Derby railway station’s three-way junction forms a hinge in the national railway network, not as extensive or complex as Crewe or York, but pivotal on the north-east/south-west axis and the route from South Yorkshire to London.
The railway came to Derby because the town was chosen as the meeting point of three independent railways, the Midland Counties Railway between Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby (opened June 4th 1839), the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (opened August 12th 1839) and the North Midland Railway between Derby, Chesterfield, Rotherham and Normanton (opened May 11th 1840).
Passenger services for these three companies were provided at the Trijunct Station (1839-41), owned by the North Midland, at Litchurch, just outside the Derby boundary, because the only available nearer site for a single station, at the Holmes, was prone to flooding and would have required a more complicated track layout.
In 1844 the three companies amalgamated to form the Midland Railway, which grew to become an important main-line railway with services to London, Manchester and Carlisle.
The original joint station had a single platform, 1,050 feet long, with terminal bays for trains to Birmingham southwards and for the Midland Counties trains that departed northwards and headed east towards Spondon.
The equally long Italianate station building was designed by the North Midland Railway architect, Francis Thompson (1808-1895), behind which was a cast-iron train shed by Robert Stephenson (1803-1859).
Both of these structures are long gone. An island platform was installed in 1858, along with further offices and a porte-cochère on the street frontage, designed by the Midland Railway architect, John Holloway Sanders (1825-1884). A second island platform, with a footbridge, followed in 1881. The front buildings were largely replaced by Sanders’ successor, Charles Trubshaw (1840-1917) c1892.
Following extensive bomb damage in January 1941 which destroyed the train shed and the buildings on Platform 6, all three sets of platform buildings, together with the footbridge and main signal box, were replaced in 1952-54.
The signal box was decommissioned in 1969 when a modern power box was constructed south of the station, and the Victorian front buildings were demolished, despite objections from conservationists, in 1985.
All that remains of these buildings is the clock and the carved coat of arms of the borough of Derby from the porte-cochère, incongruously located in the station car park.
The replacement building in red brick is uninspiring. Behind it, the 1950s concrete was found to be weakening. The concrete footbridge was replaced in 2005, and new platform buildings followed in 2007-2009. An additional platform was added during 2018 along with comprehensive remodelling of track and signalling to improve freight and passenger flows and to future-proof the station for decades to come.
Peter Stanton, describing the complex construction and engineering that took place over seventy-nine days of service disruption in Rail Engineer (November 15th 2018), remarked that there was “very little heritage to concern designers who could have a free reign to produce the most modern facilities”.
The original Trijunct Station has been remodelled so frequently – 1858, 1881, 1892, 1952-54, 2005, 2007-09, apart from being bombed in 1941 – that it’s now a 21st-century passenger station.
But the modern trains gliding in and out of Derby follow the same tracks and routes as the early steam locos that trundled into the Trijunct Station in 1839-40.