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 We do not publish these details on the website because we need to know how many people to expect.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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.