Subsidence at Donisthorpe

For those unfamiliar with the location of the bridge in Nick’s Donisthorpe photographs it was situated next to the station of the same name on the former Ashby and Nuneaton Joint line (L.N.W.R. and M.R.) at 122 miles 2 chains, 1 mile 49 chains from Moira West Junction on the Leicester to Burton line. The area was once part of the South Derbyshire coalfield and suffered badly from subsidence, even today after all the collieries have closed the damage is still evident, and certain places look like the moon with decades of opencasting to get the last bit of coal out.

This bridge was no doubt photographed to record the damage being done to it by subsidence, but in this case it looks more like heave as opposed to just the usual sinking. The bridge number escapes me but road bridge carries the Ashby-de-la-Zouch to Acresford road, and if you stand on the road bridge today and look to where the railway once was you’ll find that the railway cutting has been filled in right up to the bridge parapets, you’d never know there had been a railway there. The bridge parapet walls from the road just look like a wall at the side of the road with a field beyond it !

Looking at each photograph in turn, first the one of April 1915 we see the bridge from the Moira West Junction side looking towards Shackerstone Junction and Nuneaton with the Up and Down lines going through the middle arch, the Up line being the far one. The photographer stands in the exchange sidings for the Checkland, Son & Williams Co. Donisthorpe colliery opened in 1873, closed circa 1981.

The second photograph of June 1919 is taken with the photographer standing on the Down line again looking towards Shackerstone Junction with Donisthorpe station just visible through the bridge, and now a temporary speed restriction has been imposed on the main lines, evident by the tall “C” Board up against the left hand bridge pillar. This letter C indicated the commencement of a temporary speed restriction, loco men referred to them, as they still do today, as “C” boards. This is I think the earliest photograph I have seen showing one. At this time and right up until the 1960’s the “Warning Board” or “Fishtail” positioned some distance on the approach side of the “C” board displayed the maximum speed allowed over the temporary speed restriction and you had to remember what it was when you spotted the “C” board. Today the letter “C” has been replaced by the speed allowed, but the name has stayed the same. At the end of the temporary speed restriction there will be, as there is today, a “T” board, this indicates the termination point of the restriction. This speed restriction would appear in the M.R. Weekly Notices and with a bit of hunting you could know doubt find it in those held at the N.R.M. At night all of these indicators would be illuminated.

On the M.R. during the early 1880’s and 90’s no actual speed was laid down for these temporary speed restrictions, the Weekly Notices just advised drivers to “Slacken Speed”, hence the name today for a temporary speed restriction, “ a slack”. No doubt some drivers would have had different ideas to others as to how fast to go over a slack !

The third photograph was taken from the Up line platform of Donisthorpe station, a simple two platform affair which closed to passengers on 13th April 1934 when this line became a freight only route. The line closed as a through route in 1971 and I only remember it as a truncated single line branch from Moira West Junction going only as far as Measham during the late 1970’s while as a second man on trip workings from Coalville, closing finally on 20th June 1981.

Donisthorpe signal box stood a short distance on the Moira West Junction side of the bridge on the Up side of the line, but this photograph isn’t quite clear enough to see it. Access to the colliery sidings at this end of the station was from the Up line, with a slip connection forming a cross over road to the Down line. The line at the foot of the steps to the left of the photograph gave access to a loading dock at the colliery end of the Down platform next to the main station building. Even in the 1970’s this bridge suffered from subsidence damage with bracing and beams under each arch.

Thanks Nick for sharing these wonderful old photographs with us all, they contain a number of interesting points and brought back many happy memories for me on trip workings to Measham and Donisthorpe collieries. Has any one got any more of these old M.R. Officials ?

Cheers Tony Overton

Nick Wheat writes:

Through the good offices of Stuart Gamble of the Shackerstone Railway Society, I have received a further view of the subsidence effected bridge at Donisthorpe.

The undated picture shows what I assume to be workmen associated with the repairs to the bridge.

The trackbed now forms part of the Ashby Woulds Heritage Trail and a similar trail is in operation over Swannigton Incline.

Photographs of Donisthorpe courtesy of the Nick Wheat collection.
Text © Copyright 1999 A. E. Overton