1. The HLF GCR and Leicester Council teams

National Railway Museum out-station at Leicester North £9.5million closer

Published: 11th June 2015

‘Main Line’ museum secures first stage towards Lottery funding

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has ‘earmarked’ £9.5million of funding towards the projected new NRM out-station at Great Central Railway’s Leicester North terminus.

Plans for the projected new museum, a partnership between The Great Central Railway, The National Railway Museum (NRM) and Leicester City Council, were first unveiled on submission of a £10million funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of November 2013. That bid was unsuccessful, but a revised application was submitted in November 2014 taking into account feedback from HLF trustees.

This time, the application has passed the crucial stage one process, meaning the project meets HLF criteria for funding and is viewed as having the potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. With the outline proposals endorsed to the potential tune of £9.5million a full application needs to be worked up and submitted. To assist preparation of the final application HLF has awarded £500,000 of development funding.

If the final application, which must be submitted within the next two years, is successful (and appropriate match funding secured) the new museum could open in 2019.

An East Midlands NRM

The core of the national railway collection is housed at the NRM’s York museum, but there are far more locomotives, items of rolling stock and other material than can be displayed at York.


The National Railway Museum at Shildon was opened in 2004. This forms an NRM out-station, funded from money raised from sources other than the NRM’s own budget provision, and enables more items to be displayed to the public and at a different geographical location. Locomotion centres on a specially constructed display building which houses locos and stock from the national collection. The site also incorporates the older Timothy Hackworth Museum with a running line linking the two locations, over which a steam locomotive provides brake van rides on high days and holidays. This comparatively short running line has a main line link. In addition, some NRM locomotives and stock are placed on loan to appropriate heritage rail locations around the country.

The addition of an out-station at Leicester North, to be known as ‘Main Line’, will bring a major element of the national collection to the Midlands, supplementing the existing Yorkshire and Durham locations. The location will also display NRM-owned exhibits alongside the terminus of an established top league heritage line already noted for its lengthy double track section which offers a taste of main line operation as it used to be.

The new building, the design of which shows similarities to the Locomotion display building, will have floor to ceiling glass windows with close up views of trains arriving at the adjacent GCR station providing a dramatic context for the static exhibits. In addition to displaying iconic locomotives, personal histories and small objects will help interpret the railways’ role in everyday life and how they transformed the city of Leicester, helping businesses boom and communities change.

Building ‘Main Line’ will create 300 short-term construction jobs and bring 9 full-time posts when it is open. An economic impact study undertaken as part of the bid process demonstrates the museum and railway will be worth £39million to the local economy over five years. This additional spending could, in turn, create more than 700 jobs in the area.

They said:

“We are thrilled by the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund,” commented Bill Ford, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway. “Main Line will combine our award winning double track main line railway with a unique collection of priceless locomotives and objects, preserving them for future generations. The museum will not only tell railway stories, but will aim to engage people with their own history, so they are inspired to be heritage champions in future.”

“This news means that we’re a step closer to creating an exciting new visitor attraction that will preserve and showcase the city’s rich railway heritage, while creating important new jobs,” added Leicester’s City Mayor, Peter Soulsby. “Main Line will house items which are of both national importance and local interest, complementing the nearby National Space Centre and Abbey Pumping Station and helping to enhance Leicester’s reputation as a visitor destination.

"We're delighted that the plans for this exciting project are firmly on track. Leicester had one of the world's earliest railways. It was also a hub of the Midland line. When the GCR opened in 1899 it was a calling point on the high speed railway of the time,” observed Paul Kirkman, Director of the National Railway Museum. “The new museum will ensure that key parts of the national collection are accessible at the heart of the country for the first time, but just as important we hope to inspire a new generation to get involved in our nation’s railway story. This is a project with strong local connections but with benefits that will be felt nationally."

“The Great Central has had a lasting impact on industrial and cultural life in this area and this investment will continue the railway’s important role,” said Atul Patel, Trustee at the Heritage Lottery Fund. “Thanks to National Lottery players, a world class museum will now be created providing a new home to some of our most significant objects and archives which together tell the story of the British railways.”

Accompanying image, courtesy Leicester CC, on the day the HLF success was announced shows Atul Patel (HLF Trustee and Board Member), Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester City Mayor), Bill Ford (MD GCR plc), Nick Rushton (Leader Leicestershire County Council) and, Bill Woolley (NRM Advisory Board).

Bridge to the Future appeal ‘bounce’

Donations to the Great Central Railway’s £1million Bridge to the Future appeal surged forward following news of the HLF ‘First Round Pass’ for the ‘Main Line’ museum project. At the end of May the appeal had topped the £900,000 mark and homing in on its target.

The ‘Bridge to the Future’ appeal was launched in June 2013 with the aim of raising £1million to finance construction of a replacement bridge over the Midland main line, repairs to the canal bridge and a new 330 yard embankment. This represents a central element towards achieving the dream of unifying the Great Central Railway (Loughborough to Leicester North) with the Great Central Railway (Nottingham)’s line (north of the main line at Loughborough through to the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre at Ruddington) to create an 18-mile heritage railway in the East Midlands.

With GCR(N) having an existing main line connection, achieving the reunification project would mean the new ‘Main Line’ museum would be accessible by rail from throughout the country.

A start on construction of the new bridge (a project in partnership with Network Rail) has been moved back from summer to autumn this year. The change is to tie in with work on the nearby A60 road bridge over the Midland Main Line, also part of the main line electrification project which opened this window of opportunity to reinstate the Great Central rail link. Contractors on the two projects will be able to share equipment and site compound space to make the most efficient use of resources.

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