Leicester Central to Whetstone

These pages reflect the state of the line in 2002/3. Click on the structure numbers (black circles) on the map to the left to see a description of each structure with pictures where available.


The section of line between Leicester Central and Whetstone stations consisted of parts of both the second and third construction contracts on the line. The second contract ran for 16 miles 36 chains from East Leake to Aylestone. It was awarded to Henry Lovatt and weighed in at a respectable £548,835 - due in no small part to the cost of driving the line through Leicester. The third contract covered a distance of 15 miles 69 chains from Aylestone to Rugby, and was awarded to Messrs Topham, Jones and Railton, a firm of London based contractors who numbered among their achievements Singapore Harbour, Gibraltar Dockyards and the Johor Causeway. At £281,589 it was the cheapest of the seven contracts on the line and the last contract on the Northern Division of the London Extension. Construction began in November 1894.

Along with the rest of the line it opened to freight traffic on 25 July 1898 with passenger traffic commencing on 15 March 1899.

Leicester Central was one of the principal stations on the London Extension with even the fastest expresses usually scheduled to stop there. The station was set atop an impressive blue-brick viaduct - indeed, much of the line through the City of Leicester was carried either on viaduct or bridge. As well as the station, the Great Central also built extensive goods and traffic facilities in the city. These included a goods yard with a warehouse and a power house to run the hydraulic capstans used for shunting wagons; a locomotive shed with coaling stage and turntable; a carriage shed with associated gas works; and a wagon repair shop. The Goods Yard (divided into North and South) was a short distance south of Leicester Central. The two halves were divided by the Upperton Road viaduct which ran east / west across the site. The northern half housed the bulk of the goods yard infrastructure and the carriage shed, the southern half had the locomotive shed and associated buildings. Immediately south of Leicester Goods South, the line ran under the Midland Railway line from Leicester to Burton and then had a straight run south to Whetstone Station, the only structures of note on the way being the viaducts at Aylestone and Whetstone and the bridge over the Grand Union Canal.

Whetstone station was an early closure on 4th March 1963, but Leicester Central remained to the very end of the line on 3rd May 1969, albeit as the largest unstaffed station in the country for the last three years of its life. The locomotive shed was closed in July 1964, but portions of the Goods Yard outlasted the rest of the line by quite a period of time being rail linked via a chord laid onto the ex Midland Leicester - Burton line. Indeed, there is still track slowly rusting away in the grass on the site of Leicester Goods South - some of it in original Great Central chairs !