was completed another opening to the north Nottinghamshire collieries at
Tuxford where a siding was set aside for LNWR traffic.
The LNWR built a
locomotive shed to the east of the GNR shed at Doncaster and a larger
shed near the GNR shed at Colwick along with extensive shunting sidings.
A new junction was installed at Trent Lane giving access to a new goods
yard, by a short branch at Manvers Street, which became LNWR property.
The London Road Station also had to be enlarged. Trent Lane Junction
later became a three-way junction when Nottingham Victoria Station was
built and a new station built on the connecting line. That made two
stations at London Road in close proximity and so came about the
"Low Level" and the "High Level".
The balancing running
powers granted to the Great Northern under the joint agreement allowed
running for all classes of traffic over the LNWR to Northampton where
they set up a goods depot at the Castle station. From Drayton Junction
the powers were only for coaching traffic to Peterborough.
The discovery of
ironstone in the area of Melton Mowbray and William Firths enthusiasm to
retrieve it made this rail starved area very attractive to investors and
established companies. For the railway companies the London and North
Western derived great benefit from the Joint Line by using it as a
through route, while the Great Northern reaped some reward from the
ironstone traffic of the district.