John Speller's Web Pages Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - Great Central Railway

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The LD&ECR was originally planned to run 170 miles from the Manchester Ship Canal at Warrington to Sutton-on-Sea on the Lincolnshire coast, and as such was the largest railway scheme ever approved in a single session of Parliament.

In the event only the 56 mile stretch between Chesterfield and Lincoln was completed and opened in 1897. The 1895 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram shows the projected LD&ECR line from Lincoln coming in south of Chesterfield, turning north and running west of Chesterfield, and then joining the Midland main line from Sheffield north of Chesterfield so as to use the Midland Railway station at Chesterfield. In the event it proved cheaper for the LD&ECR to build its own station at Chesterfield Market Place, but this meant that there was no interchange at Chesterfield with either the Midland or the Great Central.

A Sheffield Branch was built from the main line at Langwith Junction to Beighton in 1900, running from there into Sheffield over the Midland and Sheffield District Railways. It had been intended to run into Sheffield Victoria, but the LD&ECR was unable to come to an accommodation with the Great Central Railway.

The line was in competition with the Great Central at Sheffield, Chesterfield and Lincoln, and thus incurred the ire of Sir Edward Watkin who described it in the Commons as being "as mad a scheme as ever came before Parliament."

Nonetheless the LD&ECR was a smartly turned out little railway under the very progressive management of Harry Willmott (b. 1851), the General Manager. He was also the General Manager of the Sheffield District Railway. One of his achievements was to persuade the Midland Railway to run joint MR/LD&ECR espresses between Sheffield and Mansfield. Another through express from Nottingham to Chesterfield via Langwith Junction was introduced in conjunction with the Great Northern Railway on 1 February 1903, but the through services ceased after the Great Central takeover of the LD&ECR.

The line had some fine little tank engines. Latterly the Locomotive Superintendent was Robert Absolom Thom (1873-1955), who maintained the company's Locomotive Works at Tuxford and later became J. G. Robinson's right hand man on the Great Central and afterwards "Mechanical Engineer, Scotland" of the LNER. Langwith Junction near Shirebrook was an important interchange point on the LD&ECR. Here the Sheffield branch joined the main Chesterfield to Lincoln line from the north west and there was also a junction with the Midland Railway's line south to Mansfield and a junction with the Great Northern Railway's line to Nottingham, which ran off to the south west. There was also a junction with the East Coast Main Line at Dukeries Junction.

The LD&ECR achieved its moment of glory on 10 September 1906, when it was asked to convey King Edward VII from Ollerton on their line to London. Uncertain about how to proceed, Mr. Willmott asked the advice of the London & North Western Railway, who generously agreed to lend the L&NWR Royal Train, and also pointed out - what Buckingham Palace had studiously failed to mention - that the Royal Family was normally expected to pay for using the Royal Train. From the LD&ECR the train traveled to King's Cross via Dukeries Junction and the Great Northern Railway.

Harry Willmott was forced into retirement by bad health in 1905 and the Great Central Railway took the opportunity to snap it up on 1 January 1907.
Map of the LD&ECR. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. To enlarge right click and select "view image"
Bolsover Tunnel a few miles east of Chesterfield was both the major engineering work on the LD&ECR and its undoing, since continual subsidence led to the closure of the line after World War II
Langwith Junction on the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway in about 1905
LD&ECR Royal Train at Ollerton on 10 September 1906 behind an immaculately turned out 0-6-2 tank No. 26
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