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Figure 1: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland railway station at Station Street in the early 1950’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

The Midland Railway at Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

The Midland Railway’s Leen Valley line from Nottingham to East Kirkby, now Kirkby-in-Ashfield, opened on 2nd October 1848. Construction of the line, in the era of Rail Mania, was just three years after the formation of the Midland Railway Company, whose HQ was at Derby.  The initial timetable saw eight passenger trains a day travel between Nottingham and East Kirkby and vice versa. The road from Kirkby station to the Nags Head crossroads became Station Street. Just over a year later, the Midland extended its line from East Kirkby to Mansfield with the first passenger train leaving Mansfield for Nottingham at 9.00am on 10th October 1849. The line from Kirkby Summit to Mansfield saw the original Mansfield and Pinxton horse drawn tramway converted to a standard gauge railway. By the early 1850’s the Midland’s Kirkby to Pinxton line, formerly the Mansfield and Pinxton tramway, was extended at the Pinxton end to join the Erewash Valley line from Codnor Park to Trent Junction. This gave a second option of Midland services from Nottingham to Mansfield via the longer Erewash Valley route. The Leen Valley and Erewash Valley lines joined at a junction at Kirkby Summit.
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Figure 2: 8F with brake van heading back for Kirkby Loco Sheds passing Manor Crescent, Kingsway, circa 1965. Photo Credit: David K Dykes
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Figure 3: Nottingham bound passenger train at the side of the Acre (Kingsway Park) in the early days of British Railways in the late 1940’s.  Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre.
From 1848 to 1892, two Midland lines crossed Urban Road at East Kirkby. In August 1892, the Midland constructed a deviation from its Kirkby to Pye Bridge line at a point near Kirkby Quarries to join the Leen Valley Nottingham to Mansfield at Kirkby Station Junction. The line across Urban Road, formerly the route of the Mansfield and Pinxton tramway, closed.  At the same time, it constructed a short three quarters of a mile branch at Sutton Junction to Sutton in Ashfield. Locally, this line was known affectionately as the Penny Emma line.
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Figure 4: Kirkby Station Junction in the 1960’s.  Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre
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Figure 5: 8F 2-8-0 on a coal train taking the Kirkby-in-Ashfield to Pye Bridge line circa 1964. Photo Credit: David K Dykes
The landscape of Kirkby-in-Ashfield was transformed in the 1890’s and first decade of the twentieth century by the sinking of two large collieries, Kirkby and Bentinck, in 1890 and 1895 respectively, and the construction of Kirkby loco shed and sidings in 1903. Kirkby Loco Sheds and Sidings were built to serve the expanding Nottinghamshire and north Derbyshire coalfield. Locally, Kirkby Colliery was known as Summit as it was situated at the summit of the Midland lines north of East Kirkby. Large sidings were constructed next to Kirkby Colliery and around the loco shed.
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Figure 6: 4F 0-6-0 leaving Kirkby Summit sidings with a coal train in the early 1960’s. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre
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Figure 7: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Loco Shed in the latter days of the LMS in 1946. The original three road Midland Loco Shed is in the background. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre
At the 1923 Grouping, the Midland lines at Kirkby went into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) and at nationalisation in 1948 into British Railways (London Midland Region). Kirkby-in-Ashfield Station was renamed Kirkby-in-Ashfield East in 1959.
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Figure 8: Train arriving at Kirkby-in-Ashfield East station in the early 1960’s. Photo Credit: Keith Murray collection

Rationalisation started in the 1960’s when the Nottingham – Worksop passenger services finished on 10th October 1964, a victim of the Beeching Cuts. It ran with steam locos until the end.  An unadvertised workmen’s train to Chilwell Depot survived until 6th September 1965. It would be another thirty-two years until Kirkby-in-Ashfield had passenger rail services again when Kirkby-in-Ashfield station, on Stage Two of the Robin Hood Line, opened in November 1996. Kirkby Loco Shed finished as a motive power depot (MPD) in early 1967, but remained as a diesel stabling and fuelling point for another three years.
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Figure 9: Kirkby (Summit) Colliery and Kirkby sidings in the 1960’s. Photo Credit: Notts Free Press collection.
Kirkby Colliery controversially closed in July 1968, it was being developed as a ‘Super Pit’ at the time, and in the autumn of 1970 Kirkby Loco Sheds and Sidings closed. At the same time the Leen Valley Nottingham – Worksop line from Kirkby Station Junction to Annesley Warren was severed to allow the National Coal Board (NCB) to mine under Kirkby tunnel. The line through the Summit and over Station Street level crossing closed on 2nd April 1972 when the Kirkby to Pye Bridge line was deviated to its present route through the town.
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Figure 10: Dismantled railway at Kirkby Summit in late 1972. Photo Credit: Derek Burke.
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Figure 11: Trackbeds of former Midland lines at Kirkby Station Junction circa 1973. Photo Credit: Arthur Upchurch Jnr.
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Fig. 12: Demolition of Kirkby-in-Ashfield station footbridge at Station Street in 1972. Photo Credit: Arthur Upchurch Jnr
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Fig. 13: Kirkby-in-Ashfield Midland station buildings just prior to demolition in 1981.  Photo Credit: David Amos
The redundant railway land at Kirkby-in-Ashfield was redeveloped in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Kirkby station buildings survived as a car accessories shop until 1981. The site of Kirkby Station Junction (1892-1972) is now Kirkby-in-Ashfield Leisure Centre, which opened in August 2022.
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Fig. 14: Painting of Kirkby Station Junction belonging to Cllr John Baird. Photo Credit: Cllr John Baird.
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Fig. 15: Site of Station Street level crossing and footbridge in 2013. Photo Credit: Kate Foote.
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Fig. 16: Kirkby-in-Ashfield railway heritage walk at the site of the level crossings on Urban Road – 23rd August 2022. Photo Credit: SB2K project
Blog posted by David Amos SB2K Admin 3rd October 2022