Generous donation of ballast from Quarry company gives boost to track laying
Community involved with rebuild project – school children set to recreate Edwardian day out
Coming soon to the Great Central Railway, 900 metres of brand new track! A former branch line which once carried millions of tons of stone from a local quarry is being partly re-laid. The project is being undertaken jointly by the GCR and resident group Railway Vehicle Preservations Ltd.
The branch line ran north east from the Great Central Railway’s Swithland Yard towards the village of Mountsorrel. It was built at the same time as the main line, opening in 1899. It fell out of use in the 1950s, the track was taken up in the 60s and the route abandoned - until now! The Quarry it served is still operating, taking its stone out by a conveyor belt over another branch line formation. Working at weekends, volunteers have cleared the 900 metres and thanks to a generous donation of ballast from the Quarry itself, track laying is due to start soon.
Heading up the project for the GCR and RVP Ltd is Mountsorrel resident Steve Cramp. He said, “We’re very grateful to Lafarge Aggregates, who operate the quarry for agreeing to donate 2000 tons of ballast. This will form a bed for the re-laid railway to sit upon. Naturally it’s exciting to have the support of a major company and the fact the line used to serve their quarry makes an interesting connection with the past as well.”
The new railway will add another aspect to the GCR, demonstrating how freight trains used to arrive in Swithland Yard from the quarry, their wagons ready for shunting, so the stone could be sent onwards by train across the country. The local community have become involved in the rebuilding with even a group of school children helping to clear the overgrown route.
Steve continued, “There are important educational aspects to the branch, hence the tie up with schools. Village life was very different a century ago. Some Mountsorrel children, from the age of just nine, would work in the Quarry pushing wagons around. Rebuilding the branch provides an illustration not just of railway operation but rural life. It wasn’t all hard work though. Once a year, the Martin family who owned the quarry opened the doors of their house to entertain families. Children would ride in the wagons, pulled by steam engine to get there!”
Community support for the project doesn’t end with the clearing of the trackbed. Three wagons at the Great Central are due to repainted by local groups into the colours of the Mountsorrel Granite Company. An original vintage engine which ran over the branch line still survives and its planned to eventually recreate an original train from the branch and arrange for school children in period costume to pose with it!
The GCR also hopes on special occasions to provide the chance for visitors to ride over the branch line, albeit in carriages – not wagons!
Tim Deal, Senior Planning and Estates Manager for Lafarge Aggregates said, “We’ve been impressed with the work done so far to clear the original route of the branch line. It’s good to be able to support this Great Central Railway project. As a major Leicestershire employer, we take pride in getting involved with the community. It just so happens the stone, which once was carried over the railway, will now go underneath it to help in the rebuild.”
The branch line trackbed continues beyond the 900m section being restored, as far as Bond Lane on the outskirts of Mountsorrel. Lafarge and the Great Central Railway are working in partnership to clear this further section of vegetation. The total length of the line is 1.8km (1.2 miles)
Steve concluded, “Restoring this lost branch line has turned into a genuine cross community activity with local schools and the Rothley Youth Group, besides the GCR, RVP and the welcome support from Lafarge Aggregates. Tracklaying should begin later this year and will progress as volunteer support and resources permit. I’d be delighted to welcome any assistance. There are a number of jobs which can be done from home even if you can’t spare the time to get involved with the physical reconstruction.”
If you can spare a few hours of your time then please contact Steve Cramp, either by email email@example.com or by phone on 0116 2301374.
Details on the above and all forthcoming events can be found on the Great Central Railway's extensive website: http://www.greatcentralrailway.com/
Additional information can also be obtained from the Booking Office, Loughborough Central Station, (Daily 9.00 - 5.30) on 01509 230726
Voted number 12 on the list of the 50 greatest railway journeys in the world the Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. The preserved railway has been operating for over 30 years, and is manned by around 700 volunteers and a small team of permanent staff. Originally a main line from Sheffield to London, the 8 mile preserved section between Loughborough and Leicester is fully operational and the 4 stations reflect a different period of the railway's 109 year history.
Trains run every weekend of the year, bank holidays and daily in the summer. In addition, First Class Restaurant Car Services provide 4 or 6 course meals, whilst travelling between Loughborough and Leicester or childhood dreams can come true with a Drive a Train Experience. We also run a number of family events, including “Days Out with Thomas the Tank Engine”, Bonfire Night and Santa Specials.
The railway has won a number of awards including “independent railway of the year”, and a gold award for the East Midlands best visitor experience and is a quality assured visitor attraction as designated by Enjoy England.
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The Mountsorrel Railway is part of the Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre. This website is no longer updated. For updates see: http://heritage-centre.co.uk/