Oral history workshop

Fig 1: Farewell to Great Central rail tour heading north approaching Kirkby Bentinck on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – David K Dykes

Last Day of the Great Central at Kirkby-in-Ashfield

The former Great Central (GC) main line closed as a through route on 3rd September 1966. The line through Kirkby-in-Ashfield was originally built by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSL) in 1892 becoming the Great Central Railway in 1897 to fit in with its London extension line which commenced at Annesley North Junction.

The GC was identified for closure by the 1963 Beeching Report, The Reshaping of British Railways (BR). Prior to this, a closure by stealth had been taking place since the BR regional boundary changes in 1958 when the GC was transferred from BR Eastern Region to BR London Midland Region. Through express passenger services north of Nottingham Victoria were withdrawn in 1960, except the York – Bournemouth cross-country train * and local passenger services between Nottingham Victoria and Sheffield Victoria were withdrawn on 4th March 1963.


  • Although the passenger train was known locally as the York – Bournemouth, during the summer timetable it was actually the Newcastle – Bournemouth (West). In September 1965 Bournemouth (West) station closed and the train then became the York – Poole or, in the summer of 1966, the Newcastle – Poole.
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Fig 2: Abandoned GC sidings at Annesley in 1966. Photo Credit – Kirkby Heritage Centre

The election of a Labour Government in October 1964 gave some hope that the GC would be reprieved but the closure proposals went ahead with Annesley GC sidings closing in June 1965 followed by Annesley Loco Sheds in early January 1966.

The Locomotive Club of Great Britain (LCGB) ran a ‘Farewell to the Great Central’ rail tour on 3rd September 1966. The rail tour commenced at London Waterloo via the GC main line to Nottingham Victoria and then north on the GC line via various lines in South Yorkshire before returning via the Mansfield line and re-joining the GC main line at Kirkby South Junction. Motive power for the Waterloo to Nottingham Victoria and Nottingham Victoria to London Marylebone legs of the rail tour was Merchant Navy class pacific, 35030 Elder Dempster Lines. North of Nottingham Victoria to Elsecar Junction and from Sheffield Victoria back to Nottingham Victoria via the Mansfield Railway, the motive power was double headed B1’s, 61131 and 61173, from Wakefield Loco Shed. The Elsecar, Penistone, Sheffield Victoria leg of the rail tour was hauled by ‘Tommy’ electric E26021.

More details of the Farewell to the GC railtour on Six Bells Junction website at


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Fig 3: Double headed B1’s, 61131 and 61173 pass Kirkby South junction light engine enroute for Nottingham Victoria on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – Malcolm Rush

Some local rail enthusiasts witnessed the end of the GC through Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Malcolm Rush was on one of his many visits to Kirkby South junction signal box and saw the double headed BI’s head light engine, south to Nottingham Victoria (Fig.3)

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Fig 4: LCGB Farewell to the Great Central railtour heading north at Kirkby South Junction on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – Malcolm Rush

Later on, at 1.34pm, he saw the special powering north (Fig. 4). Malcolm recalls that he hadn’t witnessed steam there being worked as hard as that for some time! Joe Street was further along the line when he took his photo (Fig. 5). If you look closely on the signal box veranda you’ll see a figure – that’s Malcolm, standing back after taking his photo seen in Fig. 4. Joe, of Lindley’s Lane, Kirkby gave Malcolm a print.

Malcolm then went to Nottingham Victoria to watch and take photos as 35030 returned to the Vic station from Colwick loco shed before taking over from the 2 B1s for the southbound return journey.

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Fig 5: LCGB Farewell to the Great Central railtour heading north at Kirkby South Junction on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – Joe Street, Malcolm Rush Collection

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Fig 6: Lenny Britain’s trainspotting notes at Kirkby South Junction on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – SB2K archive

The late Lenny Britain also spent the last day on the GC at Kirkby South Junction and recorded notes of train working that day (Fig. 6). lines.

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Fig 7: Last southbound York – Bournemouth hauled by Brush Type 4 D1572 passing under Lindley’s Lane bridge on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit: The late Lenny Britain collection.

This included the last southbound York to Bournemouth cross country train on the GC around 12.20pm hauled by Brush Type 4 diesel, D1572 (Fig. 7). Following closure of the GC this service was rerouted to Midland lines.

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Fig 8: Farewell to GC railtour heading northwards between Kirkby South Junction and Kirkby Bentinck on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

The late David K Dykes was situated on the footbridge near to the 44 steps, just south of Kirkby Bentinck, and photographed the GC rail tour heading north (Fig. 8).

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Fig 9: Last ever northbound GC Bournemouth – York in Kirkby Quarries. Photo Credit – Graham Upchurch

Earlier on the last day, Graham Upchurch travelled to Nottingham Victoria to see the Merchant Navy pacific and later in the day returned to Kirkby Quarries and witnessed the last northbound Bournemouth – York on the GC near to where it passed over the Kirkby-in-Ashfield – Pye Bridge Midland line (Fig 9) and the returning leg of the GC railtour on the Mansfield line between Kirkby-in-Ashfield Central and Kirkby South junction (Fig. 10).

Last Day of the Great Central Railway - 3rd September 1966

by Graham Upchurch | Steaming Back to Kirkby

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Fig 10: Southbound return leg of the Farewell to GC railtour on the Mansfield line approaching Kirkby South Junction on 3rd September 1966. Photo Credit – Graham Upchurch.

The Great Northern line remained open for freight through Kirkby South Junction until 27th May 1968, being singled just prior to closure. A small section of the GC between Annesley Tunnel north portal and Kirkby Bentinck sidings remained open into 1967 to serve Langton and Bentinck collieries. In mid-1967, Langton connected up underground with Kirkby (Summit) Colliery as part of the ill-fated Summit super pit project which closed in 1968. The Mansfield line also saw a few coal trains beyond 3rd September 1966 before being used to store redundant coal wagons. Official closure date for the Mansfield line was January 1968.

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Fig 11: Abandoned cutting of the GC and Mansfield line just north of the site of Kirkby South Junction in 1982. Photo Credit – David Amos

Following closure of the GC line and GN line, demolition trains took up the tracks in 1969 and filling in of the cuttings commenced in the early 1970’s. However, a section of cutting of the GC and Mansfield line remains following the discovery of some rare orchids in 1973. The site was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

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Fig. 12: Cab view from Sprinter passing northwards over Lindley’s Lane bridge in 1996, over the site of Kirkby South Junction on the GC main line. Photo Credit – David Amos collection

The Robin Hood line now passes over the site of Kirkby South Junction but at a higher level, passing over Lindley’s Lane and climbing southwards towards the former Kirkby tunnel (199 yards) whereas initially it passed under Lindley’s Lane bridge and headed southwards towards Annesley tunnel (997 yards).


Blog by David Amos and Malcolm Rush

Posted by SB2K Admin

23rd July 2023