The aims of the LNER (GC) Heritage Trust are the advancement of education, for the public of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, the East Midlands and Nationally, in relation to industrial heritage and all kinds of transportation, and to raise funds to further this objective.  The main activities include assisting in the development of the former Great Central Railway, the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre, and such organisations related to these operations, or such similar projects, which are considered to be worthy to receive the support of the trust.”

Railway History

The railway we support is a section of the Great Central Main Line, which used to run between London Marylebone and Manchester Victoria.

The Great Central was the last main line to be built in the UK (until the High Speed route linking London to the Channel Tunnel was constructed). It was known as ‘the London Extension’ because it provided a direct route from the parent Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway into London and opened in 1899.

As such the Great Central was the first railway to be built with mechanical equipment and was designed for speed – with shallow gradients and curves and to a larger loading gauge. It also had no level crossings. This facilitated the operation of high quality and high speed trains, a deliberate policy to lure traffic away from the more established railway routes. This resulted in a very distinctive approach of quality services featuring rapid acceleration and braking - with named passenger expresses of the Great Central being the Master Cutler and South Yorkshireman. However it is perhaps the famous ‘Windcutters’, carrying coal from the Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire coalfields south and reputedly one of the fastest goods trains in operation in the UK that enshrine the distinct nature of the railway.

On grouping in 1923, the Great Central became part of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and then on nationalisation part of the British Railways Eastern Region. This association seeing A3s, including the word famous ‘Flying Scotsman’, allocated to the route.

Whilst the line was superbly engineered, its late arrival on the railway scene saw it having to take a more rural route than its competitors, most notably the Midland Railway, and was always in competition with them. In 1958 the route was transferred to the Midland Region following which, perhaps inevitably, it was increasingly seen as a secondary, duplicating route and designated accordingly. Despite having good cross-country connections, allowing workings such as the ‘York – Bournemouth’ and use as a diversionary route, such as during the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, the route was slowly run down as services were removed. This was visibly underlined by the loss of the crack locomotives seen in earlier days to operating with worn hand-me-downs from Midland Region stock.

With the removal of key traffic and the reduction in attractive services inevitably the line was earmarked for closure, with most intermediate stations being closed in March 1963 and through traffic ceasing on 3 September 1966. A limited diesel rail car service continued to operate between Nottingham and Rugby but this itself ceased on 5 th May 1969. Key sections of the route were almost immediately lifted, sold and developed meaning there could be no reprieve.


Project and Heritage Centre History

1969 saw the formation of the Main Line Preservation Group (MLPG), established to preserve the section of the once unique Great Central Main Line between Nottingham and Leicester.

The MLPG and its successor organisations (now the GCR, David Clarke Railway Trust and Friends) concentrated on securing the section between Loughborough, Quorn, Rothley and then Leicester, first running trains to these stations in 1973, 1975 and 1991 respectively. The project to double track the route between Loughborough and Rothley was completed in 2000 to establish what has become the world’s only double-track preserved main line and faithful recreation of the Great Central during different phases of its operation along its route.

However the route north was never forgotten and in 1989 meaningful efforts were made to start to secure the section of route between Ruddington and Loughborough to fulfil the broader ambition of preserving the greater Great Central between Nottingham and Leicester.

Initial efforts concentrated on establishing a base at the former Ministry of Defence Ordnance Depot at Ruddington. Originally built in 1942 as Royal Ordnance Factory Number 14, its final use saw it as a main disposal site for military vehicles before final closure in 1983, rail served from the Great Central until the end. The original buildings remaining on the Heritage Centre were used by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers – with what is now our main workshop being their heavy repair workshop. The Depot contained 14 miles of track and over eighty points with a single road loco shed operated typically by a small fleet of steam and then from the early sixties, diesel shunters.

Transformation of the Depot into a Country Park in the early 1990's provided the opportunity to establish a transport heritage centre for Nottinghamshire and a northern base for the Great Central. The heritage centre was opened to the public for the first time in 1993.

Staged progress was made extending the railway, first to Asher Lane Crossing in 1994, then 50 Steps bridge in 1995, with trains returning to Rushcliffe Halt in 2000. Trains south to Loughborough have become increasingly regular since then. Ruddington Fields Station platform was completed in 2009, replacing a ‘temporary’ platform that served the railway well for 15 years!

Running alongside the railway progress, the Heritage Centre has also been developed. A locally significant bus collection has been established, focusing on local bus operators. The Centre hosts the Nottingham Society of Model Engineers and their fantastic miniature railway, allowing miniature versions of locomotives long since scrapped to be run and pull excited passengers young and old. Finally the Centre also hosts a nationally recognised model railway - centrepiece Ruddington - allowing an interpretation of just how extensive the railway in the village actually was.


The Heritage Centre before development

Image courtesy of J. Bagshaw (c)

The LNER(GC) Heritage Trust works with GCRN, East Midlands Railway Trust, GCR, David Clarke Railway Trust and Friends of the Great Central Main Line, to protect and develop the future of the railway. If you are interested in finding out a little more about the history of the Great Central Railway, then more information can be found through the Great Central Railway Society. You may also be interested in some other projects that are associated with the railway and transport heritage centre, such as the Nottingham Area Bus Society (NABS); the project to rebuild a Great Central Passenger Locomotive (the GCR 567 Locomotive Group); the Nottinghamshire Model Engineers (Nottinghamshire Society of Model and Experimental Engineers); the local model railway group (Ruddington Model Railway Club) or the group restoring the remaining GCR Rolling Stock (The GCR Rolling Stock Trust) Click on the links to visit their web pages to find out more.

Our regular members magazine - DRIVING WHEELS - is a key point of communication and information, where you can learn about what has occurred and what is planned across the railway and heritage centre.

The LNER (GC) Heritage Trust - and funding

The Trust:

  • Can only support projects that meet the aims and requirements of the Trust
  • Need to be satisfied projects represent an investment in the development of the aims of the Trust
  • May need to prioritise applications against established need
  • Can consider applications from organisations and their projects which offer the Trust a direct interest, benefit, share or ownership in a project or asset requiring support which enhances the aims of the Trust. For example the Trust may consider funding items given on long-term loan provided the guardianship and care does not introduce the Trust to undue risk
  • Expect good and objective engagement with applicants

The Trust cannot support:

  • Work that would normally be the responsibility of the owner or other organisation
  • Non-capital schemes, for example refurbishing, rebuilding, routine repairs and maintenance
  • General running, start up (e.g. appraisal) costs
  • Work to items on short term loan or part of a private collection

and the Trust cannot:

  • Cover liabilities of the applicant

Because there are currently many more projects proposed than resources available, the Trust has to balance project proposals against determined requirements, established in conjunction with the wider Great Central family. Higher priority will be given to projects that demonstrate:

  • They support the immediate requirements surrounding linking the two halves of the railway
  • An enhancement of visitor interpretation and education
  • Increase and strengthen the viability of the railway
  • An enhancement to the visitor experience
  • An enhancement of the core operational ability of the railway

noting that reference to the railway includes reference to the heritage centre

The Trust will engage with applicants to discuss proposals. Please contact us for an application form.