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Fig 1: DMU Kirkby to Chilwell workmen’s train at Kirkby-in-Ashfield East station in 1965. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre.

Youthful Days – Part 4

Part 4 of local railway enthusiast Malcolm Rush’s memoirs. Malcolm describes how he used this Kirkby to Chilwell (via Pye Bridge) passenger train service, but only managed to do it one way!!

The Youthful Days of Malcolm Rush – Part 4

In Part 3, I recalled my journey on the last day of passenger train services through Kirkby on 10th October 1964. As it turned out, though, this wasn’t to be my last journey on a scheduled passenger train from Kirkby-in-Ashfield (East) station in the 1960s. A one train a day workman’s service in both directions, via Pye Bridge, survived until 6th September 1965. For more details about this train see the blog ‘Last Passenger train at Station Street 1965’ https://www.kirkbysteam.co.uk/last-passenger-train-at-station-street-1965/

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Fig 2: Last day of operation of the Chilwell workman’s train at Kirkby-in-Ashfield East station on 6th September 1965. Photo Credit: Kirkby Heritage Centre

I decided to use this train, which took the form of a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU), for a journey to Birmingham and Wolverhampton on 21st April 1965. Looking back, I now find it surprising that I didn’t tell my parents where I was going – I suppose my thoughts were that I was now a teenager and I was confident in my ability to undertake the journey. Perhaps, also, if I’d told my parents they might have prevented me going. Anyway, I’d looked at the train times between Nottingham and Birmingham and decided that the only way to get a reasonable transport connection was to take the train from Kirkby and change at Beeston. This worked fine on the outward journey and I had a good day, visiting the sheds at Oxley (Wolverhampton) and Tyseley.

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Fig 3: I recall this one almost caught me out – it was travelling quite fast. I was at Birmingham (Snow Hill) station, on my way to catch a train to Wolverhampton to visit Oxley shed. Hall Class 4-6-0 No. 5992 ‘Horton Hall’ storms through the station with a mixed freight on 21st April 1965. I still remember the thunderous bark from the exhaust as the driver opened up the engine as it entered the confines of the station. Photo: Malcolm Rush. Colourised version.

Although I saw a lot of ex. GWR engines it was clear they were in a sorry state. Most engines were devoid of cab side number plates and the named engines had no nameplates, the engines were all very grubby. Nevertheless, it was a red-letter day for me. My return train from Birmingham was running late and, when I got off at Beeston to catch my train back to Kirkby, I found to my horror that I had missed the connection. That situation called for some imaginative thinking. I started checking how much money I had and found that I also had a platform ticket for Nottingham Midland station. That would have been from a previous visit to Nottingham. Normally they were collected from you when you left the station but the ticket collector hadn’t done that. Now, my available cash on that day would run to a Nottingham to Kirkby bus journey, but not the extra Beeston to Nottingham rail journey. I decided to “wing it” and I was very pleased when the ticket collector at Nottingham accepted my platform ticket to exit the station!

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Fig 4: Class A3 No. 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’ heading towards Nottingham through Kirkby-in-Ashfield (East) station on 11th September 1965. Photo: Malcolm Rush. Colourised version.

Still in 1965 and back to Kirkby-in-Ashfield (East) station at about 09:37 on the 11th  September 1965. I saw the privately preserved Class A3 No. 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’ with a Gainsborough Model Railway Society special, heading towards Nottingham for the onward journey to London (Kensington).

This legendary engine had been withdrawn from BR service in January 1963 as No. 60103 and was sold to Nottinghamshire businessman Alan Pegler for £3000. The engine was overhauled at Doncaster Works, returned to LNER single-chimney form and repainted into LNER apple green livery as 4472. Pegler also entered into a legally-binding written agreement with BR to allow his engine to haul special trains on the national network for a term of three years, later extended to eight years. Because of this, the subsequent BR ban on steam in 1968 meant that ‘Flying Scotsman’ became the only steam engine to work on BR standard gauge lines during 1969. The engine then went on a promotional tour to the USA in 1969 and the rest, as they say, is history. After several “eventful years” she was bought, in April 2004, by the National Railway Museum at York, for £3.6m and now forms part of the National Collection.

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Fig 5: 4472 Flying Scotsman on a special train on 29th March 1969 passing the Corner Pin Social Club, Lindley’s Lane, on the climb from Pinxton to Kirkby Station Junction. Photo Credit: A. Upchurch Jnr

There is a nice little story here which relates to one Saturday in 1969 when I, and my school pal Owen Llewellyn, went to Nottingham to take a written test as part of the selection procedure to join the G.P.O. as Trainee Technician (Apprentices). My brother Gordon drove us both to Nottingham and, after having taken the tests, we headed off to Mansfield because No. 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’ was due to haul a special train through Mansfield. We decided to go to Mansfield South Junction to watch the train and so our car journey took us up Sheepbridge Lane (towards the main Mansfield to Sutton road, now the A38). We didn’t get parked, though, because just as we were approaching the railway bridge we saw ‘Flying Scotsman’ speeding past, right to left and I remember seeing the curved nameplate above the centre wheel splasher, just like my memories of an A3 above the cattle market subway at Retford described in Part 1!

