Main Line Xtra

Flying Scotsman steams through Loughborough

World-famous steam locomotive Flying Scotsman hauled a main line railtour "The Cathedrals Express" through Loughborough early this afternoon, passing under the GCR's new bridge.

60103 has passed the site recently during the construction of the abutments and a small crowd gathered on the A60 road bridge to witness the recently restored loco pass by.

The charter had left London Victoria at 08:43 on route to York with a booked arrival time of 15:52.

We look forward in years to come to GCR trains passing over the completed bridge which will eventually provide us with a connection to the national network.

The bridge over the Midland Main Line is the first major milestone in achieving our long term goal of an 18-mile heritage railway. See for more details on the project.


Bridge installation takes place!

With a crowd looking on, the GCR's new bridge across the Midland Main Line has taken a major step forward with the two main beams being successfully lowered into place in the early hours of Sunday 3rd September 2017.

A more detailed account of events is available at


You may well have seen the Friends of the Great Central Main Line stand when visiting the railway and noticed the great interest that it attracts. The stand is crucial to the FoGCML as it communicates our message about the Great Central, the Bridge and the Friends to members and public alike. The more events that the stand can attend,the more our message will be heard, and the more progress on fundraising we can make.

At the heart of the stand is the "Bridge to the future" model recently updated by David Rae. The model along with the accompanying "Bridge" project video clearly explains the developing project and the impact it will have on the GCR.

However, the stand has to be set up, attended and dismantled. The more events we attend, the more people it requires to run it, with at least two present at any time. Our team now needs more members!

If you want to see the Great Central grow and prosper, the Friends’ membership numbers grow and help to raise funds by selling FoGCML merchandise and seeking donations then please consider joining the team.

The duties are not onerous and involvement ranges from helping out for a few hours through to assisting in setting up and dismantling. You will not need a technical knowledge of 'The Gap' as this is being well covered in media releases, or other aspects of the GCR, but if you are knowledgeable in these areas you can not only help the Friends but also talk about something you care passionately about with all sorts of people.

If any FoGCML member would like to help in any way please email me on

An email address will be essential as that’s how the team communicates.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Many thanks,

Barry Lycett

FoGCML Marketing and Committee Member

Bridging the Gap – Press Release

Great Central Railway ‘Bridging the Gap’

Bridge Installation

Saturday 2nd Sept 2017

Overnight – From 23.00 hrs – 07.00 hrs

Update: The timings for the first lift are subject to change but currently expected to be around 00:30.


Press Release 

It will be a night to remember! The Great Central Railway’s long held ambition to reunite two halves of the line will take a huge step forward with the installation of a key bridge in Loughborough. On the night of Saturday 2nd September, in a moment rail enthusiasts have campaigned decades to see, a 1000 tonne crane will install the new steel bridge deck across two concrete abutments.

The new bridge will one day carry Great Central Railway heritage trains over the tracks of the Midland Main Line below. As one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects undertaken by a heritage railway, ‘Bridging the Gap’ will reinstate approximately 500 metres of missing embankment, track and bridges – all of which were removed after the Great Central Railway was closed as part of a major rationalisation of the railway network by the Government of the day.

When the whole project is complete it will create an eighteen mile heritage railway stretching across the East Midlands which will create jobs and drive regeneration through tourism.

GCR’s CEO, Richard Patching stated ‘This is an exciting night for the Great Central Railway. For over 40 years, our supporters and friends have dreamt of work starting on the reunification of the line.  We hope to continue raising funds to complete the project and finally join the two railways.  We would like to thank our many supporters who have enabled us to get to this stage’.  Phil Stanway, Director of GCRN added’ As this first phase of the reunification project reaches an exciting climax, what was once deemed nothing more than a dream moves one step closer.  The bridge installation is testimony to all who have contributed so far’.

The operation to lower the bridge deck into place will start as soon as possession of the Midland Main Line is granted by Network Rail at approximately 23.00 hrs and work will continue throughout the night to be completed by 07.00 hrs when the trains start operating again on the Midland Mainline.

The project is managed by FJD Construction on behalf of GCR and work has taken place in collaboration with Network Rail who have supported the project and monitored the work to ensure there is no disruption to the main line operation. Contractors MPB have been on site since February 2017 constructing the abutments and preparing the site for this historic event.

Meanwhile Moore Steel of Peterborough have manufactured the bridge deck and will deliver the sections to site shortly before the installation work starts.

The crane arrived on site on 24th August, transported in sections and assembled on site in preparation for the bridge installation.

Rob McIntosh Route Director of Network Rail said ‘We are delighted to be supporting GCR with this exciting and ambitious project which will provide a real boost to tourism for the region.”

At a cost of £2.5m, this element of the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project is the most complex and has taken a number of years to complete, with funding provided through a combination of donations from GCR and GCRN supporters, a £1m grant from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership and £250,000 worth of shares purchased by Leicestershire County Council. Nick Pulley, Chair of the LLEP said, ‘The LLEP Growth Deal has been extremely successful for the Leicester and Leicestershire area and we are really excited by this unique project which supports the creation of an 18 mile mainline railway from Leicester to Ruddington (Nottingham South).  The GCR project will open up significant commercial and tourism opportunities to increase visitors by 60,000 per year.  In fact, this is the biggest investment in a heritage railway in the UK’.


Supporters who are intending to view the installation works should please view our Bridge Installation Safety Notes.


Bridge to the Future – Crane assembly begins

The 1,000 Tonne crane which will be used to lift the deck of our new bridge across the Midland Main Line into place is now arriving at the construction site in sections.

