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European Railroad Discussion > The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993


Date: 05/21/20 13:27
The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 86235

Today coal trains in the UK are as rare as hen's teeth but in 1993 shipping domestic coal from mine to power station in what was termed merry-go-round (MGR) trains was big business for British Rail. But the coal industry was facing a precipice. In the autumn of 1992 there had been a botched attempt by John Major's Conservative government to close 30+ mines, readying British Coal for privatisation. That caused such a furore that Major's government backtracked, but it was pretty obvious that the writing was on the wall for large scale deep mining for coal in this country. I remember a lunch at work with London Electricity's then chairman, John Wilson, probably slightly before the Major Government's pit closures announcement, he said that the two recently privatised fossil fuel generators, National Power and Power Gen, would be freed from an obligation to buy British mined coal, and that would cause a significant contraction in the coal industry.

So bearing all that in mind I found myself on a Saturday in March 1993 at Worksop in north east Nottinghamshire, a major hub for coal workings. From there I followed the (then) freight only line south to Shirebrook Junction where there was a triangular junction (north to east, north to south, south to east) from where I followed the line east to Clipstone Junction. Off the line east from Shirebrook there were then six working collieries and a coal blending site. Within five years only two were left, Welbeck and Thoresby, and they closed in 2005 and 2015 respectively.

But in 1993 in the space of about seven hours I saw 12 trains, empties and loads, and a light engine. Here are some:

1: This was Worksop, just to the west of the station. Trains from both the South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire coal fields were staged here, destinations included Cottam and West Burton, large 1000MW+ base load generating stations on the River Trent about 20 miles to the east. The locomotive is 58031, the 58s were a class of 50 freight locomotives designed by British Rail Engineering in 1983 and built to an innovative (to the UK) modular design. They were powered by a 12 cylinder 3300 h.p. Paxman RK3ACT with Brush alternator and traction motors. This was my first sight of one in service. 
2: What today is the Nottingham - Mansfield - Worksop Robin Hood Line was, in 1993, a freight only route between Worksop and Trowell, to the north of Nottingham, with an extensive eastern extension as far as High Marnham power station near Lincoln. They were a mixture of Midland and Great Central heritage. The first village south of Worksop was Whitwell, 58034 has more empties, presumably destined for one of the Nottinghamshire coalfield collieries.
3: This is the view the other way, 58014 emerges from Whitwell Tunnel



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/21/20 13:46 by 86235.








Date: 05/21/20 13:45
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 86235

4: Just to get away from the diet of 58s here's an older class 56, 56003 on loads passing Whitwell signal box. On this particular Saturday Whitwell was out of circuit so all signals were permanently off, the section running from Worksop West to Elmton and Creswell Junction. I'd seen 56003 a few hours earlier with empties so it had returned to one of the collieries, filled up and was now heading back to one of the generating stations either in the Aire or Trent Valleys.
5: This is Shirebrook Junction (the south to east curve), like Whitwell an archetypal Midland Railway signal box design, the spur 58007 has taken leads to the remaining section of the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway, an over ambitious late Victorian project which, eventually, connected Chesterfield in Derbyshire with Lincoln (never reaching Lancashire or the East Coast) and was taken over by the Great Central in the first decade of the 20th Century. Known as the Dukeries Route it became  much more profitable after WW1 when the coal field was exploited and a number of large mines were sunk. The last remaining colliery was Thoresby near Edwinstowe which closed in 2015. Today the line is retained and is used to test new rolling stock.
6: And finally this is the north to east spur, 58035 is heading east for more coal.

It was an extraordinary day which I never managed to repeat. I made a number of return visits in 1993 and subsequent years but never saw as many trains as I did on this day in March.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/21/20 23:20 by 86235.








Date: 05/21/20 19:07
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: krm152

Definitely like this series.  Have never seen many photos of coal trains in UK at one time.
Your photography is excellent as well as your subject and location choices.
Coal traffic here US has plummeted but probably not to same extent as in UK.
Thanks for your super great photo posting.
ALLEN 



Date: 05/21/20 19:49
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: tq-07fan

I really loved this set Nick. Ironically enough during that same era I was taking videos of coal trains in southern Ohio. I never thought they would go away. They aren't completely gone, just not near as many.

Jim 



Date: 05/22/20 02:03
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 86235

Thanks Allen and Jim, seems a whole different era when everything was built on coal. We only two coal fired power stations left now, and they are mainly on standby and both will close in the next few years.



Date: 05/22/20 07:32
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: RRTom

merry-go-round (MGR) trains - makes sense!

What does "out of circuit" mean?



Date: 05/22/20 09:49
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 55002

Lovely series of photos, Nick. I've enjoyed a few session around that coal field. It was a good place to get some 58s as well. Just to add to the story, I was at Worksop in 1990, tresspassing in the goods yard, waiting for some coal, but took a photo of the approaching DMU. I never noticed in the cab was a policeman, who must have got out at Worksop, and appeared a few minutes later to 'knab' us. Took names and address, but never heard anything else.  chris uk




Date: 05/22/20 10:04
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 86235

RRTom Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> merry-go-round (MGR) trains - makes sense!
>
> What does "out of circuit" mean?
Signal box is temporarily out of use, lengthening the block. Happens on days when the traffic is lighter.



Date: 05/22/20 10:06
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: 86235

55002 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Lovely series of photos, Nick. I've enjoyed a few
> session around that coal field. It was a good
> place to get some 58s as well. Just to add to the
> story, I was at Worksop in 1990, tresspassing in
> the goods yard, waiting for some coal, but took a
> photo of the approaching DMU. I never noticed in
> the cab was a policeman, who must have got out at
> Worksop, and appeared a few minutes later to
> 'knab' us. Took names and address, but never heard
> anything else.  chris uk

Thanks Chris, I'm sure I was trespassing too, certainly was at Whitwell, but the gate was open so I just walked in.



Date: 05/22/20 22:38
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: tq-07fan

That is a lovely signal picture Chris. 

Jim



Date: 05/23/20 07:42
Re: The East Midlands Coalfield March 1993
Author: heatermason

And the driver wears a white shirt and tie!  It would be interesting to make that go here in the U.S.



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