Great Northern and London and North Western Joint Railway
The joint line started from Welham junction and Drayton junction on the LNWR Rugby and Stamford Railway in the south. These junctions allowed traffic to join from either direction. The lines from these junctions ran north and converged at Hallaton junction and then continued via Melton Mowbray to Stathern junction, where the line split. One branch ran north west and joined the GNR Grantham to Nottingham line at Saxondale junction for access to Nottingham. The other line ran north to Bottesford junction on the same line, where curves allowed through running east towards Grantham or west towards Nottingham.
In connection with the joint line, the LNWR double tracked their previously single track Rugby to Stamford line between Rugby and Seaton and built a new double track line from Seaton to Yarwell junction near Wansford on their Northampton to Peterborough line.
The GNR built a branch from the joint line from Marefield junction to a new station at Leicester Belgrave Road, and a line from the end of the joint line at Bottesford north to Newark. They also built the Fletton curve in Peterborough between Longville junction on the LNWR line and Fletton junction on the GNR main line to allow trains arriving from the west to access the GNR station in Cowgate.
The line opened between Melton and Saxondale junction on 1 September 1879, and from Harby & Stathern to Newark and Melton to Welham and Drayton junctions on 15 December]. The initial services were Northampton to Nottingham, Northampton to Newark and Melton to Grantham.
The Newark to Northampton service was not a success, so was withdrawn on 1 May 1882. Bottesford South station was closed at the same time. The through services were replaced by a connecting services from Harby & Stathern to Newark.
On 1 January 1883, the GNR opened their line from Marefield Junction to a new station at Leicester Belgrave Road. Marefield junction was triangular to allow through running to the north or south on the joint line. From Leicester, the GNR laid on services to Grantham via Melton and to Peterborough North via Seaton and Wansford.
In 1900, the Great Central Railway opened Victoria station in Nottingham. The GNR built a connecting line and diverted all their trains to the new centrally located station, but the LNWR opted to continue terminating their trains at London Road station, now renamed London Road Low Level to distinguish it from London Road High Level on the new connecting line to Victoria. This did nothing to encourage growth on this route, and this fault was not remedied until 1944 when these services were at last diverted to Victoria by the LMS.
In 1910 the services comprised each way six per day on the Northampton to Nottingham route and the same Leicester to Grantham, three Leicester to Peterborough, two Leicester to Lowesby and one Leicester to Newark which interconnected with a Northampton to Nottingham train at Harby.
The Leicester to Peterborough service was stopped as a war economy in 1916, and Medbourne station was closed. The station was accidentally burned down shortly after. The track was singled but continued in use for goods.
The remaining Leicester to Newark train and the Lowesby locals had also gone by 1922, at which time the service comprised each way five per day on the Northampton to Nottingham route, operated by the LNWR, and four per day on the Leicester to Grantham route, operated by the GNR.
Unfortunately, several routes provided by the joint line competed with faster and more frequent trains of the Midland Railway. For example, in 1922, the Melton to Nottingham route was served by five trains via the joint line in around 55 minutes, but the Midland Railway provided fourteen on their route with several trains taking only 25 minutes. Similarly, between Melton and Leicester, the joint line provided four trains taking 53 minutes compared to the Midland's fourteen with a best of 24 minutes.
As a result, the joint line relied too much on traffic to and from minor intermediate village stations and by 1950 there were only two trains each way on the Leicester to Grantham route, one of these was a semi-fast timed to connect with the Flying Scotsman, but this was withdrawn in 1951. Regular services finally ceased on 7 December 1953. Summer specials, mainly Leicester to Skegness or Mablethorpe, which had always been the one bright spot for the line, survived until 1962. Through goods traffic lasted until 1964.
Many through goods trains used the line, especially between Market Harborough and Newark. Local traffic was mainly derived from ironstone workings near Waltham-on-the-Wolds. These working were served by a GNR branch line from Scalford opened on 5 April 1883. Waltham also had a station but it was only used for race specials and never had a regular service.
The line closed to regular passenger trains on 7 December 1953, but retained a healthy goods traffic and also the summer specials, but the specials ended and the through goods trains had been diverted onto other lines by 1962, when most of the line was closed.
A few fragments remained in use for a few years: The goods, coal and petrol depots at Belgrave Road were served by a rebuilt connection from the Midland Railway. This connection had been built for the supply of materials during construction and not used since. The oil depot was the last to close, on 1 January 1969.
An oil depot at Redmile was served by the line from Bottesford. The curve from Bottesford south to west junction was rebuilt for this traffic, it had originally closed in 1882 after being found to be unnecessary as traffic for Nottingham naturally used the line via Barnstone. The GNR owned section from Bottesford to Newark remained open until 1988.
- Bradshaw's Railway Guide, April 1910.
- Bradshaw's Railway Guide, July 1922.
- A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. Volume 9 - The East Midlands. (Robin Leleux)
- Franks, D.L.; others, "Great Northern Railway and London & North Western Railway Joint Line from Market Harborough to Bottesford and Saxondale via Melton Mowbray", www.meltonmowbray.steamrailways.com