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We were very sorry to receive in recent weeks the sad news that these two former Grantham footplatemen have passed away.

Steve and John both appear below in a photograph of former Grantham footplate crew which was taken during the visit of the world speed record holding A4 locomotive Mallard to the Festival of Speed held in the town in September 2013.

Grantham footplatemen with No. 4468 Mallard, Sunday 8th September 2013 at 2:30pm
Back row (L to R): Tony Stevens, Syd North, Phil Cunnington, Steve Taylor, John Plummer, Maurice Massingham, Don Wade, Roy Veasey, Arthur Curtis
Front Row (L to R): George Fielding, Mick Gibson, Roy Vinter, Alan Grummitt, John Michael, Ken Willetts, Boris Bennett (in front), Nev Eldred
Photograph taken by Nick Pigott

Steve Taylor was a cleaner and fireman at Grantham Loco in the 1950s-early 1960s period.  Friend and colleague Roy Vinter tells us that 'Steve and I started cleaning the same year, were the same age and went to King's X shed at the same time on loan, indeed we shared a flat with another lad in Finsbury Park for a while.'

Steve went back to Grantham after 6 months, but Roy stayed on in London as he recalls in his page here.   When Roy was still working from King's Cross shed, Steve came onto the footplate of No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley at Grantham early one morning as Roy and his driver were preparing for the return trip.  He 'built up the back corners' of the firebox with coal so as to give Roy a good start for the journey.

John Angus Michael, known as 'Jock' to his railway colleagues and friends, came from the Isle of Skye to Grantham as a young man to work on the LNER.  John loved the job, describing how the footplate of a railway locomotive was a special place where the team of driver and fireman held a unique position of responsibility.  Writing to us in June 2015 he describes how he felt soon after starting out as a cleaner. 'Seniority meant so much to us in those days.  Looking longingly from the lower rungs of the ladder to the dizzying heights of the top link and the rich rewards and status attainable there.

In 2017 John kindly lent us some photographs taken in 1959, when the Grantham Loco Mutual Improvement Class arranged an outing to the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway in Kent.  He told us then - rather poignantly - that he was the only man in the photos who was still living.  They are on our page here, along with John's typically amusing account of the trip and more photographs of the day lent by the late Boris Bennett.

John succeded in attaining the position to which he aspired as a young man, retiring from the railway as a highly respected Grantham driver.  He is third from right in the photograph below, which was taken in May 1990 on the closure of the Train Crew Depot at the station.

Drivers based at Grantham in May 1990:
Back row: Pete Nicholls (Examiner), Maurice Massingham, Jack Tuckwood, Ray Green, M. (Hodge) Collingwood, Roy Evans.
Front row: Michael A. (Ma) Brown, Fred Burrows (retired), John Phillips, Denis (Danny) Wright, John (Jock) Michael, Gerry Edwards (retired).
Photograph kindly lent by Maurice Massingham.

John lent his support to Tracks through Grantham in many ways.  He always had a word of encouragement for Mel and me at our six-monthly gatherings at the Railway Club.  To quote once more from his letter of 2015, John is referring to a recent get-together when he says,  'Forgive me, John, for reminiscing, but it is so good to meet the few of us who are left and who loved our hard graft with a passion.'     

John Michael's funeral will be held in Grantham on Wednesday 21st August.  Here is a link to the family announcement.

John Clayson

 

On Saturday 30th September 1967 there was a rail tour of the Stewarts & Lloyds (Minerals) Ltd. lines at Woolsthorpe and Harlaxton, including the stretch of the BR Woolsthorpe Branch between Denton and Casthorpe Junction.

This tour is described and illustrated in the current issue of Railway Bylines (Vol. 24: Issue 8, July 2019) on pages 356-360 Harston & Harlaxton Ironstone Quarries - Notes by Charles A. Rekab. The event marked the imminent replacement of the fleet of industrial steam locomotives by second-hand diesels puchased from British Rail.

This tour is among several that are noted on our page Rail Tour Rambles round Grantham.

For nearly 100 years signalmen and telegraph lads at Grantham South signal box kept watch over the running lines, the yards and the sidings which lay south of the passenger station.  The box was staffed round the clock, seven days a week.  What stories it might have told of the characters who worked it, and some of the incidents they dealt with!

Although the building is long gone, former Grantham signalling staff have generously shared their memories and photographs.  We've also researched local newspapers and explored other sources to illustrate the work of signalmen and telegraph lads at Grantham South.

The stories include:

  • an insight from Victorian times into the harsh and, from a modern perspective, negligent attitude of the railway companies to the personal safety of their employees;
  • the tale of a horse which made a bid for freedom by charging along the main line as far as Great Ponton;
  • how, one September night in 1906, two men on duty at the South Box were the first to witness the Scotch mail train emerge from the darkness as it sped towards the station out of control to meet with destruction a few seconds later;
  • a surprising episode in the summer of 1911, during a national dispute over working conditions on the railways, when the South Box was surrounded by a riotous mob which had to be dispersed by police.

Read all of this and more in our latest new page Grantham South signal box - people and incidents .

This splendid scene, captured by Tom Boustead in the early 1960s, sets Grantham's South Box in a railway  landscape that had scarcely altered for decades.  However within ten years, by the spring of 1972, the box, its signals and telegraph poles were gone, and the complex track layout had been rationalised.  The future held yet more changes in store.