(See the SB2K Blog, 4472 Flying Scotsman at Kirkby-in-Ashfield http://www.kirkbysteam.co.uk/4472-flying-scotsman-at-kirkby-in-ashfield/ 

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Fig. 6: On 10th November 1995, Transport Secretary, George Young, inaugurated Stage 2 of the Robin Hood Line at Mansfield Woodhouse station. Regular passenger services commenced on 20th November 1995. Photo Credit – David Amos collection

Returning to scheduled passenger trains at Kirkby, and moving forwards 30 years to 20th November 1995, it was with great delight that I took my seat on the 05:45 train from Nottingham to Mansfield Woodhouse. This was the first day of the Robin Hood Line service when it was extended to Mansfield Woodhouse. At that time I worked in Nottingham and my commuting journeys were undertaken by car. However, on that November day, I undertook an early drive to Nottingham, parked my car and walked to the station to catch the train to Mansfield Woodhouse and back.

From then on I used the service many times between 1995 and 2003 commuting to Nottingham or further afield as I travelled to BT meetings. In 2003 I moved offices to Mansfield but I still used the service whenever I needed to attend meetings away from Mansfield. Although the Covid pandemic has affected things, particularly the half-hourly frequency, the service should survive for many years, giving the local communities a chance to use alternative transport modes.

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Fig 7: Map showing the 3 stages of the Robin Hood Line project which reinstated passenger rail services between Nottingham and Worksop. Photo Credit – David Amos collection

The re-opened Robin Hood Line had been sponsored by Nottinghamshire County Council, along with Derbyshire County Council and Nottingham City Council and the first timetables reflected those contributions, rather than the corporate image timetable seen for most other lines (Fig 7).

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Fig 8: The cover of the inaugural timetable for the Robin Hood Line extension to Mansfield Woodhouse, from 20th November 1995. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush Collection.

Prior to the extension opening I remember reading newspaper reports about how Nottinghamshire County Council had been asked to take a vote on whether or not to proceed with support for the extension of the railway from Newstead to Mansfield Woodhouse, with the ultimate goal of Worksop. The line, in 1993, had initially had been re-instated from Nottingham to Newstead. However, the NCC vote gave them the support they needed and I believe, with hindsight, that decision was taken at a hugely critical time. In 1993 the Railway Act paved the way for the privatisation of British Rail. The ensuing organisational changes proved to be an immense challenge for the railways and, without the earlier commitment being made, I don’t think the agenda would have found room to accommodate re-opening the line from Newstead. Mansfield may still have been one of the largest towns in Britain without passenger railway station!

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Fig 9: My first Season ticket for travel between Mansfield Woodhouse and Nottingham. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush Collection.

I still have the ticket for my Nottingham to Mansfield Woodhouse return journey on the first day of operation, 20th November 1995. However, my ticket for that day hasn’t aged well and the print is almost unreadable. Instead, I show, in Fig 9, my first season ticket which I bought on 22nd November 1995.

However, David Amos has been kind enough to supply images of his tickets for that day, from Sutton Parkway. These are shown below as Fig 10.

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Fig 10: Nottingham to Sutton Parkway return tickets for 20th November 1995. Photo Credit: David Amos.

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Fig 11:  Prior to the construction of the Robin Hood Line the scene at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, about May 1993. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush.

I took this photo close to the footbridge which crossed the Kirkby to Pye Bridge railway (seen on the right of the photo). The bridge abutment in the top left of the photo shows the level of the ex. Great Northern Railway which left Kirkby South Junction for Langwith Junction. The Robin Hood Line follows the route of this track but at a higher level, before dropping down to meet the Pye Bridge line at Lane End Junction.

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 Fig 12: Stepping back in time it’s 20th June 1959 and a Stanier Class 3 2-6-2T pounds up the last few yards of the long climb from Hucknall before diving into Kirkby tunnel. Photo Credit: Jack Cupit

Although Annesley loco shed and the massive Annesley marshalling yards are out of sight, the former Great Central main line just south of Annesley tunnel can be seen in the  background on the left.

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Fig 13: This is the view of Annesley shed (seen at the top right of the photo), taken from the coaling plant. A BR Standard 9F 2-10-0 is on the turntable. Photo Credit: Chris Ward’s Annesley Fireman Website.

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Fig 14: This OS map provides a positioning link for the previous 2 photos, Figs 12 & 13.

The re-opened Robin Hood line to Mansfield Woodhouse didn’t meet with universal approval and during the first year of operation various letters were published which seemed to undermine the principle of why the railway was restored. To my eyes these letters appeared to come from “armchair critics” who had probably not experienced the journey themselves. As a regular user of the line it came a point when I felt that some balance needed to be introduced to the debate and my published letter in the Nottingham Evening Post is shown below as Fig 15. I remember that, after this, the published letters of criticism dried up.

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Fig 15: My published letter in the Nottingham Evening Post in 1996