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by John Clayson

Do you sometimes have one of those moments which takes you back to a place and a time long ago, and it feels as if it was just yesterday?  Watching the first part of the series The Trial of Christine Keeler on BBC1 last night took me back to Grantham station (where else?!) on 3rd October 1963 and a photograph my Dad took during one of our outings there.  It's 4.05pm (by the clock on the wall) and at first sight it's a simple study of a man in the down side buffet reading his newspaper, probably the London Evening Standard.

The location is long gone.  The building which housed the buffet on the down side was swept away when that side of the station was rebuilt in 1985-86.  In fact it had almost been swept away 30 or so years earlier, when a 'hard shunt' into the bay platform (now platform 3, then platform 4) forced a coach over the buffers and into the north wall of the buffet in June 1954.

...but I digress, as dear Ronnie Corbett might have said.  The connection becomes clear on reading the front page headlines:  MISSING CHRISTINE WITNESS MYSTERY 'Paul Mann has no plans to return' and ‘LUCKY’ GORDON IN BOX TODAY, accompanied by a photograph of Mandy Rice-Davies.

Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

The enquiry report by Lord Denning into 'The Profumo Affair’ had been published in September.  Christine Keeler's trial, in which she was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice, had just commenced.

I do remember, at the age of 9, wondering what all the fuss was about, and my parents changing the subject when I persisted with enquiring what 'a call-girl' was!

In search of the real Christine Keeler, focussing on this new portrayal of the scandal by screenwriter and novelist Amanda Coe, is on the BBC website here.

Introduced in 1977 as the Inter-City 125, HSTs (High Speed Trains) were last used on LNER scheduled services on Sunday 15th December 2019.

The final LNER service operated by HST, the 19.35 from London King's Cross to Leeds [1D30], departed from Grantham at 20.50 on 15th December.  So Monday 16th December 2019 became the first day without an HST operated service through Grantham since May 1977.  Another era of Grantham railway operation has passed into the history books!

As a curtain call LNER is running four Say Goodbye to the Inter-City 125 excursions using the BR blue painted set.  The final one is Leeds to London King's Cross on Saturday 21st December with a stop at Grantham.  A photograph of this event will be very welcome.

The customers of successive East Coast Main Line (ECML) operators have travelled through Grantham in HST sets for more than 42 years, a unique record.  Companies other than LNER and its predecessors which have used HSTs to provide services on the ECML through Grantham include Grand Central and, occasionally, Hull Trains.

Although no longer seen at Grantham, HSTs remain active further north on the ECML.  Cross Country continues to operate them between York and Edinburgh, and there are East Midlands Railways (on weekdays) and Cross Country (on Sundays) services operated by HSTs which use the ECML between Doncaster and Leeds.

Setting the achievement of the HST into historical perspective is difficult because they are complete trains, not a locomotive hauling a set of carriages.  Confining the comparison to motive power alone, it appears that no class of diesel locomotive came near to four decades' use on scheduled ECML express services.  Going back to steam days, arguably two classes of locomotive have a comparable record of longevity.  They are the Ivatt GNR Large Atlantics (from 1902 until the 1940s), and the Gresley GNR/LNER A1/A3s (from 1922 until the 1960s).

Can someone update us on any fleets of passenger coaches which were in front line service on the ECML for as long as 40+ years?  Please use the Comment box below.

There are lengthy features on the Inter-City 125 / HST in Rail magazine here and in Wikipedia here.

Below are four photographs by Mel Smith showing Inter-City 125 trains at Grantham in the 1980s.

With thanks to Doug Thompson for alerting us to this significant moment in Grantham's railway history.

By pure coincidence following reference to the Grantham derailment of 1906 in our previous post, Mel recently came across a reminder of the disaster for sale on a website for collectors of postal memorabilia.  It's a postcard which was among the mail being carried on the train.  The card was evidently recovered from the burnt wreckage, slightly singed and water damaged, and delivered to its intended recipient in Derby.

The price asked today is fairly eye-watering, demonstrating the value of rare items in a market embracing both postal collectables and railway memorabilia.

The dealer hasn't quite got the facts of the accident accurate because 14 people died as a result of the accident, not 12 as stated; two casualties died later.

John Clayson

 

In his column in the current (December 2019) issue of The Railway Magazine Consultant Editor Nick Pigott has picked up on a striking similarity between the most likely cause of the disaster at Grantham on the night of 19th September 1906, when 14 lives were lost, and the lead-up to an alarming incident which took place at Edinburgh Waverley station on 1st August this year.

In both cases the locomotive had been attached at an intermediate stop on the train's journey.  Each train then seriously overran its next stopping point, apparently because the train's braking system was not properly connected to the locomotive.

In the Grantham 1906 accident the overrunning train derailed at high speed on a junction which began 135 yards beyond the platform.  Fortunately, at Edinburgh in 2019 the train involved was brought to a stand using a manually activated emergency system without collision or derailment, having travelled 650 metres beyond its intended stopping point.

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