Great Central RailwayLoughborough - Rothley - Leicester North (and Mountsorrel Halt branch)
The Great Central is a railway with a difference! It’s the UK’s only double track, mainline heritage railway and the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other!
Visit the website to view tickets. Prices may vary for special events.
7 places to visitView journey Attractions
40 minutes each way
Check Great Central Railway website
LoughboroughHow to get here
The Great Central Railway has appeared in many films and Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman have made appearances here!
The architecture and feel of this incredible route is simply invigorating and plunges customers in a time machine back to the bygone age of steam in Leicestershire, on a railway that once connected London with the Midlands and Manchester.
To add to the splendour, there is a truly enthralling range of special events, including Steam Galas, Paw Patrol, Bonfire Night, 1940s Wartime Weekend and Santa Specials. What’s more, travel is in luxury, even more so if you’d like a meal in the glamourous First Class restaurant!
There can be few more atmospheric experiences than the Friday evening, five-course meal The Master Cutler service or – get this (!) – a six course banquet on the The Charnwood Forester on Saturday nights! Or, if it’s something more sedate, then 1st Class Afternoon tea. If that’s not gripping enough, then why not enjoy one of the special themed ‘Murder Mystery Evenings’. Yikes!
The scenery is lovely on this fabulous route, which nestles in the beautiful Leicestershire countryside between Charnwood Forest and the Wolds. As the train leaves Loughborough Central, passengers are treated to views of the beautiful Forest, with its rolling hills and wooded valleys. But first, it passes on the left a large factory which was the former home of Ladybird books – the site is now used for the production of wallpaper. The route then travels to the charming village of Quorn, where passengers can see the historic Quorn & Woodhouse station buildings and watch the locomotive being turned on the turntable. The station at Woodhouse is a beautifully preserved example of Victorian railway architecture, with a restored signal box and station building. Trees mask the view of the huge granite quarry at Mountsorrel. The train then crosses the Swithland Reservoir and Brazil Island.
Continuing on the adventure, customers can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside, with the train passing through open fields and wooded areas.
The journey then takes passengers through Rothley, where they can catch a glimpse of the stunning Rothley Brook, which runs alongside the railway and with a picturesque golf course below. The village itself is steeped in history, with a number of historic buildings and landmarks to explore. At Rothley, there’s a new journey opportunity lasting 24 minutes each way, with the opportunity to change and check out the branch through Nunckley Hill to Mountsorrel Halt – it’s a branch that was built by the hardy team of volunteers and travels between a lovely copse, with fields and woodland on either side.
Back to Rothley and onwards to Leicester North where customers can get a glimpse of the city skyline beyond – a city, which is 10 minutes away on the 127 bus and where there the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan life, fantastic heritage and sport, can be enjoyed.
A Fab Day Out!
Visiting the Great Central Railway is more than just a scenic ride – it’s a whole day’s experience as there’s so much to see and peruse.
Even before boarding the train, exploring Loughborough, which is 10 minutes walk, is highly recommended. It has a range of independent shops, a Saturday market and glorious park with historic bell tower. The Bell Foundry museum, close to the railway is also well worth a visit.
Starting at Loughborough station and there’s a beautiful glass, metal and wooden canopy taking centre stage on this listed building. The shop and buffet are great and there’s an Emporium selling second hand ‘railwayana’, ‘bric-a-brac’ and magazines. Classic 1950s posters and a film show can be enjoyed in the waiting room and there’s also a fab small exhibits Museum close to the stairs. Further along are the Locomotive Shed and Signal Box.
Progressing on the route and at Quorn & Woodhouse station, a lovely ‘Dig for Victory’ vegetable across from Platform 2 and an old pram collecting scrap metal for the war effort, creates a wartime theme. The signal box descends from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire and also hosts ‘live displays’ on events days. The Butler-Henderson Café on the station provides great refreshments and quite often in the car park, there are many activities, including ‘Railwayana’ swapmeets, traction engines, children’s games and exhibitions as part of Bonfire Night and Wartime Weekend. In the nearby yard, the vintage turntable can be found.
Onto Rothley station and not only are there beautiful floral displays, but the station has been restored to 1912 charm, resplendent in the village life activity that ensued just two years prior to the start of World War 1. Lighting is provided on the station entirely by gas lamps and this creates a great ambience. During winter, heating consists solely of coal fires in the waiting and tea rooms – the latter, the Ellis Tea Room is a converted goods shed. There’s also a lovely picnic area and garden railway which runs most weekends. Opposite the platform is a signal box, a structure from the original Great Central Railway, but re-located from Wembley!
Finally, Leicester North station and there’s a fantastic waiting room with some interesting pictures and also paintings by a local artist which are on display and can be purchased. If there is time left at the end of this fab, action-packed adventure, then there’s plenty to be enjoyed in Leicester City Centre. Some of the top attractions include the King Richard III Visitor Centre, where visitors can learn about the life and death of the infamous king. The New Walk Museum and Art Gallery houses a variety of collections from art to natural history, and the National Space Centre offers an immersive space experience. The historic Leicester Cathedral is also a must-visit, with its stunning architecture and rich history. Other notable attractions include the Leicester Market, Abbey Pumping Station, and the Jewry Wall Museum. There’s lots of sport too in Leicester – notably the Foxes of Leicester City, who won the Premier League in 2016 and F.A. Cup in 2020 and serial winners, Leicester Tigers, rugby union, as well as Leicestershire County Cricket Club who play at the lovely Grace Road, south of the City.
There are some fabulous walks in the vicinity of the Grand Central Railway that are manageable within 2 hours, gentle and languid and can be combined with a stop off at one of the many great pubs! For more details, click here.
How to get here...
Plan your route to this Great Scenic Journey
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