The Great Central Railway (GCR) was the last main line to be built, from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to Quainton Road in Bucks. Opened in 1899, it connected the northern railways of chairman Sir Edward Watkin with a joint line developed with the Metroplitan Railway into London. Watkin's dream was for a fast route across the Pennines, the Midlands and the capital to a Channel tunnel and on to Paris. The GCR ran out of steam in Marylebone, a tiny station by comparison with other London termini, and in no longer than seventy years the fast 'London Extension' across Midland acres had gone.
The GCR crossed high above the historical heart of Leicester on a succession of viaducts, much of which still remain. The most impressive straddles Braunstone Gate, a magnificent bowstring lattice girder leviathan. So of course this is the one the apparently culturally-bereft De Montfort University want to destroy so that students have more room to run, jump, swim, play netball.Also hanging-on further up the line are the remaining fragments of the GCR station in purply-orange brick and cream terracotta, including this evocative sign for the Parcels Offices. I travelled on this line in the 1960s, and never in my wildest imaginings would I have thought that one day it could all disappear. And certainly not that what was left of an engineering marvel like this bridge would be erased from the townscape. Come on Leicester, take a look at the De Montfort's current buildings and decide which you'd rather have.