Single to Trent, please! Vital railway station in the middle of nowhere
IN the summer of 1839, the Midland Counties Railway opened its line from Derby to Nottingham to passenger traffic with four intermediate stations in Borrowash, Breaston, Long Eaton and Beeston.
A station in Spondon opening later that year.
To avoid confusion with Beeston, the station at Breaston was re-named Sawley in 1840 – my grandfather was the stationmaster there when it closed in 1930.
Also in 1840, the company's extension south to Leicester was completed.
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In 1844, the company amalgamated with the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway and the North Midland Railway to form the Midland Railway, with Derby as its headquarters.
Three years later, the Erewash Valley line was opened, and, finally, the branch line to Stenson Junction providing the connection to Birmingham was instituted in 1873.
Further stations on the Derby to Nottingham line were opened, Draycott in 1852, Attenborough in 1864, and Sawley Junction in December 1888.
With new junctions and the rearrangement of the layout of lines in the vicinity, a station called simply Trent was opened on May 1, 1862.
Sited in the south-east corner of Derbyshire, the county town of Derby was just over nine miles to the west and Nottingham just under seven miles to the east.
Its original purpose was not to serve the nearby settlement of Long Eaton, that already had a station at Meadow Lane, which, when closed and demolished later, moved to a more central position in the town.
The direct line from there to Platt's crossing became Trent girder yard, with the truncated line from Sawley Junction realigned to connect at Trent Station North Junction.
Sir Edmund Beckett, who in the 19th century was closely connected with the birth of independent railway companies, wrote of Trent: "You arrive at Trent, but where that is I cannot tell. I suppose it is somewhere near the River Trent, but then the Trent is a very long river.
"You get out of your train to obtain refreshments and, having taken them, you endeavour to find your train and your carriage. But whether it is on this side or that, and whether it is going north or south, this way or that, you cannot tell.
"Bewildered, you frantically rush into your carriage, the train moves off round a curve, then you are horrified to see some red lights glaring in front of, and you are in imminent expectation of a collision when your fellow passengers calm your fears by telling you that they are only the tail lamps of your own train!"
Further to Beckett's comments, the phrase "Well, I'll go to Trent" was an expression that my mother would make when she was faced with situations surpassing belief.
Trent was a station without a town, 119 miles from London St Pancras, on the Midland lines of the London Midland Region. The River Trent, from which the station took its name, runs nearby.
The station was a sizeable one, with its single island platform. It included a booking hall, waiting rooms, refreshment room, bookstall, train crew relief cabin and a ticket barrier that was manned on the early and late turns.
This issued either a platform ticket, or a voucher to purchase a ticket to travel at the booking office. The signal and telegraph department had a room at platform level, while the permanent way inspector's office was located upstairs.
When it opened in 1862, it was surrounded by just an isolated farm, a cottage that was linked to a rifle range, the stationmaster's house and ten railway cottages.
With no buses passing the station entrance, and no taxi rank, many would-be passengers opted for "Shank's pony" as a means of getting to the station, either by using the 600 yards of sparsely gas-lit footpath from North Erewash Junction, or by the longer route down Meadow Lane and over Long Eaton Junction level crossing.
Some might say that Trent Station was one of the cornerstones of the Midland Railway empire.
Of Midland Gothic architecture, with its honeycomb of cellars and interlinking upper storeys, Trent's position and importance as an interchange junction for five main railway routes, through the superabundance of junctions, served London, Birmingham, Derby, Chesterfield and Nottingham.
Remarkably enough, trains could depart from opposite platforms in opposite directions to the same destination.
During each 24 hours, nearly 100 passenger and parcel trains called at Trent Station, with very few passenger trains not stopping there.
Local services were in the hands of ex-Midland Railway Class 2P and 4P 4-4-0s or Fowler and Stanier 2-6-4Ts, supplemented by the odd 4F class 0-6-0, with archaic non-corridor coaches on workmen's services, those then giving way to diesel-multiple-units operating between Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln, as well as between Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham.
These two routes connected at Trent to provide an interval service between Derby and Leicester that supplemented the Manchester to London (St Pancras) expresses.
