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It was not initially a financial success, only recovering under the leadership of Sam Fay.
Starting at Annesley in Nottinghamshire, and running for 92 miles (148 km) in a relatively direct southward route, it left the crowded corridor through Nottingham (and Nottingham Victoria), which was also used by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), then struck off to its new railway station at Leicester Central, passing Loughborough en route, where it crossed the Midland main line.
The construction of the railway through Nottingham and the station involved heavy earthworks with 6,750 feet (2,060 m) of tunnelling and almost 1 mile (1.6 km) of viaduct.
The site for Nottingham Victoria railway station required the demolition of 1,300 houses, 20 public houses and the construction of the station brought the sum to over £1,000,000.
In the 1960s, the line was considered by Dr Beeching as an unnecessary duplication of other lines that served the same places, especially the Midland Main Line and to a lesser extent the West Coast Main Line.
Most of the route was closed between 19 under the Beeching axe.
Partly because of disagreements with the Metropolitan Railway (Met R) over use of their tracks at the southern end of the route, the company built the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway joint line (1906) from Grendon Underwood to Ashendon Junction, by-passing the greater part of the Met R's tracks.