Above: At 6.24pm on Saturday 16th May 1964 class A3 No. 60062 Minoru, on the left, is about to be passed by No. 60054 Prince of Wales; both were on parcels trains. By 1964 opportunities to capture a photograph of two A3s passing on the East Coast Main Line must have been very rare. The tender of No. 60062 is being replenished with water - you can just see the fireman standing on the back of the tender, and the driver is walking towards the water column.
Tracks through Grantham have recently been in touch with Phil Wilson who lived in Grantham until the late 1960s. Phil has kindly allowed TTG the opportunity to share some of his detailed notes made during many spotting trips around the area in the early 1960s. The notes have been reproduced in their original handwritten format for this article, accessible via the links at the bottom of this page. Below we've included a selection of photographs taken by him during some of those memorable trips.
However, before we take a closer look at Phil’s photographs and notes, here’s how he became interested in the steam railway scene.
Phil tells us that he was born in London in 1949, but his family moved to Grantham soon afterand he went on to live in the town until 1967. One of his first lasting memories was the colourful street party that took place for the Queen’s Coronation on Tuesday 2nd June 1953. The family home was situated south east of the station, so the railway was pretty close and within earshot of his house. The daily walk to primary school, off Huntingtower Road, provided an opportunity to glimpse engines on the main line passing through the town. At school the railway was still in view, and during playtime the sharp-eyed kids would be able to make out the numbers of engines that were either pottering about in the yard or travelling through the station.
As he grew older Phil took photographs of the railway whenever he could. Favourite vantage points were the station, the bridge on Springfield Road and, of course, the engine shed and yard, as depicted in the following photographs.
Shed and Yard
In this undated photograph V2 No 60941 moves 'light' through the Western Yard and approaches the northern end of Grantham Station. No. 60941 had a prolonged allocation at York North (50A) from 1955 before being withdrawn in July 1964. Photograph taken by Phil Wilson
Springfield Road Bridge
After noting down the numbers of the engines 'on shed' Phil and his friends would continue watching the activity on the main line from a spot on top of an old air raid shelter. As many of our readers will know, this was near to the shed entrance off Springfield Road (see photograph below).
The bridge that spanned Springfield Road provided an eye-level view of the main line and, as we can see in Phil's next selection of photographs, it was an ideal location for both spotting and photography.
The 'Railway Field'
Moving on, another favoured place for Phil was an area to the south of the Great North Road Bridge (also known as South Parade - today the B1174) where the road climbs out of town. It was here that a footpath went generally south from the bridge (seen to the lower right hand side on the photograph below) and ran parallel with the railway.
The footpath passed through a sloping field with two wooded areas that merged into scrubland and formed a huge, seemingly wild, open area for youngsters to play in and explore. A benefit for an enthusiast like Phil was the fact that there were plenty of places to take photographs close to the tracks. The open area continued southwards for about half a mile, all the way to the railway bridge over the River Witham.
Barkston, Belvoir and Melton Junctions
Having a bicycle opened up new local horizons for Phil. Barkston Junction, situated to the north of Grantham, was a big attraction. Being way out of town it had a magical combination of rural countryside and an exciting railway running through it. The peace and quiet was broken onlyby the passing trains on the main line and on the Nottingham to Sleaford route with, occasionally, the added interest of a locomotive on trial from Doncaster being turned at the junction.
On other days Phil would pedal out to either Allington or Belvoir Junctions, both located to the west of Grantham. These two places provided the opportunity to see steam traffic going to and from the Nottingham area.
Another location, slightly further away but still just about within cycling distance, was Melton Junction which could be found on the eastern side of Melton Mowbray. This was where the line out of Melton divided, South West towards Leicester and North West to Nottingham. It was an ideal place for spotting and taking photographs.
Phil still has two Ian Allan ABCs, both for 1962 (Summer Edition). One of these would accompany him on his many spotting trips, whilst the other one would stay safely at home. The 1962 issue had the most steam locomotives in its pages so, as their numbers dwindled, he did not bother with purchasing later years (1963 – 1965).
Here's a snapshot from Phil's 1964 spotting notes (see links below) showing that although Grantham shed had closed almost a year before (in September 1963) the notes record that there were still plenty of steam hauled freights throughout the summer of 1964. For instance, on Friday July 17th 1964 between 9am and 6pm he recorded in order of appearance; B1 61089, WD 90169, 9F 92145, 9F 92189, A3 60106, 9F 92041, Mogul 43060, B1 61070, B1 61272, B1 61120, 9F 92188, 9F 92181, 9F 92183, 9F 92144, B1 61032, B1 61061, B1 61141 and finally 9F 92183, some of which returned light engine.
As mentioned above, we have added some links at the end of this article to enable you to look through Phil's spotting notes yourself. These cover the period between September 1963 to October 1964.
Phil recalls - 'There was still comparable activity in October 1964, but in retrospect I see that by then most of the engines I saw were class B1, K1, Austerities or 9Fs. The former main line Pacifics, the A1s and A3s and occasional V2s had been relegated to parcels, empty stock, cement, fish and steel trains, before they disappeared altogether. Diesels had, unfortunately, more or less completely taken over. There was just one slight glimmer of hope in my heart before the flame was extinguished forever. My notes say, perhaps with a touch of pride, that A3 No 60112 'St. Simon' (probably coming in from New England shed) replaced a Brush diesel on a down passenger train on Wednesday October 7th 1964. As far as I can remember, the last steam-hauled passenger service into Grantham was a Saturday train from Doncaster, and it’s possible, but I can’t be sure, that it might have continued to be steam hauled into late 1964? There was also, I remember, a regular southbound evening steel train, usually around 7pm, either 7E23 or 6E23. This probably ran during the summer of 1964 and right into September of that year. There was a regular midday steam hauled PUF (Pick up Freight) too, and this terminated at Grantham around that time. By 1965 steam was becoming very rare at Grantham. The barren shed yard was still worth an occasional visit (just in case) but there was really little point in us hanging around expecting any main line steam. The only locos I recall were an occasional 9F but, in retrospect again, I think these were often coal trains and therefore probably taking a route to and from Nottingham via Grantham and the south. Grantham had by now lost some of its attraction for me, so I decided to look further afield for steam power.’
During late 1964 and into 1965 Nottingham Victoria had now become Phil’s favourite destination for finding working steam services. There was a direct rail link from Grantham and this made his trip very easy. He remembers Nottingham Victoria as a spectacularly grand station and the routine work of day to day freight haulage, together with the occasional passenger train, was on the whole operated by grimy soot laden locomotives. It wasn’t to last for long though and during 1965 steam power gradually declined on the old Great Central line too. By the autumn of that year Phil says that it just wasn't worth going any more and the dawning of 1966 effectively brought an end to the widespread use of steam in the East Midlands. With the closure of the Great Central as a through route line in September 1966 regular passenger haulage ceased.
‘I will never forget my trainspotting days in and around Grantham and the local area. Hopefully my photographs and notes will help other enthusiasts reading this small essay to recall their own happy memories of those times, they were truly wonderful days'
Phil Wilson - Summer 2021
Forward to detailed records of Phil's spotting visits at Grantham and to nearby locations on the following pages: