Early in August a website contact form arrived from David Page who enquired, "If you would like some reminiscences of a lifelong steam enthusiast from c.1950 onwards, including a few photos from the early 1960s to the present day, please feel free to contact me."
The very pleasing result is our latest new page, simply titled Grantham!, which connects David's earliest experiences of the railway at Grantham, in the early 1950s, with his enjoyment of 21st century main line steam.
The story begins with the memories of a young lad who in the early 1950s travelled by train from Nottingham to stay with an aunt and uncle. Recollections include an A1, Kittiwake, in BR blue livery speeding north with a Pullman service; David also records his disappointment when the aunt and uncle moved away and he could, at least for the time being, no longer visit and enjoy the excitement of east coast expresses.
We look back at some local news items which illuminate the wavering relationship between loco spotters and the railway authorities at Grantham during the 1950s.
Happily, in the early 1960s David's relatives moved back to the town and he describes his reacquaintance with the Grantham railway scene. Now he had a camera and a growing interest in photography, and also a feeling that he should try to make his own personal record of the last few years of east coast steam. His endeavours extended to taking photographs from the windswept andchillystation platforms early in February 1963, in the midst of the UK's record-breaking arctic winter.
The early 1960s may have been the finale, but there has been a curtain call. The narrative and photographs extend into the age of digital imaging. The page concludes with three superb pictures of northbound specials taken by Davidat Belton Lane. They are hauled by A3 No. 60103 Flying Scotsman, A4 No. 4464 Bittern and A1 No. 60163 Tornado …and the A1 was in early BR blue, just as Kittiwake had been bedecked some six decades before.
The new page is in our Spotters' Corner section; the link above will take you directly to it.
When it comes to Grantham's association with the railway, Tracks through Grantham is one of many sources available. We aim to signpost other people's work recording and presenting the railway history of the town so, for example, there are lists of books, articles in magazines etc. here.
On the Internet, the saying 'other websites are also available' is as true for Grantham railway interest as it is for soap powder or chocolate bars, and below are links to pages which have appeared on the Grantham Matters website over the past six months since the beginning of November.
There isn't much information with some of the photos, so we've done some research and added notes. Most of the photos can be seen much more clearly by using your browser's 'zoom' function to magnify the page.
The top picture appears to be the removal of weathered and degraded stone from the east side of Great Ponton Cutting, between Great Ponton station and Highdyke. When the cutting here was widened on that side for the new Up Goods line, in about 1875, it's likely that its side was left as a steep rock face. We got in touch with Richard Cumming who says, 'The top layers of Lincolnshire Limestone (which this is) are very weathered, i.e. loose and open, compared with the thicker solid seams down below. As a result they are prone to the actions of frost and rain. I think the men are dealing with a landslip, or a potential landslip, and have been removing all loose material from the side of the cutting leaving the rough, exposed uneven face of more solid material seen in the photo.'
The words on the side of the wagon are G N BALLAST WAGON NORTH DISTRICT. Here and here are links to two later photos which show the same site – perhaps just a few yards further south - after the cutting sides had been graded back.
We are sure that the lower picture is in the same locality. There was a bridge here, shown on maps dated c.1904, and it would be numbered Overbridge 232 in the civil engineer's records. The maps also show signal posts in the same locations; these would be starting signals for Great Ponton box, Up Main and Up Goods.
This photograph is captioned 'Future Prime Minister Anthony Eden entering Grantham station in 1951'. The Grantham Journal reports Anthony Eden passing through the station on Tuesday 10th April 1951 to catch the 9.30am to London, having attended an event at Nottingham the previous evening.
Eden is on the right; on the left is Harold Scampion, Grantham Station Master from 1947 to 1963; in the centre is Stanley Hodgkins, Grantham Division Conservative party agent. In the background is the now long-gone Station Inspector's house, No. 9 Station Road.
At this time Eden was in opposition, but he had held important government posts during the 1930s and 1940s including twice being Foreign Secretary, to which post he would again be appointed, in October 1951, in the post-war Churchill government. Anthony Eden succeeded Winston Churchill as Prime Minister from April 1955 until January 1957.
