Celebrating 200 years of the country's oldest commercial rail line here in Mansfield

Civic dignitaries welcomed the parade to Mansfield.
Civic dignitaries welcomed the parade to Mansfield.

Railway and local history enthusiasts flocked to Mansfield town centre to take par in an event marking the bicentenary of an historic railway line.

On Saturday (April 13) local history and railway enthusiasts celebrated the 200th anniversary of the historic Mansfield and Pinxton Railway with a march from King's Mill reservoir to Mansfield.

Hundreds of shoppers and residents took part in a celebratory event in the town centre with bands, fancy dress and displays commemorating the bicentenary.

The track is believed to be England’s oldest continuously running commercial railway and features England’s oldest railway viaduct at the side of King’s Mill Reservoir.

Organiser Dennis Hill said: "I was absolutely amazed by the support we had .

"More than 90 people took part in the procession and people came from more than 50 miles away to take part, many dressed in period costume.

"The market place was absolutely thronged with people.

"It was an amazing day with a great atmosphere.

"This is something Mansfield has got to be proud of and people largely knew nothing about. I think a few more of them do now."

There were three gazebos , one for bands and entertainment, the other for memorabilia and the other with an exhibition about the history of the railway.

The Kirkby & District Archaeological Group, in partnership with other local heritage organisations, obtained a Heritage Fund grant to enable the significant milestone in English history to be celebrated.

The group marked the occasion with a series of events mirroring the celebrations which took place 200 years ago when the line was first opened.

There was a walk from the Portland Viaduct - now known as the King's Mill Viaduct loosely following the line of the original track.

The procession was led by the Mansfield District Corps of Drums to Mansfield Railway Station to meet the Mayor of Mansfield Kate Allsop and Councillor Sue Saddington, Vice Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council.

There was a peal of bells from the parish church of St Peter & Paul; repeat from 200 years ago

Then the party was led by the band into the town centre, passing by a plaque that marks the site of the 1819 warehouse that once acted as the original terminus for the line. A barrow of coal was taken from the station to the town centre to symbolise the first load of coal that was brought into the town 200 years ago. The original event held a bonfire, using coal from the Pinxton collieries, on the market place.

There was music on a stage in front of the town hall kicked off by the Huthwaite Prize Band , Mansfield skiffle band Kick and Rush, The Saints Ukelele group with renditions of well known railway songs and Selston Folk Group.

Half of the line is currently incorporated into the “Robin Hood Line”, which enables passengers from Worksop, Mansfield and other locations to access Nottingham many times each day. The rest of the line still runs through Pinxton, carrying freight trains, several times each week.

A brief history of the Mansfield & Pinxton Railway

After many years of debate, from the 1790s, of how to connect Mansfield to the growing network of canals it was finally decided to make that connection via rail to the Cromford Canal at Pinxton, rather than constructing an additional canal.

Work started on the railway in 1817 and concluded in 1819, when it opened for business on Easter Tuesday. Initially it was used to transport heavy goods, such as coal into Mansfield and stone, sand and malt out of the town.

As the years went by, passenger travel was introduced and in 1849 the Mansfield & Pinxton line, which had recently been purchased by the Midland Railway Company, upgraded and branched-off into Nottingham, where it joined the main network. At this point, steam locomotives were introduced on to the upgraded line and continued to transport goods and passengers until they were superseded by diesel power in 1965. However, passenger services were withdrawn in 1965 but coal and other goods continued to be transported.

Fortunately, as the commercial side of transportation started to decline, after the closure of many local collieries in the 1980s & 90s, the passenger service was re-introduced in 1995. This continued use of the train line makes it the oldest continuously used commercial railway in England; some railway historians believe it to be the sixth oldest in the world.

The original line was enabled by the construction of a viaduct, which is still standing and accessed by the public on a daily basis and is recognised as the oldest railway viaduct in the country (just off Kings Mill Lane, Mansfield).

Conservation work and interpretation in relation to this viaduct is the subject of an adjoining HLF funded project entitled “King and Miller to Kingfisher”. These two projects will complement each other, and a representative of our group has been working closely with the Project Development phase of the other project, which is headed by Ashfield District council. One half of the original line is now incorporated into the modern Robin Hood railway line.

See more pictures of the historic even here