Mountsorrel Railway

Flying Phil

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Yesterday I had a ride on a DMU along the new GCR Branch Line - the Mountsorrel Railway.
Despite being just over a mile long, there are two stations, a large cafe with an adjoining museum section and the beginnings of a quarry museum section with sidings, a large shed and three restored local private owner railway wagons.
There is also a good nature trail with outstanding views over the countryside to Bradgate Hill.
This was the weekend of first public running and provided a very worthwhile visit, which many families were enjoying.
Well done to Steve Cramp (who was/is a huge driving force to the project, the local community,GCR and all other supporters and sponsors.
It remains to be seen how the Branch will integrate with the main GCR in terms of direct connection via Rothley??
......But it is an excellent addition to the railway preservation scene.
 
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Cowley

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I visited the cafe earlier in the year when staying with my cousin who lives in Quorn. It looks like a really good set up they've got there. Looking forward to having a ride on it next time. Is there a plan to run trains into Rothley does anyone know?
 

AndyW33

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Nunckley Hill and Mountsorrel are the two passenger stations on the line (both new-build)
The ORR will not permit scheduled passenger trains to run to and from the GCR proper without a significant rearrangement of the track layout and signalling at Swithland Sidings.
The current layout is correct for the Mountsorrel Railway as a mineral branch, which of course is what it was throughout its history until last year.
Funding and volunteer resource is as always in preservation the restricting factor in what can be done and when.
 

12CSVT

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Nunckley Hill and Mountsorrel are the two passenger stations on the line (both new-build)
The ORR will not permit scheduled passenger trains to run to and from the GCR proper without a significant rearrangement of the track layout and signalling at Swithland Sidings.
The current layout is correct for the Mountsorrel Railway as a mineral branch, which of course is what it was throughout its history until last year.
Funding and volunteer resource is as always in preservation the restricting factor in what can be done and when.
A bit confused. On what basis can the ORR dictate when and where a preserved railway can run trains over its own track ?
 

AndyW33

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Extremely easily.
Going right back to the mid-nineteenth century, a new section of passenger-carrying railway required an inspection by HMRI, and until HMRI was satisfied that it was safely constructed and equipped, the Board of Trade would not grant approval for it to open.
These same powers that were once vested in HMRI and the Board of Trade are now vested in ORR.

These rules are routinely applied to Heritage Railways just as to Network Rail controlled track. Why should it be any different? Both provide public rail passenger transport.
It is also the case that the Mountsorrel Branch was never ever approved for passenger use in the days when it connected to the national network, so even if there was some sort of grandfather rights clause, it certainly doesn't apply here.
 

Flying Phil

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Thanks for that information AndyW33 - As a matter of interest, how does the signalling/track layout need to be different for a "Mineral branch" compared to a passenger carrying situation?
Could the Mountsorrel branch not be worked in a similar manner to the Leicester North section? I realise that the Swithland sidings complex will make a difference, but they do get used during Gala events.
 

AndyW33

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Thanks for that information AndyW33 - As a matter of interest, how does the signalling/track layout need to be different for a "Mineral branch" compared to a passenger carrying situation?
Could the Mountsorrel branch not be worked in a similar manner to the Leicester North section? I realise that the Swithland sidings complex will make a difference, but they do get used during Gala events.
Well, to start with you need actual signals at the point where a passenger branch joins a fully signalled section of track, when that section is using absolute block. The modern approach is different, not least because everything is track-circuited or using axle counters. Expensive kit.

As you approach Rothley from Leicester North there are a full set of signals governing access to the station. This protects any train that might already be in the down platform and any shunting that might be going on in and out of the Carriage Works or Rothley Brook Siding.
Then the single line Leicester North section has a token instrument at Rothley ensuring that only one train can be in the section at a time, and this is interlocked with the signals. The token is also used to release the ground frame at Leicester North.
The Mountsorrel Branch has no signalling at all - never has had any. Nor is there any kind of interlocked token system. When a train approaches Swithland Sidings from the Branch there is a fixed stop point - in this case the traditional one of a white painted gate rather than a modern Group Standard "stop and contact signaller" sign, but the meaning is the same. In case the train doesn't stop, there's a sand drag. None of this is acceptable for passenger use, but fine for low-speed freight.
Then, the Branch makes its connection into the Up Loop at Swithland. That's fine for trains in the up direction, towards Rothley, once the signalling to get into the loop is provided and interlocked with pointwork. Unfortunately it isn't fine at all for trains in the down direction, from Rothley. The main line is double track at this point, and while there's a crossover at the south end of the Swithland complex to allow entry into the yard, it isn't signalled for passenger train use and the Up loop isn't reversibly signalled. So even to use the track layout as it is a substantial amount of resignalling is required, let alone providing a track layout that doesn't end up making it harder to run an intensive service on the main line.
The equipment has to be sourced - and you can't place an order for this stuff on your friendly local signal works, it normally comes from what's left over after Network Rail does a resignalling scheme and needs heavy refurbishment, the interlocking at Swithland has to be completely redesigned, and a small team of volunteers who are fully occupied with maintaining what's there already and planning and scheduling the work to be done when the GCR North and South are reunited at Loughborough (which is when all is said and done far more significant to the railway) will have to find the time to do all the work.
 
