Alan Bell has recently been in touch with memories of his father's time on the footplate at Grantham, and some insights into what it was like to grow up in the 1940s and '50s when activity at the Loco and the station could be viewed from your family's allotment.
During the past 4 years many moving ceremonies and events have taken place in commemoration of those who served their country on land, at sea and in the air during The Great War, 1914-1918.
On the day before our most recent Tracks through Grantham get-together in mid-October I called in at Grantham Library, as I often do when in the town, to look at the railway items in the Local Studies collection. A document caught my eye, a 'Roll of Honour' from 1914-18 which lists eleven GNR railwaymen who did not return to their families, their homes, and their jobs and workmates on the railway. Perhaps this modest document was once framed and displayed at Grantham Station? In time, maybe, it was put away in a cupboard there until someone thoughtfully decided that it should be preserved for us to study at the library.
As I was about to slide the document back into its folder I felt that it would not be right for these men's names to disappear once more into the darkness. Surely they deserve to be seen, and not only in Grantham but around the world in recognition of the bravery shown all those years ago? So I began to write out the information with the intention of creating a new page on our website.
The men are represented in the Roll by their initials and surnames, regiment, rank and their grade while on the railway. This seemed quite formal, so last week I decided to try to research their Christian names by looking online at reports in The Grantham Journal of the time. The reports usually indicated their age, so I created a new column for that too.
It has been very moving to read a few paragraphs about each of the eleven men in the editions of the newspaper. Often there are words of tribute quoted from a letter received by the family from an officer who, for all he knew, may have been destined to become a casualty himself soon after laying down his pen. In fact we learn that, following an act of conspicuous gallantry at the Battle of Cambrai, in which one of the Grantham railwaymen died, his Commanding Officer was himself killed before he was able to write to the man's family. A 2nd Lieutenant who wrote in his place died a year later, in November 1918.
We will remember them.
A TALE OF TWO VILLAGES, 1950-55
Here is a link to a short clip of film, part of which features Hougham station with J5 No. 65498 shunting in the yard and a V2 passing through on an express.
Does anyone recognise the signalman?
At our Tracks through Grantham project get-together in October we heard about a runaway ironstone train that was in collision at Barkston Junction in 1946. We also spent some time exploring the High Dyke Branch, enjoying stories of life 'Up the Branch', and hearing about the precautions taken to work the heavy ironstone trains safely on that switchback route, known as 'the Alps'. There was the occasional runaway on the branch, more often than not safely managed by the High Dyke signalmen, though one or two runaways ended in a pileup.
I was therefore interested to see some recent news from 'down under'. The Australians have staged he world's most spectacular iron ore train wreck, 1.5 km of piled up locomotives, wagons and iron ore and ripped up track - though, fortunately, without casualties. It took place on 5th November on their equivalent of the High Dyke Branch - only, being Oz, this iron ore line is 180 miles long, not 5¾!
Apparently it's affected the price of iron ore on the global market because the line will be out of action for a week or so.
The Lincolnshire Wolds Railway Society is about to launch a publication which may be of interest to many regular readers of Tracks Through Grantham. Due out later this month, it can be ordered from the LWRS here.
In our newest page Kevin Roche describes a feature of railway activity which has disappeared from our passenger stations and all but vanished from the railway itself - the routine handling of mail, parcels and newspapers.
Using the Summer 1961 Working Timetable Kevin has compiled a list of parcels trains which stopped at Grantham, or passed through, daily. Information from other sources, along with photographs taken in the 1960s, illustrate this important traffic which brought main line junction stations such as Grantham alive with activity at certain times of day as staff prepared for the arrival or departure of certain services.
Today on our stations in Britain there are no porters or post office staff to be seen heaving wooden barrows and trolleys along platforms, or up and down ramps, or into and out of goods lifts. No bulging grey bags with their necks tied and sealed. No strangely shaped packages with labels stuck or tied on. These days there are no open trolleys, chained to station columns or other fixtures for safety and available for passengers, railway staff and spotters alike to use as as convenient seats. Occupying a trolley was somehow much more satisfying than sitting on a station bench. The Swindon Works-built BRUTE (British Rail Universal Trolley Equipment) trolleys that began to replace the ancient wooden ones in the 1960s were caged and faced with cold, hard steel; a waste of space for any purpose other than their designed use.
Read all about Parcels, Mail and Newspaper Trains: Summer 1961 here.
Our next regular twice-a-year get-together for people interested in the Tracks through Grantham project will take place in Grantham in mid-October. Always very enjoyable occasions, these events are an opportunity for our contributors and supporters to meet while enjoying a varied and, we hope, enjoyable and informative programme.
If you are already on our list of contacts you should recently have received the programme. Please remember to let us know if you hope to be with us.
If you're interested in attending but have not received a programme please get in touch, using the Contact Form here, and we will send you information - date, time, venue and programme. We cannot publish these details on the website because we need to know how many people to expect.
Friends who were with us at the April get-together may remember that we spent a little time recalling the career of Grantham railwayman Jack Ashford who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. However, we'd lost track of him following his distinguished war service.
As a result of the discussion in April there was a suggestion that Jack returned to the railway after the war and worked in the yard at Highdyke. Graham Wareham then sent in a photograph showing Jack outside one of the cabins at Highdyke, with some of the other men who worked there.
Recently a search of The Grantham Journal has revealed that Jack was a keen angler and that he enjoyed considerable success at the sport, captaining the Grantham BRSA angling team.
We've added the photograph and a newspaper article at the end of the page The Railway at Grantham in Wartime 1939-45.
We have just published our introduction for the start of a new section on the website that will tell the story of the Diesel Era at Grantham. You can read more about the background to this and the reasons for the transitional change from steam to diesel power by visiting the first part of our new section here.
Above: Class O2/4 locomotive No. 63931 is travelling tender-first through Grantham station on the Down Main line on 27th June 1963. Later in the afternoon it returned south hauling empty ironstone wagons.
Photograph by Cedric Clayson, © John Clayson.
Our latest new page is a table created by Kevin Roche where he lists all the Class O2 'Tango' heavy freight locomotives that have been based at Grantham. As we heard from Tony Wright and Grahame Wareham in their presentation Talking Tangos: knowing your O2s at the October 2017 Tracks through Grantham get-together, the history of the O2 class is a complex one. This compilation of Kevin's will help to make it more understandable.