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.
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.
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.
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.
In our introductory article, that covered the early main line diesel scene at Grantham, we briefly looked at some of the reasons behind the transition from steam to diesel power on Britain's railway system, in particular the main line through Grantham. But what about the cross country secondary lines that linked Grantham with other urban areas, such as Lincoln and Nottingham? Our next article is all about the introduction of 'Railcars' during the diesel era and has just been published.
Can you remember the first generation Railcars? Perhaps you referred to them as Diesel Multiple Units, or maybe DMUs for short? Our new article begins here.
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.
For nearly five years in the early 1980s Steve Philpott worked for the Royal Mail in Grantham. Interested in railways, he particularly remembers shifts worked on the station where, until late 1982, mail to and from Grantham and the local area arrived and departed by train.
Steve's Mailbag Memories were previously published in our Christmas 2018 Newsletter, and we are now delighted to share them here, on the website, where the story is enhanced by many more photographs than we had room for in the Newsletter. There are pictures from Steve's own collection and from the collections of other photographers which have been kindly made available to Tracks through Grantham.