Charnwood Forest Railway
Interest in a Charnwood Forest Railway was first expressed by LNWR as a way of
getting a foothold in the coal mining area. In 1874 the Charnwood Forest Company was incorporated
to lay a single-track railway between Loughborough and the Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway (ANJR)
line near Coalville. A ceremony marking the beginning of work was held on a very rainy day, 31st August 1881.
The first turf was cut by Lady Packe of Prestwold Hall and Squire De Lisle wheeled the first barrow
load of soil over a plank, but, due to the rain he slipped and spilled the lot.
The line was some 10¼ miles long with 7 bridges over the Gracedieu
Brook and 22 road bridges or cattle arches. The gracedieu Viaduct was 40 yards long
with 3" by 15" coping stones from Mountsorrel. There was a rock face of 20 yards to go through at
Thringstone and in order to swing the curve at Gracedieu a cant of 6" was required. The line
also had a severe gradient of 1 in 66 between Whitwick and Coalville East.
The line was opened on the 16th April 1883 and in 1907 halts were added at Thringstone, Gracedieu
and Snells Nook. In 1906 there was a move to join up with the Central Line at Loughborough, but,
nothing came of it and the terminus remained at Loughborough's Derby Road.
It was worked from the outset by LNWR who had subscribed a third of
the capital in exchange for half the receipts. The railway was adjudged to be bankrupt in 1885 and
placed into receivership where it remained until 1909. On leaving the hands of the receiver
it remained a separate company until becoming part of the LMS in 1923.
In passenger days it was known as the 'Bluebell Line' or by the drivers and firemen as the
'Bread and Herring' Line. Passengers trains were operated
by an LNWR steam railcar (shown above leaving Whitwick Station), though 2-4-2 tanks. 0-6-0 freight and
0-6-2 'Coal Tanks' also worked passenger as well as freights. In 1922 you could leave Euston at 5.35
change at Nuneaton and Shackerstone and be in Whitwick at 8.32.
Passenger services were withdrawn on 13th April 1931, but during the war the line was of paramount
importance. Large amounts of roadstone from quarries was conveyed to new aerodromes throughout the
country. The line also served a number of ammunition dumps, the army ambulance train was kept at
Loughborough, rubber was stored at Shepshed and the USA Post Office was based at Coalville East.
After the war excursion trains ran on the line and on the 14th April 1957 "The Charnwood Forester"
was the last train to run through to Loughborough. The last excursion on the line
occurred in 1962 when the Manchester Railway Society ran an excursion to Shepshed and back.
Loughborough goods yard closed on 31st October 1955 and the remaining goods services closed
on 7th October 1963, except for Shepshed quarry traffic which lasted to 12th December 1963.