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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.

Further reading:

We began to construct the Tracks through Grantham website in the summer of 2016.  Over the past three years or so the site has expanded to the extent that it can be quite difficult to find what you're looking for.  Even we, in our role as editors, occasionally get lost among the pages!

So we've just installed as a trial an interactive Sitemap which we hope will help to make navigation simpler.   The new page is here.

It's not yet perfect and we have some ideas to make it better, but we'd welcome feedback before we take it further.  Please use the Contact Form on the page.

John and Mel

One of our contributors recently let us know about a rather magnificent photograph which has just appeared on Twitter.  It was taken at Grantham station in 1949 or 1950 and shows the last GNR Ivatt 'large Atlantic' to remain in service, Grantham shed's No. 62822, taking the empty stock of a Boston or Lincoln train out of platform 2 and past the Yard signal box.

The owner of the picture has kindly allowed it to be added to one of our Yard Box pages.  To see it, follow this link and scroll nearly half way down the page.

We introduce the crew, their O2 locomotive and a short but intensively used section of the East Coast Main Line as we ride on the footplate with Colin Walker between Grantham South and Highdyke.  Travel back to a winter's day in the early 1960s to join them on our latest new page here.

Our next regular twice-a-year get-together for people interested in the Tracks through Grantham project takes 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 do not publish these details on the website because we need to know how many people to expect.

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.

Steve Taylor, lower right, as the fireman of O2 locomotive No. 63931on the High Dyke branch. He is holding the single line token. Driver Bob Harsley is in the cab.
Photograph from the Grahame Wareham collection.

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 succeeded 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.