The principle expresses from St Pancras, those heading to and from Manchester, generally avoided running via Trent Station, while services to Leeds/Bradford and the Thames-Clyde Express were routed through the station, initially to eschew the conurbations of Derby and Nottingham, from where connecting services were in place for the transfer of passengers.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were two rows of trees on each side of the station. Those on the north side are still there today, despite the remodelling of the junction when the station closed on New Year's Day 1968 and the building of an adjacent industrial estate.
Those on the south side were felled to allow the construction of high-level goods lines into Toton. These allowed the intensive goods workings to avoid Trent Station and also the two busy level crossings on the Erewash Valley line at Long Eaton. The high-level lines carried the heaviest freight traffic in the country and remain in use today.
In the early 1950s, much to the delight of trainspotters, there was an Anglo-Scottish transfer of half a dozen long-serving Stanier Jubilees between the Midland Division and Carlisle (Kingmoor), Perth and Glasgow sheds.
Other unusual visitors to the station would be locomotives for overhaul at Derby Locomotive Works, which would include those from Plaistow shed in East London, these often finding their way to the Derby works in a freight train from Wellingborough.
In addition, locomotives just out-shopped would often have a trial run from Derby to Trent, via the North Curve and back.
Conveniently, the use of the Sawley Junction – Trent Station North Junction – Trent Station South Junction and Sawley Junction "circular" route negated any need to run-round any stock on a loaded test run.
In 1954, the first lightweight diesel railcar emerged from the Litchurch Lane Works in Derby and, over the next five years, 1,000 such vehicles would be turned out.
A programme of driver training was undertaken between Leek and Rocester using the Churnet Valley branch line, the diesel-multiple-units returning in the afternoon to the Carriage and Wagon Works after running to Trent via Chaddesden and the North Curve.
Who would argue that school days are the best times of your life? No sooner had we trooped in for assembly when, just over a quarter of a mile away, a Jubilee would rattle by at 9.10pm with a London express.
Scant regard was paid to the music teacher when the lunchtime freight from Toton to Chaddesden went by hauled by a Beyer-Garratt 2-6-6-2T.
All trains heading towards Derby, except those via Way and Works, whistled a routing at Sawley Crossing and these could clearly be heard.
The Chaddesden freight trundled past with an endless stream of wagons, followed in the opposite direction by another Jubilee hauled express for St Pancras.
I was brought up on a diet of Stanier Jubilee and Class 5 4-6-0s and later BR Standard 5MT locomotives from the depots at Millhouses (Sheffield), Holbeck (Leeds), Trafford Park (Manchester), Kentish Town (London), Derby and Nottingham, as they were the usual first line of motive power on the expresses running to and from St Pancras, still assisted on occasions by Compound 4-4-0s.
Local passenger trains were usually in the hands of ex-Midland Class 2 and 4P 4-4-0s or Fowler and Fairburn 2-6-4T locomotives.
Freight traffic was handled by Stanier 2-8-0s and the mighty Beyer-Garratts, soon to be ousted by the introduction of British Railways Standard 9F class 2-10-0.
There was also the odd WD Austerity, plus the multitude of Midland Railway-designed 0-6-0s, many of which lasted almost until the end of steam in the area.
Among the variations was the daily working of Patriot No 45509 The Derbyshire Yeomanry, which, for a brief spell, was allocated to Derby shed and regularly worked the 7.35am Nottingham to Bristol service.
The usual Holbeck engine appeared on the afternoon Cricklewood to Derby (St Mary's) working, en-route to Carlisle with milk empties, while a Fowler 4F 0-6-0 invariably worked the evening "lettuce" train.
One freight that often provided a locomotive from north of the border was the 4.25pm Class C Leicester to Carlisle fully-fitted freight – often referred to as the "Boxer" – the engine being a Jubilee or Stanier 5MT, with St Rollox enlarged numerals.
Another working that occasionally produced a Glasgow-allocated Jubilee was a Sunday afternoon filling-in turn on a Derby to Nottingham passenger train, returning later in the evening.
Roderick continues his history of Trent Station next Monday.