There used to be a main line railway that ran from Nottingham to London via Leicester and Rugby, arriving at Marylebone station. It was closed during the infamous Beeching cuts of the late 1960s and its former glory has disappeared into the memories of old railway men.
However, there is enough of the former Great Central Railway still around that the wisdom or otherwise of its closure is still a hot topic for debate more than 40 years on.
Some of the former Great Central has been preserved and re-opened. The most famous section is between Loughborough and Leicester North.
However, there is another section of that line, a few hundred yards north of Loughborough Central station, that still has rails and still sees trains. This is the route between Loughborough and Ruddington, just south of Nottingham. This is the home of the Great Central Railway Nottingham.
This preservation group started their operation in sidings just south of the former Ruddington station, serving a former MOD depot, so from the outset they have had buildings on their site that they have put to good use. The Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre, as the site is known, is not only home to the preserved standard gauge railway, but has an extensive large-scale outdoor model railway operated by the The Nottingham Society of Model and Experimental Engineers as well as a museum of buses and other vintage vehicles, an excellent model railway group as well as a restoration shed that is open to visitors, a Visitor Centre and the cafe and fundraising shops.
On Sunday, Sue and I went to the centre in the company of my mum. In fact we went thanks to my mum generously paying for us to go in. Although this is the nearest preserved railway to where we live, just across the city of Nottingham, we have not been regular visitors, so it had been several years since our last visit to Ruddington and we were very pleasantly surprised at the amount of work that had been completed there and that this is obviously ongoing. Their plans for the track layout and for station buildings are very impressive.
Obviously we wanted to travel on the train, so just before its advertised departure time we were a little dismayed that there was no sign of the train in the platform. In common with many preservation sites, Ruddington has rows and rows of rolling stock parked up in varying stages of dilapidation. It was clear that the coaches that we could see from the platform were most unlikely to be the ones that we would be travelling in. Our fears were unfounded as a diesel locomotive horn and steam whistle preceded the appearance of the nose end of a Class 20 diesel, evoking memories of from a few Summer Saturday Specials to the East Coast back in the 1970s and, of course those ubiquitous double-headed coal trains in and out of Toton.
The Whistling Wardrobe was followed out of siding by a short rake of maroon mark 1 and 2 stock and a Robert Stevenson & Hawthorn Saddle Tank steam loco. After a shunt, it arrived in the platform where we quickly found our seats. I had already been busy with the video camera and continued to film as we journeyed down the track.
On our last trip to this railway the journey was a brief shuttle to 50 steps footbridge and back, but since then, the group has been given access to the main line southwards as far as Loughborough Junction.
So this was a new stretch of line to us. I never travelled over the Great Central route in BR days, so I know that I was breaking new ground.
The ride quality was outstanding. I fact, it was Sue who commented how smooth the journey had been.
All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our day there and I thoroughly recommend a visit to Ruddington to anyone with an interest in railways.