eat Northern Railway and London & North Western Railway Joint Line from Market Harborough to Bottesford and Saxondale via Melton Mowbray

Great Northern Railway and London & North Western Railway Joint Line

Bottesford and Redmile
The Barnstone Branch
Harby & Stathern
Long Clawson & Hose
Scalford, Waltham on the Wolds

Melton Mowbray
Great Dalby

John O'Gaunt, Marefield and Tilton

East Norton, Hallaton and Medbourne

Nottingham London Road
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 Howard Anderson, Anthony J Lambert, V Forster, V R Webster, W Taylor and Alfred Henshaw.


Click on pictures to expand


GNR-11ajpg.jpg (39394 bytes)


MeltonGNRa1.jpg (56245 bytes)


LonRd Prin Beatrice jpg.jpg (55527 bytes)

GNR-01a jpg.jpg (46482 bytes)


Jumbo saxondale.jpg (47536 bytes)



Great Northern Railway and London & North Western Railway Joint Line from Market Harborough to Bottesford and Saxondale via Melton Mowbray

The Leicestershire 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.

The parliamentary 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.

LNWR Sign.jpg (45875 bytes)

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.

The GNR 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 to Grantham.

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.

Next page

comments and feedback

14338578 Visits to this site since 8 April, 2006.