New exhibition to celebrate 200 years of historic Mansfield railway

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Mansfield & Pinxton Railway, writes Denis G Hill, President of Kirkby & District Archaeological Group.

And to celebrate, an exhibition celebrating the line’s history has opened this week at Mansfield Musuem.

A surviving sketch from the early days of the Mansfield & Pinxton Railway

A surviving sketch from the early days of the Mansfield & Pinxton Railway

This exhibition shows 200 years of progress and evolution on what is England’s oldest continuously running commercial railway and includes a scale model of the Kings Mill Viaduct, an original rail and a specially produced 200th anniversary rail.

Little more than 200 years ago, discussions took place to see how Mansfield could be connected to the rapidly increasing network of canals, to boost the town’s economy.

Due to the terrain, it was decided not to extend the canal but to connect the two together with a railway.

Therefore, on April 13, 1819 the 7.5-mile Mansfield & Pinxton Railway was officially opened amidst pomp and ceremony, including a marching band, a bonfire in the Mansfield Market Place, the ringing of church bells, a procession, and feasting.

The original route went from Mansfield Wharf, over the viaduct at Kings Mill (which is the oldest railway viaduct in England), past Kirkby Hardwick, over the Summit, through Kirkby, Portland Park and New Selston before arriving at the Pinxton Wharf.

Thanks to the railway, coal was more easily brought into the town to fire the industrial boilers and furnaces and exports of stone, malt and sand, amongst other items, rapidly increased.

Mansfield had joined the transport revolution!

When you think about it, you realise this railway predates steam locomotion.

Those first wagons were pulled along by horses.

It wasn’t until 1849 that Mansfield saw its first steam locomotive.

Initially, only freight was transported but from 1832 passenger travel was introduced.

However, the story doesn’t stop there, because this line, although undergoing a few upgrades and adjustments, has been running continuously ever since; making it the oldest continuously running commercial railway in England.

Even when passenger services ceased, in 1964, freight continued, and today, the story has almost been reversed.

Half of the original line has now been incorporated into the Robin Hood line, while the other half, which branches off toward Pinxton, still carries a few freight trains each week.

We invite you to come along and learn more about a piece of your local heritage, that has national significance.

Details about a heritage Lottery Funded project to celebrate this railway can be obtained by sending an email to denishill1066@gmail.com

The exhibition is on until March 2 during normal opening times.