The bridge deck is being fabricated off-site and is expected to be lifted into place when the Midland Main Line is closed to traffic.

For the latest updates see

Bridge to the Future – Northern abutment takes shape

On Monday 17th July a photograph arrived from the Bridge to the Future construction site showing the first parts of the northern abutment now in place.

Seen first on Main Line Xtra, the photograph shows concrete sections which began to arrive on Saturday which form a void where concrete will now be poured to form the first level of the abutment to support our bridge across the Midland Main Line.

For the latest news on the Bridge to the Future project, please see

Midweek operations – unusual trains

When public services are not running, shunting operations and trip working are a regular occurrence at GCR with trains often containing vehicles not often seen together in regular service. On Tuesday 27th June an unusual train was formed in the "Up Through" siding at Loughborough ready for departure.

Visiting class 08 shunting locos 08683 and 08480 are seen in top-and-tail formation with a Mark 1 TSO coach number 4948 and two open goods wagons. These vehicles travelled along the line with the wagons returning to Quorn after the sidings were cleared to allow for the large marquee at The Model Event in mid-June, and the coach was delivered to the Carriage & Wagon works at Rothley for routine maintenance.

An “out of period” visitor to Rothley

In a brief distraction from railway activity, the peace of an ordinary Wednesday morning at Rothley Station was disturbed for 30 minutes by a rather modern but nevertheless essential visitor. A National Grid helicopter was seen carrying out inspections on the nearby electricity pylons and cables which run parallel with GCR for a short distance.

Visitors to the station enquired about the source of a mysterious noise as the trees which border the station initially obscured any view, before the helicopter appeared above the tree line. It is believed that a thermal imaging camera was in use to check for faults in the electricity cables.

The pylons run parallel with the GCR to the north of Rothley before crossing above the line at the south end of Swithland Sidings.

Great Central Museum – Work progress

Planning is now well underway for the new museum at Leicester North, which will be part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and built next to the existing Great Central Railway station. The project is a partnership between the GCR, Leicester City Council and the National Railway Museum, and is planned to open to visitors in 2020/21.


In 2015, the GCR secured a first round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a £10m grant allocation to build the museum which will house locomotives, carriages and other significant items, including from the NRM’s collection. The many exhibits will tell the story of how the GCR and other railways contributed to the social and economic history of Leicester and the County. The estimated cost of the museum is £18m with the HLF contributing £10m.


Architects WilkinsonEyre were selected last autumn with a winning outline design. Since then there has been continual refinement of the design details, involving discussion with the in-house track and signalling volunteers. They have produced a series of revised proposals including an alternative turntable position, a second (island) platform and buffer stops.

Drawing of the winning design looking south - Click image to enlarge

Drawing of the winning design looking south (this image does not show platform canopy extension or a second platform) - Click image to enlarge

Belgrave and Birstall looking south

The same view, during re-instatement of the track by volunteers in the late 1980s. The museum will be partly on the site of the former Belgrave and Birstall station – part of the old platform may be re-built.


"Iconic building" selected for new Leicester city railway museum - Click on image to enlarge

Aerial view of the winning design showing large external event space - Click on image to enlarge


Museum site plan concept - March 2017

Updated indicative site layout at Leicester North, March 2017 - Click to enlarge.


A museum project update and consultation meeting for volunteers and the public.

A museum project update and consultation meeting for volunteers and the public.


Leicester North will be a major new destination attracting visitors to the city from central England, nationally and from overseas.

Leicester North will be a major new destination attracting visitors to the city from central England, nationally and from overseas.


The railway is now recruiting a range of expert advisors to help with museum planning, as part of the HLF’s Development grant funding.  These essential members of the team include project managers, quantity surveyors (to pin down estimated costs), activity planners (to help consult with local communities) and a Business Development Manager (to help fund-raise for the project).
We are consulting with local schools, as learning will be a major feature of the new museum:

Message for teachers and tutors:

If you could please complete this survey, it will really help the plans. It should take about 5-10 minutes. All completed questionnaires will be entered into a draw to win one of two £50 Amazon vouchers. 

Visitor views survey.
Thank you to everyone who has taken part in our recent survey asking for views and ideas for the new museum.  These are being analysed for details, which will be incorporated in the Activity Plan for the museum.  There will be further announcements of opportunities to feed ideas into the museum creation process in the future.  The winner of the survey prize draw will be notified shortly.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Major Grants Programme applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery

Do you want to be part of our big project?
We are currently looking for volunteers to help with the following areas –
• Research on exhibition themes
• Assessing objects to the new museum
• Seeking and recording people’s memories
• Surveying the public and promoting the museum

If you can help with any of these, or would like more information, please get in touch at or call 01509 633853.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Bridge to the Future at the Model Event

Thank you to everyone who visited the Bridge to the Future / Friends of the Great Central Main Line stand at the recent GCR model railway event. Hundreds of people came to ask about the project and make a donation. Your support makes the work possible. A key attraction was the updated model of the project, now complete with a moving freight train - hauled by Ivatt 2 46521 no less. It’s great to be able to talk to people about the project and show them where the work is now going on!

The model was originally built by Alan Brassey and has been revised by David Rae. The project team would like to thanks Friends of the Great Central Main Line, FJD consulting, the David Clarke Railway Trust, Bachmann Europe PLC and the family of Mr Stan Tombs.

Our next running day

This Wednesday
One steam locomotive and our diesel railcar are in service this Wednesday.

Locomotive roster to be announced.
Click here for more details...

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