Latter days

After being off-loaded by the Research Division, the test track was managed by a division of the BRB's Department of Mechanical & Electrical Engineers (DM & EE) which was later re-named 'Railtest'.

This part of the railway industry was finally sold off by the Tory Government in the rush to divest itself of the railways and was bought in February 1997 by Serco Group plc, a UK-based facilities management company with interests around the globe.

The company was known as Serco Railtest Limited.

Work at the test track over the previous few years had been very limited, but included extensive testing of the Class 60 locomotive, the development of the Kershaw High Output Ballast Cleaner (HOBC) track machine and a Swedish rail head cleaning vehicle (known as 'the Scrubber') to name but a few. In view of the three year period up to 1997 with no new train orders, following the announcement of the plans for privatisation of the British railway system, perhaps it was no surprise, but things began to improve in early 1998.

The maximum running speed on the test track prior to its closure and upgrade was limited to 90 mile/h, with a permanent speed restriction (PSR) of 85 mile/h on the curve at Upper Broughton.

Click on a picture for the bigger image - all photos are the author's unless otherwise credited

DM & EE Days

141 at Upper Broughton

Here's a shot of one of the infamous class 141 railbuses running north past the site of Upper Broughton station in December 1987. 141012 had been at RTC to have its engine and transmission replaced in a bid to improve the performance of these truly awful trains.

Bob Osborne 

60001 The prototype of the class 60001 stands inside the compound at Old Dalby during its acceptance testing on 26th March 1990

Adrian Tibble

With TC6 Another view of 60001 inside the compound at Old Dalby coupled to Tet Car 6 on 26th March 1990

Adrian Tibble

class 60 Plumtree

60001 is pictured near Plumtree during its extensive commissioning running which took place on both the Old Dalby test track and also at Mickleover in 1990

Author's collection

Serco Railtest Days

Serco Livery

Inherited from the R & DD were several track monitoring vehicles. In this shot a train including the Structure Gauging Train (SGT) and the Track Inspection Coach (TIC) plus HSTRC is pictured just south of the control centre at MP111 having recently been repainted into Serco livery. Note the Dutch liveried Class 47 on the back - sometime in early 1998


Red and grey

Hauling the train was RES liveried 47596 with Test Car 4 leading



Iris 1 at Grimston

Single car Derby Lightweight diesel unit test vehicle Iris 1 pictured south of Saxelby Tunnel in the summer of 1997 whilst undertaking running trials for third rail shoe gear clearance testing on the main lines between Rugby and Bletchley. This was in connection with the introduction of a new Rugby-Gatwick service using class 319 units which did not have retractable shoe gear.

Class 165 at Widmerpool

Engineers check the experimental sanding gear on Thames Turbo Class 165 unit No: 165 130. It is standing in the former Widmerpool Station Down platform during the summer of 1997. (Note the shorts!)

Chris Ward

On the evening of 16th July 1997 Class 58 locomotive 58008 hauls a train of self-discharging ballast wagons round the curves between Plumtree and Stanton Tunnel towards Melton Jcn. after a ballast drop at the north end of the line.

Andrew Royle

Class 47 near Widmerpool 47638 with Test Car 4 in tow approaches Widmerpool from the south in February 1998. This was photographed on a structure gauging test train on trial under the overhead wires in connection with running with larger SB1C swapbody containers on the GE route from Harwich/Felixstowe to Stratford.

Structure gauging - crude but effective

Another view of the train with the gauging device prominent. This was insulated from the train as the container gauging was to be done under 25kV for real!

MPV at Stanton Tunnel

The first of Network Rail's Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) emerges from the north portal of Stanton Tunnel, between Widmerpool and Plumtree, whilst undergoing various trials at Old Dalby in February 1999. 

Control centre

An early 1999 view looking south towards the Control Centre which was built on the site of the former Up platform and station yard at Old Dalby. The remnants of the Down platform can be found in the undergrowth on the right

Compact tamper

An Amey Railways 'Compact Tamper' DR37911 pictured near 117 MP between Plumtree and Stanton Tunnel in the summer of 1999 whilst on braking trials.


A class 47 awaits departure from a snow-covered Old Dalby Control Centre for the RTC in February 1999.

Iris 1

Single car Derby Lightweight diesel unit test vehicle Iris 1 (pictured here as restored at Butterley) was also used in some TCA comparison testing in 1998.
Class 175 Unit 175002 stands in the compound at Old Dalby in December 1999 during driver training running.


In May 2000 unit 180101 stands in the compound at Old Dalby during commissioning trails

Jeff Keenan

Class 180 at Old Dalby

The class 180 unit (180101) arrives at Old Dalby by road from Alstom's Washwood Heath plant in April 2000.

Class180 at Old Dalby

180101 passes over the road bridge to the north of the compound at Old Dalby during its commissioning trials in May 2000

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