Robin Stewart-Smith concludes the story of the demise of an East Midlands railway station, covering the period from the Second World War to closure on September 4, 1967.
Second World War 1939-1945
During the Second World War, passenger services using Nottingham Victoria were severely restricted to allow greatly increased freight, troop or special traffic between the north and south of England.
Surviving train services provided limited accommodation and were mainly used as troop trains. The Manchester to Marylebone service generally took about an hour longer than its pre-war timing. By 1941, only two daily Manchester to Marylebone semi-fast passenger trains passed through Victoria. Local services were also much reduced.
Nottingham Victoria became the headquarters of the Army Postal Service, and the station subway doubled as an air-raid shelter.
Despite Nottingham suffering 11 air raids, Victoria station narrowly avoided damage. The Midland station also escaped direct hits, but during the ‘Nottingham Blitz’ of May 8-9, 1941, the nearby stable block and carriage shed were hit. Twenty-six coaches were destroyed and 70 suffered damage. As a precaution against bomb damage, Victoria station had the glazing removed from the roof and end screens, supposedly sent to Derby for safe storage. After the war the roof glazing was refitted but the glass end screens were replaced with corrugated iron sheeting.
In 1940 the control office, together with the district operating superintendent and his staff, relocated to East Leake station as an air raid precaution, where a purpose-built, blast-proof single-storey building was constructed behind the loading dock.
Special trains were operated for staff from Victoria and during the war Nottingham Victoria north signal box gantry was removed. 1943 saw the appointment of the first two women station announcers. The following year London Road Low Level station was closed for passenger traffic and Northampton trains were finally transferred to Victoria station. In February 1945, as the war began to enter its final stages, the night-time illumination on the clock towers at both Nottingham stations was switched back on for the first time since 1939.
Just prior to this, the LNER special Army Postal Mail train started running from Nottingham Victoria to Southampton and later to Dover and Folkestone, in conjunction with the Normandy Landings. This service lasted until April 1946, by which time more than three million bags of mail and parcels had passed through the station.
Postwar decline 1946-1966
The immediate post-war period from 1946 saw the LNER reinstate most passenger services – including expresses – to their 1939 levels. Sizeable groups of German prisoners of war being repatriated passed through Victoria station. However, the improvements in services were short-lived as the severe winter of 1946/47 and related fuel crisis caused the LNER to cut services at Victoria yet again. Sadly, this reduced service pattern continued into the 1950s.
One highlight was the introduction in 1947 of the ‘Master Cutler’, a named service for the out and back express passenger train that left Sheffield at 7.40am, arriving at Nottingham Victoria at 8.43am.
With Nationalisation of the railways in 1948 the LNER became part of British Railways and Victoria came under Eastern Region control.
The Locomotive Exchanges held in the spring of that year brought a considerable variety of motive power through Nottingham Victoria, including Bulleid Pacifics, GWR ‘Halls’ and LMS ‘Black Fives’ to compete with the new Thompson designed LNER ‘B1’ locomotives. 1948 also saw another named train introduced on the GCR route in the shape of the 'South Yorkshireman’. This title was given to the 10.10am Bradford Exchange-Marylebone express.
The post-war recovery continued with the upgrading of Annesley’s turntable from 54ft to 65ft in 1950/1951, catering for the larger locomotives now in traffic on the GCR route. Nottingham Victoria’s platform buildings were spruced up with a steam clean during the summer of 1950.
However, the impact of increasing road traffic and car ownership continued to affect passenger figures adversely. Though the long-distance passenger figures held up well – especially in the holiday season – the decline of local passenger traffic accelerated. The ending of the Northampton service via the GN & LNW Joint Line from Victoria came in November 1953 and continued with the withdrawal of passenger services to Mansfield and Edwinstowe at the end of 1955. As a cost-cutting measure, the first DMUs appeared at Victoria on September 19, 1956, working trains to Grantham.
By 1957, the summer timetable contained only 16 daily weekday passenger expresses using Victoria, but the post-war reduction in passenger traffic provided more capacity for the Annesley to Woodford Halse goods services and the hourly unfitted express ‘Windcutter’ coal trains that rumbled through the station.
Bigger changes were to come, when on February 1, 1958, control of the former GC route was transferred by BR from Eastern Region to London Midland Region. It meant that the writing was on the wall for the GC route since duplicate routes would be unlikely to survive.
The rundown of the line and its services continued and much worse was to come.
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