Tracks through Grantham aims to capture the spirit and way of life of the railway community in the Lincolnshire market town of Grantham and the surrounding area. It is a tribute to the generations of Grantham people who have maintained a fine tradition in all aspects of railway work.
Today Grantham railway station, as well as serving the people of the town and the surrounding villages, is a busy interchange point on the East Coast Main Line (ECML). Its story began in 1852 when the Great Northern Railway opened a new, more direct route for the ECML between Peterborough and Retford. This established Grantham as a strategic junction on one of the world's most important railways routes. Passengers changed at Grantham for trains to Leicester, to Nottingham and the North Midlands, and to Lincoln, Sleaford and Boston.
However, the reputation of Grantham as a pivotal railway centre stems from its adoption as a staging point for main line express services on the vital link between London and Edinburgh. The 393 mile East Coast Main Line is renowned as a high speed railway. In the days of steam, with coal shovelled by hand as fuel, it was seldom possible for a locomotive - let alone its crew - to work throughout, so long-distance services were hauled by a relay of locomotives. At just over 100 miles out of King's Cross, Grantham was an ideal distance from London to become a regular engine changing point. To fulfil this need a locomotive shed opened near the station in 1862.
The town's place in railway legend was established in 1876, when the Great Northern became the first company in the world to run express passenger services for more than 100 miles without a stop over the 105½ miles between London and Grantham. From then until the engine shed closed in 1963, footplate crew and maintenance staff based at Grantham 'Loco', as it was known, had charge of a fleet of the world's most advanced express steam locomotives. They sometimes included the famous Flying Scotsman and the speed record holder Mallard.
The vigilance of many other staff, including signalmen and platelayers, ensured that the line was safely operated and maintained to an exemplary standard.
Five miles south of Grantham is the summit of a 13-mile descent towards Peterborough over nearly straight track. Known as Stoke Bank, it’s one of the world's most renowned railway 'racing stretches' where speed records have been made and broken. Barkston Junction, a few miles north of Grantham, was the starting point for what proved to be the record run of the world's fastest steam locomotive, Mallard. Hauling a test train with accurate speed recording equipment, on 3rd July 1938 Mallard passed through Grantham station gathering speed en route to Stoke Summit and the descent, where a still unbeaten 126 mph world speed record for a steam-hauled train was achieved.
We hope Tracks through Grantham gives a unique insight into life on the railway through many personal experiences, documents and photographs generously shared with the project. You will also find here the reminiscences of 'loco spotters' of the 1950s and 1960s. Some were local lads, but many travelled to Grantham from far and wide to experience the incomparable excitement of the high speed main line steam railway.
The main line is only part of the story. Village stations, branch lines, mineral railways serving local ironstone workings, even sidings into the works of manufacturers - all these and more have played their part.
In our pages you will find links to other resources on the Internet, and references to our suggestions for further reading in books and periodicals. The Grantham Journal, the town's newspaper, was inaugurated in 1854 and is a marvellous resource for information about railway life in the earlier years. During the 20th century a remarkable number of people recorded and documented the railway scene at Grantham – its trains and locomotives, its tracks and buildings and, most engagingly, the stories of railway people and their families. Authors and photographers have left us a rich legacy in words and pictures which breathe life into railway history.
We hope you enjoy your journey through Grantham's vibrant and fascinating railway history. Our site can easily be explored using the menu above, which appears at the top of every page. There are also links within the site to facilitate progress to the next page in a sequence.
We are continually looking to broaden our knowledge and add content, so if you think you can provide new information, or you would like to comment on any aspect of the website, please get in touch using our Contact Us form.