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Flying Phil

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Many thanks for that comprehensive explanation Andy - and you are quite right about the importance of the "Gap" work to be done!
 

SCH117X

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If the branch were to be linked in would it be simpler to make the up platform and the route through the sidings to the branch bi-directional as that would not need any track alterations.
 

Tomnick

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The Mountsorrel single line now terminates at a ground frame a short distance from the 'main line connection' at Swithland, where the points are set to normally run into a sand drag, that being the extent of 'normal' passenger operation. A staff is provided for the single line, interlocked with the signalling in as much as it is required to release the aforementioned ground frame (or the second ground frame giving access to the single line from the sidings at Nunckley Hill).

Between the ground frame and the outlet to the Up Loop at Swithland, the line is signalled as a through siding (which can be - and is - used for traffic purposes, e.g. recessing light engines, whilst a passenger train is shut inside on the branch proper - an essential part of the busiest special events). The connection between this siding and the Up Loop isn't signalled to passenger standards in either direction (no FPLs etc).

Although there is a signalled 'bang road' move from Rothley to Swithland, Down direction over the Up line, again this isn't to passenger standards - it's just a shunt move, without the integrity that would be required for a true reversible line. Even if there was provision for passenger movements, a regular shuttle from the branch, into the Up platform to reverse and (after carrying station duties) return to the branch, would hammer capacity on the main line itself - maybe just about achievable on a 'normal' weekend, but certainly not on a special event. There's no direct access from the Down Main to the Up Loop at Swithland itself either, it'd require a shunt move with a double reversal (no part of which is signalled to passenger standards).

My view is that, in the medium term at least, the only opportunity for through passenger workings is on an occasional basis, perhaps several round trips on each of a small handful of 'normal' (i.e. quieter) weekend days - running from Quorn, reversing in the Up Loop to access the branch, running straight through to Rothley when coming off the branch and finally reversing on the single line immediately south of Rothley to return to the origin. It might be a nice little attraction on an otherwise vanilla operating day, and the special arrangements that would be necessary would at least be minimised.

Any alterations to permit more regular through running would, in my opinion again, more than likely destroy the very essence of Swithland, carefully recreated to represent a busy main line passing through a typical set of exchange sidings and a mineral branch line (and it'd be a lot of work too, of course!).
 
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Flying Phil

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My view is that, in the medium term at least, the only opportunity for through passenger workings is on an occasional basis, perhaps several round trips on each of a small handful of 'normal' (i.e. quieter) weekend days - running from Quorn, reversing in the Up Loop to access the branch, running straight through to Rothley when coming off the branch and finally reversing on the single line immediately south of Rothley to return to the origin. It might be a nice little attraction on an otherwise vanilla operating day, and the special arrangements that would be necessary would at least be minimised.

Any alterations to permit more regular through running would, in my opinion again, more than likely destroy the very essence of Swithland, carefully recreated to represent a busy main line passing through a typical set of exchange sidings and a mineral branch line (and it'd be a lot of work too, of course!).
I think that would be a very good method of operating the Branch - Let us see if it can happen.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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The Mountsorrel single line now terminates at a ground frame a short distance from the 'main line connection' at Swithland, where the points are set to normally run into a sand drag, that being the extent of 'normal' passenger operation. A staff is provided for the single line, interlocked with the signalling in as much as it is required to release the aforementioned ground frame (or the second ground frame giving access to the single line from the sidings at Nunckley Hill).

Between the ground frame and the outlet to the Up Loop at Swithland, the line is signalled as a through siding (which can be - and is - used for traffic purposes, e.g. recessing light engines, whilst a passenger train is shut inside on the branch proper - an essential part of the busiest special events). The connection between this siding and the Up Loop isn't signalled to passenger standards in either direction (no FPLs etc).

Although there is a signalled 'bang road' move from Rothley to Swithland, Down direction over the Up line, again this isn't to passenger standards - it's just a shunt move, without the integrity that would be required for a true reversible line. Even if there was provision for passenger movements, a regular shuttle from the branch, into the Up platform to reverse and (after carrying station duties) return to the branch, would hammer capacity on the main line itself - maybe just about achievable on a 'normal' weekend, but certainly not on a special event. There's no direct access from the Down Main to the Up Loop at Swithland itself either, it'd require a shunt move with a double reversal (no part of which is signalled to passenger standards).

