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Sam Pearce

Above:  Driver Sam Pearce on the footplate of class O2/4 heavy freight locomotive No. 63956 at Grantham in the early 1960s.  Photograph taken by Colin Walker, © Martin Walker.

by Chris Pearce

My Grandfather was Sam Pearce who started working on the railway after an early job as a gardener at Belvoir Castle.  He lived at Woolsthorpe by Belvoir at the time and used to cycle to Grantham to work, I think as a cleaner.  He later moved to Springfield Road and was promoted to fireman and then driver during his 47½ years with the railway.

Sam (his real name was Wallace) and my grandma, Gladys, were a large part of my life as a child.  They lived opposite the turntable which was next to the Top Shed, where the Reads can-making factory was later built.  The turntable (so I was led to believe) was targeted by German bombers and the raid broke the foundations to their house, which caused the windows to rattle every time a lorry passed.

This aerial photograph, taken on 19th April 1950, shows the 'Top Shed' at top right and the adjacent 52-foot turntable. Sam and Gladys Pearce lived in the row of terraced houses at bottom left, facing Springfield Road. Their house was directly opposite the track down to the allotments (where Sam had a double one).  Victoria Street and Stamford Street lead off at the bottom right corner.
© English Heritage https://britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EAW028683

I remember his tales to this day, especially from the war years.  One of the most vivid memories I have from Sam was when he told me how the German bombers would often follow the steam engines during night air raids, knowing that they would be travelling through Grantham.  Marco’s ammunition factory was a prime target and he told me that if the train drivers spotted a German bomber following the train, they would slow down in the tunnels so that the bombers flew on quicker than the train, therefore losing the train’s guidance.  I went to sleep most nights as a child listening for the sound of 'his' whistle after coming out of Peascliffe tunnel, which he said he would blow for me.  I think he drove a locomotive called Blink Bonny at one stage, and I can remember going in with him on the odd occasion when he was shunting.

Rail-Online: A1 4-6-2 (Gresley) &emdash; 2550 1928c Kings Cross
No. 2550 'Blink Bonny' was one of the same class of express passenger locomotives as 'Flying Scotsman'. It was based at Grantham shed from 1925 to 1942, and for some shorter periods in the mid-1940s and early-1950s. It is seen here in the loco yard at London King's Cross station about 1928.
This and other photographs are available from Rail-Online: left click on the image.

LNER Gresley A1 pacific no. 2550 Blink Bonny at Marshmoor in 1929. 2550 was built at Doncaster in November 1924 and would be BR branded as no. 60051 in September 1948 whilst allocated to Top Shed. The ensuing years saw Blink Bonny being shuffled around the E & NE regions ending up at Gatesheadwhere she would be withdrawn in November 1964.[Mike Morant collection]

Sid 'Spud' Murphy was one of his firemen.  I met Sid once when he interviewed me for a job at BMARC.

There's a picture of Sam with his devil's head pipe in a book called Trails of Steam Volume 6 - Trails through Grantham by Colin Walker, and it's interesting to see a fuller account of the day when the picture was taken (A Trip to Highdyke in Winter's Chill).

I still have the clock Sam received when he achieved 45 years' service with the railway - and his 1927 Rudge-Whitworth bicycle, which I ride occasionally. I think it may have been purchased from a shop on Dudley Road in Grantham.

The clock presented to Driver Pearce in 1965 by British Railways in appreciation of 45 years' service.
The engraved plaque on the front of the clock.

 


Driver Pearce was not the only Grantham footplateman to be known as 'Sam' when it wasn't his real name - see 'Sam' Whitaker's page here.

There's more about life on the railway in Grantham during the Second World War on this page, and on  Boris Bennett's page here.


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