Golden age of steam when Derby had two stations on the main rail line
IT doesn't seem that long ago that Derby was graced with two main railway stations, with the sight and sound of trains running through to Derby Midland and Friar Gate stations.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, this ex-GNR/LNER Friar Gate station was usually used for many popular excursions to the seaside resorts of Skegness and Mablethorpe. I still have fond memories of these services, which were later transferred to Derby Midland.
The Friar Gate line, however, was originally built by the GNR to exploit the coalfields and markets of the time and to compete with the Midland Railway, passenger traffic being of secondary importance.
I have searched through some of my photographs and have found this British Railways Standard 9F locomotive passing through Friar Gate station in the 1960s (main image).
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This should also be of interest to those who have been following the debate in Bygones about large, heavy engines using the Friar Gate line.
The 9F was among one of the largest engines to be used in Britain and, as such, it would at first appear that this would make it an unlikely sight on the Friar Gate line.
But although probably appearing larger in size, these engines were actually lighter than the A3s and A4s.
The A4s (with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement) weighed in at around 165 tons (including tender) and the A3s (again 4-6-2) were slightly lighter.
But the 9Fs were around 141 tons (including tender) and, more importantly, these locomotives had a 2-10-0 wheel arrangement.
Significantly and most importantly, therefore, the 9Fs also had a lighter axle load due to their greater number of driving axles/wheels being able to spread their load. So, as on this occasion, they were sometimes permitted on this route and thus able to cross the weight-restricted, wrought iron Bennerley Viaduct over the Erewash Valley, near Ilkeston.
The picture shows an unidentified BR standard 9F 2-10-0, hauling a Nottingham-bound mixed goods trains into the western end of Friar Gate station in about 1964 – possibly just before the station was closed.
The train has a clear road as indicated by the raised signal arm above the station canopy and building in the right distance.
After passing through the station, the train would have to pick up speed and momentum as it ran over Ford Street arches, under King Street and on towards Chester Green to enable it to ascend the long and arduous one-in-100 climb over the Midland main line and across the viaduct that crossed the Little Eaton branch of the Derby Canal and then on towards Breadsall village and station.
The viaduct stood adjacent to Mansfield Road and contained the old Derby Racecourse platform, with a loading dock and paddock for the horses to be off-loaded or loaded sited just beyond its eastern end.
The remains of the platform still stand today on the newly formed Great Northern Greenway footpath and cycleway behind The Paddock pub, which was aptly named after the aforementioned facility.
Above the second wagon, Friar Gate station's brick-built lamp room can be seen. This would have been mainly for the maintenance and storage of oil lamps used to illuminate the numerous signals in and around the area.
Above the train can be seen the rooftops of properties on Friar Gate. In the right distance are the parapets over the Friar Gate arches leading on to Friar Gate bridge, with the top of the old flour mill in Lodge Lane also being visible.
Friar Gate station platforms and buildings appear to be clean, tidy and still in use, seemingly awaiting the arrival of passengers, although, by this time, the station had lost its platform canopies.
For comparison, the picture, above, right, shows how much has changed within the station area, now sadly neglected and overgrown with trees and vegetation – although most of the station platforms still survive beneath the undergrowth (visible in the centre of picture). The station buildings are now long gone.
Travelling further along the line towards Nottingham, the photo, below far left, shows an ex-LNER J39 locomotive hauling a five-coach passenger train in the early 1960s from Derby Friar Gate station to Nottingham Victoria Station (now the site of the Victoria Shopping Centre). It is pictured approaching West Hallam station.
The picture was taken from the road bridge, which still exists, looking towards Derby, with West Hallam station being immediately beyond the bridge.
Of interest on the right of the photo is an ex-GNR/LNER style "somersault" signal, which survived on the line until its closure. In the left foreground is an old plate-layers' hut that was once a common railway line-side building.
Plate-layers would have used the hut as a base shelter and to store tools used in conjunction with their work. They would walk, check and maintain the line in their local area and rectify any problems with the infrastructure.
Again for comparison, the picture, below left, is a current day view with the electricity pylon in the top centre and the trees to its right still existing and giving clear points of reference to the earlier photograph.
This area has subsequently been filled in and landscaped since the demise of the railway while West Hallam station building still exists today as a private residence.