My view is that, in the medium term at least, the only opportunity for through passenger workings is on an occasional basis, perhaps several round trips on each of a small handful of 'normal' (i.e. quieter) weekend days - running from Quorn, reversing in the Up Loop to access the branch, running straight through to Rothley when coming off the branch and finally reversing on the single line immediately south of Rothley to return to the origin. It might be a nice little attraction on an otherwise vanilla operating day, and the special arrangements that would be necessary would at least be minimised.

Any alterations to permit more regular through running would, in my opinion again, more than likely destroy the very essence of Swithland, carefully recreated to represent a busy main line passing through a typical set of exchange sidings and a mineral branch line (and it'd be a lot of work too, of course!).
This seems a very good suggestion.
 

LowLevel

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Although as it happens nowadays the role of ORR has changed and it's up to the Railway undertaking to be able to demonstrate compliance with the Railways and Other Guided Systems regulations if required.

As a result it's more because the GCR's technical management have deemed the arrangements unsuitable by design for regular passenger operations that trains can't run on to the branch, rather than the ORR saying 'you can't do that lads'. The S&T department head along with others will have made the actual decision as it wouldn't be possible to demonstrate, if required to do so, that the necessary infrastructure was in place.

A technical point but one that has changed quite heavily the process for approving alterations to railways.
 

mr_jrt

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Ultimately, all of the GCR stations were built to enable eventual expansion to four tracks. Could the up slow loop not be extended to Rothley station and a new platform built for the Mountsorrel line? It doesn't solve the issue of the sidings being effectively cut off whilst the branch is in use, but it does enable the branch to operate as a single line independently of the mainline.
 

AndyW33

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Ultimately, all of the GCR stations were built to enable eventual expansion to four tracks. Could the up slow loop not be extended to Rothley station and a new platform built for the Mountsorrel line? It doesn't solve the issue of the sidings being effectively cut off whilst the branch is in use, but it does enable the branch to operate as a single line independently of the mainline.
The stations were indeed built so that they could be four-tracked. That didn't mean four platforms, the idea was to provide a platform road and a through road or running loop in each direction if traffic warranted. Even Leicester Central only got the standard solitary island platform (with parallel goods roads of course) though there were bays set into each end. You can't have a north facing bay at Rothley without demolishing the overbridge and the station building (which is Grade 2 listed so couldn't happen even if the railway's objective was totally commercial rather than heritage).
The line in between stations was never intended to be four tracked and land take was only enough for the normal double track main line. So to provide a third track between Swithland and Rothley would require compulsory purchase of part of the back gardens of some of the most expensive houses in Leicestershire (very unlikely to be successful). At Rothley itself in order to provide an additional road on the up side and a platform face it would be necessary to entirely remove the station car park.

So really, this is not an option and even if it was would probably cost more than reconstructing the layout and signalling at Swithland.
 

Flying Phil

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From the GCR website

Mountsorrel Running Weekend – Sat 22nd and Sun 23rd October

Mountsorrel Passenger Trains are scheduled to run on Sat 22 & Sun 23 October - subject to completion of certain infrastructure work. Trains depart from either Nunckley Hill, LE7 7SJ or Bond Lane (see directions below).
 

Flying Phil

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The Branch line has been the setting for a railway scene on the recent "Victoria" TV series. The Planet replica with a couple of carriages were used for a sequence with Prince Albert on the footplate and then with Victoria having her first train journey.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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The Branch line has been the setting for a railway scene on the recent "Victoria" TV series. The Planet replica with a couple of carriages were used for a sequence with Prince Albert on the footplate and then with Victoria having her first train journey.
That's interesting, I was wondering where that was filmed.
 

Flying Phil

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Copied from GCR "Rail Mail" 26/01/2017

"From the General Manager

The week’s highlight has undoubtedly been Wednesday's visit by HRH Prince of Wales to mark the opening of the Mountsorrel Heritage Centre. For obvious reasons of security, very little could be said in advance, but it was a memorable occasion for GCR and especially for our friends of the Mountsorrel and Rothley Heritage Centre – congratulations please to Steve Cramp and the whole team there for everything they’ve achieved over ten years.

GCR provided the loco, for HRH’s visit, and a sparkling Jinty no 47406 provided the honours. This was something of a triumphant return for the Jinty after its major axle box work in recent weeks, a test run having been possible only last Friday. A question posed by Malcolm Law (long standing GCR/ Mountsorrel volunteer) – has a Jinty ever before carried the Royal train head code?"
 

Cowley

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That's a good question about the Jinty. Congratulations to all concerned.
 

shredder1

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Yes a big well done, we had a tour of the Mountsorrel branch and Centre some time ago before the tracks were laid, and last year I had the opportunity to ride up the branch, well worth a visit.
 

