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Great Central Railway PLC


RCD’s Overview

This is one of the UK’s premier heritage lines and gets our very top rating.

This heritage railway runs from Leicester North to Loughborough and is unique in that it is the only preserved line with a substantial stretch of double track, giving the effect of a main line operation. Established nearly 50 years ago, it has an extensive collection of main line locomotives, and an intensive timetable of trains that operate over much of the year. It also has a large collection of heritage diesel locomotives and DMUs. It should be noted that there are two heritage railways that run on the section of former Great Central Railway between Leicester North and Nottingham (Ruddington). This line, by far the more established and substantial operation, has realistic plans to link with the heritage line at Nottingham (see entry for Nottingham Heritage Railway) to create an 18-mile railway. Why visit? This is one of the most impressive heritage railways in the country, and with running throughout much of the year, and its frequent services on a given day, it is well worth visiting for families and enthusiasts alike. 

The support group is the 'Friends of the Great Central Main Line' (see 'Information on the Suport Group' below).


Happening This Month on the Railway

  • Go to 'Homepage' and click into 'Railway Club Calendar'

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Leicester North to Loughborough

Principal Visitor Centre:

Loughborough Station (LE11 1RW)

Period of Operation*

- All year (Weekends and occasional other days)

- July and August (Weekends, Wednesdays and Thursdays)

- September and October (Weekends, Thursdays and selected Fridays)

- Late November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 


Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

Mix of steam and diesel on most operating days

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Full range of steam and diesel locos (large, mid and small-sized)

Length of Line:

8.25 miles (some sections, double tracked)

Time taken for a round trip:

1 hour 15 minutes

Number of trains per day:

Up to 10 in each direction

Number of Stations:

4 stations


Adult Rover: £22. Child Rover: £12. Family Rover: from £36 (Note cheaper return and afternoon fares also available)

Time to allow for Visit:

Half to full day


Yes, at Loughborough Station



Picnic/Play areas:


Preservation Established:


Car Park Facilities:

Loughborough: on-street parking in Great Central Road. Other stations: Parking available


Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- The Master Cutler (Friday evening)

- The South Yorkshireman (Saturday luncheon)

- The Charnwood Forester (Saturday evening)

- The Elizabethan (Sunday luncheon)

- The Midlander (Wednesday luncheon)

- The Rothley Rose (Wednesday evening)

- GCR Pullman Breakfasts

- 1st Class Afternoon Teas

- Fish and Chip Trains

- Real Ale Train 2022 

Event Trains:

- Winter Wonderlights: Late November and December

- Santa Steam Trains: Late November and December

- Paw Patrol: February 

Principal Galas:

- Diesel Gala: April

- Diesel Gala: September

- Autumn Steam Gala: October

- Last Hurrah Steam Gala: October/November 


- Range of steam and diesel driver experiences




Telephone:                                                           01509 632323


Social Media:                                             

                                                                              Also on Twitter


Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation

The Great Central Railway (GCR) was the last Victorian main line opened in the UK, its London extension opening in 1899. Including joint lines, it spread from Liverpool to Cleethorpes (west to east) and from South Yorkshire and Sheffield to Marylebone (north to south). Its network included the Woodhead route (and tunnels) connecting Manchester and Sheffield, a major cross-Pennine artery which was electrified at great expense in the 1950’s, only to be closed somewhat controversially in 1981. Originally the GCR was concentrated on the Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Grimsby axis, however the London extension changed it from a regional to a national railway. It also necessitated the building of 92 miles of railway from Annesley southwards, through Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby towards London where a new station at Marylebone was built. Today’s Great Central Railway heritage line runs along the London extension, in a middle section between Leicester and Loughborough. The line closed in stages between 1966 and 1969. In 1969 a preservation society under the name Main Line Preservation Group was formed to preserve as much of the Nottingham to Rugby section of the line as possible as a double track main line operating at main line speeds. This was a unique proposition, partially achieved when a double track section was created in 2000, on the part of the Leicester to Loughborough line it has preserved.


Principal Aspiration

In conjunction with the Nottingham Heritage Railway, to ‘bridge the gap’ and extend its operations from Loughborough to reach Nottingham (Ruddington).


Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) LMS 8F (Stanier) - No.48305

(2) BR Standard Class 9F - No.92214

(3) BR Standard Class 5 - No.73156

(4) BR Standard Class 2 - No.78018

(5) Hudswell Clarke - No.68067


Diesel Operational Locomotives/DMU:

(1) BR Class 08 shunter - 13101

(2) BR Class 10 shunter - D4067 (10119)

(3) BR Class 20 - D8098

(4) BR Class 31 - D5830

(5) BR Class 37 - D6700 B

(6) BR Class 37 - 37714

(7) BR Class 45 - D123 ‘Leicestershire and Derbyshire Yeomanry’

(8) Heritage DMU Class 101/111 - 50321, 59575, 51427

(9) Heritage DMU Class 101/117 - 50203, 59506, 50266


Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) Great Central Railway 8K Class (Robinson) (LNER 04) - No.63601

(2) GWR Modified Hall (Hawksworth) - No.6990 ‘Witherslack Hall’

(3) LMS 8F (Stanier) - No.48624

(4) LMS Class 5MT (Stanier) - No.45305

(5) LMS Class 2MT (Ivatt) - No.46521

(6) LMS Jinty (Fowler) - No.47406

(7) SR King Arthur Class N15 (Maunsell) - No.777 ‘Sir Lamiel’

(8) SR Rebuilt West Country Class (Bullied) - No.34039 ‘Boscastle’

(9) BR Standard Class 7P - No.70013 ‘Oliver Cromwell’

(10) BR Standard Class 2 - No.78019


Diesel Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) BR Class 08 - D4137

(2) BR Class 25 - D5185 ‘Castell Dinas Bran’

(3) BR Class 27 - D5401

(4) BR Class 33 - D6535

(5) BR Class 47 - 471705 ‘Sparrowhawk’

(6) BR Class 50 - 50017 ‘Royal Oak’

(7) Heritage DMU Class 122 - 55009


Stored/ Under Restoration/ Out of Service:

LMS Class 5MT (Black Five) - No.45491



Name of Support Group:

Friends of the Great Central Main Line

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £28. Senior: £25. Student and Junior £15. Family: £35


Benefits of membership:

-          Access to Main Line Xtra on the GCR website for additional news, features and special offers

-          Free access to GCR stations and discounts on fares including galas (except as advertised)

-          Special offers at the GCR station shop           

-          Quarterly Magazine, ‘Main Line’


How to Join:                                                  Go to


What They Say About Volunteering:

The Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. To keep this tremendous feat of engineering running we have a team of over 500 volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to preserve the railway for generations to come. These volunteers are supported by a team of paid staff who look some of the roles that could not be covered by volunteers. Please contact the Volunteer Support Team for more details, who can be contacted by email (preferred) at or by telephone on 01509 633853.


How to Volunteer:                                               Go to


How to Donate:                                                   Go to


WHY JOIN: Help the railway ‘bridge the gap’ and extend its operations to Nottingham.



Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this



Traditional Railway Societies:

- Great Central Railway Society

- Leicester Railway Society

- Lutterworth Railway Society

- Pennine Railway Society

Locomotive Socities (steam):

- Boscastle Locomotive Limited

Model Railway Clubs:

- Leicester Model Railway Group

- Lutterworth Railway Society 


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