We hope everyone's keeping well. This update will keep you up to speed with the most recent news on the Tracks through Grantham front as we wait for warmer, longer days and the prospect of some kind of normality returning.
the Grantham Railway Disaster of 19th September 1906 had calamitous consequences for the Robertson family as they travelled home to Scotland. There's a new page about how the fateful journey unfolded and its dreadful outcome here.
About halfway down the above page we have a report from the front page of The Grantham Journal of 17th July 1942 about the retirement of one of the signalmen:
Arthur Chalkley retires, 32 years a South Box Signalman
The report outlines Arthur's very active working and home life, leading us to ponder "What wouldn't we give to have an opportunity to talk to men like Arthur Chalkley, born in Great Ponton, railway signalman, NUR local branch secretary, Town Councillor, and much more besides."
Thanks to 'Google' the page was discovered recently by one of Arthur Chalkley's granddaughters. She has been in touch and sent us a wonderful family photograph which we have added beneath the newspaper report.
Further research has revealed that Rosamond Chalkley, Arthur's wife, was also active in local circles and in the mid-1930s she was president of the Grantham Branch of the NUR Women’s Guild (for the wives and daughters of railwaymen). We hope to have more in future.
A New Page in Preparation
On another front, our quest to encourage former Grantham spotters to tell us about their personal stories of visits to the station and other local railway locations has resulted in another set of nostalgic memories being passed over to us. This time Phil Wilson has sent over some of his notes and photographs that were taken by himself in and around the Grantham area during the early 1960s. These notes are currently being pieced together in readiness for a new article that will appear in ‘Spotters' Corner’ so please do look out for it.
Here's a taster...
If you have not already done so, make sure you get an early personal notification from us when it is published, by subscribing. It’s free and very easy to do from the Contact Us or Subscribe page.
LNER and BR(E) Staff Magazines
A few years ago, as part of our ongoing research, we purchased two very useful DVDs from the Great Eastern Railway Society. The first DVD covers The LNER Magazine from 1927 to 1947, with the second one covering The British Railways (Eastern Region) Magazine from 1948 to 1963. These magazines contain an absolute wealth of information and after many months of painstaking work going through the numerous pages, we have now managed to extract all references to people and incidents that have a connection with Grantham. This also includes the other local stations that are situated within the boundaries of our Tracks through Grantham territory. To hopefully aid future research when developing new pages for the website, this information has been successfully transferred to a comprehensive searchable spreadsheet.
Grantham Station Buildings in Commercial Use
Various rooms in Grantham's station buildings are being used for commercial purposes these days.
Back in April 2016 the former First Class Waiting Room was converted into an estate agent’s office. It's been out of use again for a while, but there's currently a move to change it into a café .
The Whistle Stop micro pub opened in the old Parcels Office in November 2019. Currently it's closed on account of government restrictions, but we gather they hope to reopen their 'Platform Beer Garden' on 12th April.
Perhaps more unused areas of the station will find new roles in the future.
A Recent Magazine Article
If you've seen Steam World Issue 405, March 2021, you may have seen that there's some local interest:
the cover photo is of Grantham's A3 No. 60056 Centenary at York in 1959;
on pages 24-29 there's a feature by Nigel Harris titled Around Stoke Bank... It's a selection of black and white photos from the late 1950s and the mid-1960s, all taken by Philip Wells at a variety of locations between Essendine and Grantham.
Something you may be able to do for us...
While using the website, if you notice anything that needs putting right (such as a link that no longer goes to its intended destination, or something that's inaccurate or out-of-date) please send us a note. The site has become so extensive that we aren't able to carry out 'housekeeping checks' on every page as regularly as we used to. More pairs of eyes will be very welcome. Please use either the Leave a Reply form, which appears on most pages, or the Contact Form on this page.
With best wishes to everyone as we hopefully all 'spring forward',
Above: We couldn't resist this seasonal picture. Grantham driver Jim Ledger and fireman Benny Kirk were on the footplate of No. 2551 Prince Palatine on Monday 9th March 1931 setting out from London King's Cross. See below under A Grantham Crew’s Miraculous Escape.