DarloRich

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Is there not some suggestion of commercial quarry traffic coming out via the branch line once the bridge over the MML is complete?

Is this branch line a separate organisation or linked to GCR? Is there any chance of inter operations? I assume signalling & track availability would be the big issues
 

AndyW33

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The Mountsorrel Railway was built as an industrial branch, of course, and never carried passenger trains until preservation. The line was restored by a separate group, but closely allied to the GCR. Trains are operated by the GCR using its rulebook and safety case, and that is the basis of the permission to operate at all that was granted by the ORR (no grandfather rights here of course as it was never a passenger railway to begin with). The current permission also has a very tight cap on the number of days of operation that are permitted per year,
It also does not permit through operation onto/off the GC main line with farepaying passengers on board. This could be resolved with track and signalling alterations at Swithland, and funds are being raised to do this.

Constraints that would remain are that the line is unsuited to 63ft long coaches (we've tried and saw what happened) or locos larger than an 0-6-0 due to sharp curvature. Of the GCR's current operational fleet that permits just the class 101 DMU, the Jinty, various 08 shunters, and one short 56ft Mk1 non-corridor brake to be used. There's an appeal for funding to restore a second 101 DMU set to service.
The other thing to consider is that there is no way to run round a passenger train at Rothley, the DMU is fine, but loco-hauled trains need to be top and tailed or a turnover loco supplied. Ideally trains would continue to Leicester North, but line occupation over the single track section makes this difficult, and only the long term plan to continue the double track south of Rothley will really solve this.
Don't expect a fast resolution - resources are limited, both financial and people with the required skillsets, and a lot of both are already formally and contractually committed to restoring the link to the North, and building the museum at Leicester North.
 

DarloRich

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The Mountsorrel Railway was built as an industrial branch, of course, and never carried passenger trains until preservation. The line was restored by a separate group, but closely allied to the GCR. Trains are operated by the GCR using its rulebook and safety case, and that is the basis of the permission to operate at all that was granted by the ORR (no grandfather rights here of course as it was never a passenger railway to begin with). The current permission also has a very tight cap on the number of days of operation that are permitted per year,
It also does not permit through operation onto/off the GC main line with farepaying passengers on board. This could be resolved with track and signalling alterations at Swithland, and funds are being raised to do this.

Constraints that would remain are that the line is unsuited to 63ft long coaches (we've tried and saw what happened) or locos larger than an 0-6-0 due to sharp curvature. Of the GCR's current operational fleet that permits just the class 101 DMU, the Jinty, various 08 shunters, and one short 56ft Mk1 non-corridor brake to be used. There's an appeal for funding to restore a second 101 DMU set to service.
The other thing to consider is that there is no way to run round a passenger train at Rothley, the DMU is fine, but loco-hauled trains need to be top and tailed or a turnover loco supplied. Ideally trains would continue to Leicester North, but line occupation over the single track section makes this difficult, and only the long term plan to continue the double track south of Rothley will really solve this.
Don't expect a fast resolution - resources are limited, both financial and people with the required skillsets, and a lot of both are already formally and contractually committed to restoring the link to the North, and building the museum at Leicester North.
thanks - that is interesting info.

I wasn't suggesting that inter working begin any time soon just whether it was a realistic mid to long term goal
 

Cowley

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As far as stone coming from Mountsorrel goes am I right in thinking that there's an enormous conveyor belt system built more or less on the route of another branch to the Midland Mainline does anyone know?
If so then I suppose that's a very efficient system.
 
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AndyW33

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As far as stone coming from Mountsorrel goes am I right in thinking that there's an enormous conveyor belt system built more or less on the route of another branch to the Midland Mainline does anyone know?
If so then I suppose that's a very efficient system.
Spot on. A conveyor system runs on an alignment through the village/small town of Mountsorrel, crossing the main street on a very traditional railway bridge, then descends to dive under the A6 Mountsorrel bypass dual carriageway, then across the flood plain of the River Soar to the MML, where there is a large screening/grading/loading terminal and complex of sidings on the down side of the line.
It is possible to head either north or south out of the terminal without difficulty, other than finding a path across the fast lines.

Taking the stone out via the GCR would require a reversal at Swithland, a second one after crossing the by-then-reinstated MML bridge, and then descending the chord down to the MML slow lines, which faces south only. And of course all the stone handling facilities provided at the current stone loading point would need to be built at the quarry end instead/as well. It's a useful emergency back-up policy for the quarry owners should environmental considerations force them to give up the conveyor system, or when the current equipment wears out.
 

Cowley

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Thanks for that AndyW33, I might take a look at that next time I'm up there, sounds quite interesting.
 

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