Fig 1: 16E Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed in August 1966. Photo Credit: Jack Cook collection. 

A Brief History of Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Sheds (1903-1970)

Kirkby-in-Ashfield lies in the heart of the former Nottinghamshire coalfield, 10-miles north-west of the city of Nottingham. Its staple industries in the 19th & and most of the 20th centuries was textiles and coal mining.  The Midland Railway arrived in 1848 from Nottingham via the Leen Valley.

The hinterland around Kirkby-in-Ashfield saw significant industrialisation in the late 19th century and early 20th century with the development of two new large collieries at Kirkby (Summit) in 1890 by the Butterley Company and Bentinck in 1895 by the New Hucknall Company.  The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, from 1897 to be renamed the Great Central Railway, arrived on the scene in 1892 and from 1898 to 1900 the Great Northern Railway opened its Leen Valley Extension line.

Fig 2: The original three-road Loco Shed and coaling stage at Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Midland Railway days. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

The original three-road Kirkby Loco Shed was built by the Midland Railway Company in 1903, to provide motive power for the coal runs in the rapidly expanding north Nottinghamshire coalfield. It was the last complete loco shed built by the Midland, Rowsley being being completed by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) following the 1923 grouping.

Kirkby was a ‘garage shed’ , a sub shed for 16A Nottingham Loco Shed, being responsible for running repairs and basic maintenance of steam locomotives. The LMS coded it 16C in the 1930’s.

Fig 3: Kirkby-in-Ashfield in 1946 in the latter years of the LMS.  Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

At the Grouping in 1923 it became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). During the grouping period (1923-1947) two classes of locomotive dominated at Kirkby, 4F’s 0-6-0’s and from the mid 1930’s Stanier 8F’s 2-8-0’s. Over 45 8F’s were allocated to Kirkby at its peak. (see Blog ‘Eight Freight Blues’

Fig 4: New automated coaling stage and ash plant were installed at Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed in the late 1950’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

At nationalisation of the railways in 1948, Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed went into the London Midland Region of British Railways, first having a Shed Code of 16C, then I6B and finally 16E. Following the closure of Mansfield Loco Shed in April 1960, Kirkby took on its work including the Chilwell Ordnance Depot Workmen’s Train.

Modernisation measures at Kirkby-in-Ashfield were first proposed in 1947 but took ten more years to come to fruition, following the 1955 Modernisation Act. Coal & Ash plants were installed in 1958, known locally at the time as Rocket Launching Sites 1 and 2, and an additional two-road shed on the west side of the original 1903 loco shed building. However, facilities were still inadequate for an allocation of over sixty steam locomotives and gas lighting remained. Unknown at the time, the coal and ash plants would see less than a decade of use!

Fig 5: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed in 1966 with demolition of the original Midland three-road loco shed taking place. To the right is the two road extension added in the late 1950’s. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection 

Kirkby-in-Ashfield officially finished as a Motive Power Depot (MPD) on 31st December 1966. The last 8F steam locomotives left in March 1967 to north-west England, the last bastion of British Railways (BR) steam.  Some former Kirkby locomotives worked to the end of steam on BR in early August 1968.

Fig 6: 8F no. 48270, one of the last steam locomotives at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, early in 1967. Photo Credit: David K Dykes

Rob Bradford and David Dykes witnessed the last moments of steam at Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed early in 1967. The original three road Midland loco shed was demolished in 1966, leaving the 1958 two-road loco shed and adjacent sidings as a diesel stabling point with a D16 Nottingham Division allocation until closure in the autumn of 1970. See Blog ‘Last Visit to Kirkby Loco’ by Rob Bradford at

Fig 7: A pair of Brush Type 4 (Class 47) diesels stabled at Kirkby-in-Ashfield loco shed in the late 1960’s. Photo Credit: Graham Upchurch 

The first main-line diesels, Brush Type 4’s (Class 47’s), came to Kirkby-in-Ashfield loco shed in 1964 to be followed later by English Electric Type 1’s (Class 20’s). The latter worked in pairs and formed standard motive power to the remaining local collieries in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields into the 1990’s. Various other classes of diesels could also be seen at Kirkby at times, including Sulzer Type 2’s (Class 25’s) Peaks (Classes 45 and 46) and Brush Type 2’s (Class 31’s).

Fig 8: An empty and derelict Kirkby-in-Ashfield loco shed just prior to demolition in 1971. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection

The adjacent Kirkby (Summit) Colliery controversially closed in July 1968 to be followed by the Loco Sheds & Sidings in the autumn of 1970. The last movements out of the Loco shed were on 11th November 1970. (see Rob Bradford’s blog Last Visit to Kirkby Loco  The loco sheds, coaling stage and ash plant were demolished in 1971 and all the remaining sidings were taken up.

On 2nd April 1972 freight trains finished running through the centre of Kirkby–in-Ashfield when the Kirkby to Pye Bridge line was deviated onto the 1972 deviation to the west of the original Midland routes. It incorporated a section of the former Great Northern Leen Valley extension line, with connecting spurs at either end.

Fig 9: Demolition of the coaling tower at Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed in 1971. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection

In less than a decade, from 1960 to 1970, over 3000 jobs were lost at Kirkby-in-Ashfield with the closure of Kirkby Summit colliery along with the loco sheds and sidings ! The ghosts of the Beeching Axe and the planned Kirkby Summit super pit remained engrained in local folklore from some time afterwards!

A ‘Summit Circular’ industrial heritage walk is on the Mining Heritage website at

Keith Murray’s OO gauge static layout of Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed and Sidings has been on display at the annual Elizabethan Model Railway Society exhibition over recent years. The Vimeo video clip (above) is from the 2017 exhibition.


Blog by David Amos

Posted by SB2K Admin

30th December 2022