After a pause to attend to other chapters in Grantham's railway story, we are returning to our illustrated history of signalling and signal boxes at Grantham with the launch of our latest new pages: Grantham South Signal Box and Grantham South Signal Box - an introduction.

The story is based on information and photographs kindly contributed over a period of time by many people.  It's about an area of the railway at Grantham that was 'off limits' to all except those who either worked on the railway or had secured official permission.  Therefore photographs, other than some taken from the Great North Road bridge, are difficult to find.  So if you have, or if you know of, pictures taken in the area between the Up and Down side goods yards and Saltersford please let us know via our Contact Us page.  One particular appeal - we haven't yet seen photographs of the Down Loop at Saltersford, installed near the water works in 1943 and taken out of use in 1968.

With those shouted words signalman James Herring tried to stop the departing Up Mail on a moonlit summer's night in 1898.  The signalling handlamp pictured below could be the very one he  waved from his window at Grantham Yard Box in a vain attempt to prevent a collision.

Great Northern Railway signalling handlamp No. 12362, dated 'GNR.4.87', used at Grantham Yard signal box.

For the full story and more detailed photographs of the lamp see our page Grantham Yard signal box – people and incidents.

http://www.tracksthroughgrantham.uk/private/5d7e7bd4e642a

The sign pictured above was brought along to our meeting on 17th April.  Can anyone tell us where on the station this sign would once have been located?

We have several plans of the station, but none of them show a location for the offices of the Traffic Department for the Grantham District.

The sign is made from a framed wooden board and metal letters.  It appears to have been fixed into place just inside each corner.  Approximate dimensions are 40 x 16 inches (1000 x 400mm).  So it's too big for a normal-sized door and would therefore most likely have been attached to a wall.

 

We're pleased to say that service on Tracks through Grantham appears to be back to normal on all (IT) platforms.  This follows the resolution of a problem which caused the non-appearance of some of our images on some types of IT device and was the subject of our post on 8th March.

If you think the website is not 'behaving itself' in any respect please get in touch, using a Contact Form, and describe as clearly as you can what's happening.  Some problems, and the recent one is an example, are quite selective in how they manifest themselves, so we may only pick them up through a user's comment.

If you access the Tracks through Grantham website using certain types of IT device you may have noticed in recent weeks that sometimes there are pictures missing, though their captions still appear.  The problem especially affects our newest pages, and we're aware that it's evident on some mobile phones and also on some pcs running Windows 7.

We're 'on the case' with this and we hope to be back to normal soon.

For those who'd like a little more background, to improve the security of our image library we installed a plugin (piece of software).  This has done the trick by protecting the images better, but it has had the side-effect of preventing certain 'platforms' (types of IT device) from receiving the protected images.  We've raised this with the plugin designer and they are currently working on a fix.

So, if you find that our pages have images missing and you have an alternative IT device available, please move to another platform temporarily (...and safely, using the footbridge of course) to continue to access Tracks through Grantham services.  By way of a guide, we're fairly sure that Windows 10 pcs are not affected (and we've tried several browsers).  However, we hope it will not be long before normal service resumes on all platforms.

Andy Overton has been in touch to ask if someone can help him with a piece of research on ECML signalling history from 40 years back.  Andy says:

A mystery that has defeated me for many years surrounds the 1978 works in Stoke Tunnel.  I know some bits of the story, but not all.

Here's what I know.  Between 10 September and 22 October 1978 there was single line working through Stoke Tunnel.  10/09/1978 – 30/09/1978 the Up Main was used, 01/10/1978 – 22/10/1978 the Down Main was used.  The emergency facing and trailing crossovers at Stoke were taken off control of the Ground Switch Panel and were worked from the Stoke Local Control Panel in the relay room, which was designated as a signal box for the duration of the work and called Stoke Temporary.  Additional facing and trailing crossovers, worked from Stoke Temporary, were installed north of the tunnel.  The temporary signal box also gained control of some of Grantham’s signals at Highdyke in order to fully control the single line at both ends.  The single line was fully signalled in both directions, so no Pilotman was necessary.

Now the bits I don’t know.  The Local Control Panel from the relay room had to be altered to match the altered signalling in connection with the single line working.  The story passed down to me is that the panel in the temporary box comprised this altered panel, plus ‘two extensions at each end’.  It’s the ‘extensions at each end’ bit which sits uncomfortably with me as I can’t see why the panel would need to be extended, certainly not at the Stoke end.  Altered yes, extended no.  I would dearly like to be able to question someone with first-hand knowledge of what the panel comprised of during this work to get the facts pinned down 100% correct.

If you're able to shed some light on Andy's enquiry, or if you know someone who may be able to help, please let us know using a Contact Form on our Contact Us page and we will forward your message to Andy.

Andy's page Signalling at Grantham from Doncaster Power Signal Box  can be read here, and there's a page about 'the original' Stoke box here.

This is an announcement of September 1978 from Inter City to make passengers aware of how the lowering of the track inside three tunnels on the East Coast Main Line would affect journey times over the coming months. It illustrates how the tunnels (B, C and D) were to be enlarged to allow larger continental containers (A) to pass through.
Two of the affected tunnels were either side of Grantham, at Stoke and Peascliffe, and thus under the control of Grantham signal box.
From the Local Studies Collection at Grantham Library.