In 1846 the Midland Railway (MR) opened a line along the Trent valley, between Nottingham and Lincoln. The stations at Carlton and Burton Joyce are still in use, although the original buildings have gone. MR built its Leen Valley line between Nottingham and Mansfield in 1849. The station at Linby closed in 1964 and was demolished soon afterwards. The station site at Newstead is still in use, but the original buildings have gone. The Leen Valley line closed to passengers in 1964 but was retained for coal traffic. After the mines closed, this route was reopened for passengers in 1993 and is now known as the Robin Hood Line, linking Nottingham to Worksop via Newstead.

In 1855, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) adopted a branch line along the Trent valley, from Grantham to Nottingham. The site of the GNR station at Netherfield is still used, although without any of the original buildings. GNR constructed a line westward from Colwick, through the hilly countryside north of Nottingham towards Derby. This line, known as the Derbyshire Extension, opened in 1875. Heading westwards, there were stations at Gedling and Daybrook. In 1878 GNR reached an agreement with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) allowing LNWR to share Colwick yards and access to Nottingham station.

The Derbyshire Extension line fell into disuse after 1960, due to the poor state of the Mapperley tunnel. However, Gedling station buildings and the short length of track-bed which served Gedling colliery have all survived. In 1882 GNR opened an additional branch line through the Leen valley, to capture some of the coal traffic. The station building constructed in Bestwood Village has survived, as a private house and, in Linby, the goods weigh-house is used as Linby Heritage Centre.

In 1889, the Nottingham Suburban Railway was built to link Daybrook station, via Thorneywood station, where bricks were the main goods to be dispatched, to the GNR terminus on London Road in Nottingham. Although this was a shorter route from Daybrook to Nottingham, it was expensive to maintain with deep cuttings and tunnels. After the early years of the 20th century it competed for passengers with electric tram services and closed to passengers in 1916; it was abandoned altogether in 1951.

The final railway construction project in the borough was the goods line linking Bestwood Park junction (Moorbridge) in the Leen valley to the colliery at Calverton. This line opened in 1952 when the first coal was brought to the surface, and the track was lifted in 2016.