(From The LNER Magazine, with acknowledgement to the LNER as publisher and with kind permission from the Great Eastern Railway Society. The Society has funded and organised the magazine's digitisation. The digital copy can be ordered as a 2-DVD set here)
With most of us 'confined to barracks' there's never been a better time to extend and update the website! There's a new page, and several pages have been improved and updated with more information and images.
In February 1930 The LNER Magazine published a photograph of six Grantham drivers who had retired during 1929. The men were proudly posed together at a retirement presentation.
It seemed to us that behind this photograph there are six stories of working life on the railway. Potentially, the men's careers on the footplate might span a period from the 'Races to the North' of 1888 and 1895, conducted in relays using locomotives such as the GNR Stirling 'Singles', to the non-stop Flying Scotsman introduced in 1928 between London and Edinburgh and made possible by the LNER Class A3 'Super Pacifics'.
Using accounts written by authors Harold Bonnett and Rev. Arthur Cawston, who became well acquainted with several of the men, and archives accessible to us on line in modern times, we think we've gained something of an insight into four decades or so of footplate work at Grantham, from the 1880s to the 1920s.
This very popular page was launched in April 2020 as Highdyke to Hougham in Fifty Pictures, when it attracted a record number of appreciative comments. Tom has worked with Steve Philpott to identify and scan more of his favourite photographs, extending the range north from Hougham to Westborough and featuring a wider variety of views.
Launched in August 2020, we have recently added information about two collisions inside Stoke Tunnel in the 1850s which led to Great Ponton station having a role in signalling through the tunnel. Jim Chesney has kindly allowed the use of some splendid photographs from the 1930s, and the Saltersford Up main line auto signals receive an overdue write-up.
Another find in The LNER Magazine is a great photograph of a Grantham crew's departure from King's Cross taken by a photographer from The Times on a snowy March morning in 1931. The crew were driver Jim Ledger who happened to be a younger brother of Walter Ledger, one of the retiring drivers in the photograph noted above, and fireman Benny Kirk.
Thirty years later, in December 1961, Benny was the driver in charge of one of the trains involved in a disastrous multiple collision near Wood Walton. We've added the 1931 photograph to our page about that collision, along with a recently discovered LNER circular of 1928 which demonstrates the enduring importance of the Aberdeen meat train which Benny Kirk was driving in 1961.
A quite co-incidental connection is that one of our retiring drivers of 1929, Joe Wright, was born at Wood Walton in 1864.
We always appreciate feedback, so we hope you'll dip further into the site from time to time and let us know what you think, using either the Leave a Reply section, which appears at the bottom of most pages, or our Contact Form.
Edinburgh Haymarket-based A3 60100 Spearmint was a bit of a rare sight as far south as our Tracks through Grantham territory, so when the locomotive turned up in two separate stories recently sent in by Alan Wilce and Roger Bamber we were tempted to rename 60100 as Doublemint! However, having chewed it over, we decided to keep things as they were, so hopefully our two new pages in 'Spotters’ Corner' from Roger and Alan will bring a breath of fresh air for our readers.
So join 13-year-old Roger Bamber on Grantham station in 1958, having travelled by bike over the hilly A607 from Leicester. When opportunities arise to capture some Haymarket Raritieson film,Roger is ready with his camera. One of the images is a photograph that helped to determine his career.
Then join Alan Wilce in 1960. Alan arrived from Melton Mowbray in his parents' car. His records were taken with pencil and notepad rather than film and now, with his Ian Allan ABC 'Combined Volume', his memories and some archive timetables, Alan re-creates for us the excitement of a 3-hour Summer Evening Visit to Grantham in 1960 during which 60100 Spearmint made another rare appearance at the station.
We've said before that often wedon't know where the inspiration for the next new page for Tracks through Grantham will appear from. We have items 'in the pipeline' all the time but, quite regularly, someone will get in touch with a surprise discovery. Just a few weeks ago a copy of a magazine titled Locomotive Express revealed a previously unknown (to us) account of a regular day's work for a No. 1 Express Link crew at Grantham Loco in 1950.
So prepare to get grit in your hair, and organise a nice warm bath for when you get home, as we travel 326 miles in one shift with a Grantham crew on our latest page All in a Day's Work.