Tracks through Grantham aims to capture the spirit and way of life of the railway community in the Lincolnshire market town of Grantham and the surrounding area. It is a tribute to generations of Grantham people who have maintained a fine tradition in all aspects of railway work.
Today Grantham railway station is a busy interchange point on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), serving the people of the town and the surrounding villages. Its story began in 1852 when the Great Northern Railway opened a new and more direct route for the ECML between Peterborough and Retford. This established Grantham as a strategic junction on one of the world's most important railways routes. Passengers changed at Grantham for trains to Leicester, to Nottingham and the North Midlands, and to Lincoln, Sleaford and Boston.
Since the 1850s the 393-mile East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh has been renowned as one of the world's premier high speed railways. The reputation of Grantham as a railway centre stems from its adoption as a staging point for the locomotives hauling main line express services. In the days of steam, with coal shovelled by hand as fuel, it was seldom possible for a locomotive - let alone its crew - to work throughout on long-distance services. So those trains were usually hauled by a relay of locomotives. At just over 100 miles out of King's Cross, Grantham was an ideal distance from London to become a regular engine changing point. To fulfil this need a locomotive shed opened near the station in 1862.
The town's place in railway legend was established in 1876, when the Great Northern Railway began to operate express passenger trains over the 105½ miles between London and Grantham without a stop. It became the first stretch of line in the world where non-stop travel regularly exceeded 100 miles. From then until the engine shed closed in 1963, footplate crew and maintenance staff based at Grantham 'Loco', as the shed was known, had charge of some of the world's most advanced express steam locomotives. The famous Flying Scotsman and the speed record holder Mallard both spent periods in Grantham's fleet.
It wasn't just down to the footplate crew and the loco fitters. The skills and vigilance of many other staff contributed to efficient working. For example signalmen ensured that the intensive traffic was safely controlled, and platelayers maintained the track to an exemplary standard.
Five miles south of Grantham begins one of the world's most renowned railway 'racing stretches' known as Stoke Bank, where speed records have been made and broken. From Stoke Summit there is a 13-mile descent over nearly straight track towards Peterborough. A few miles north of Grantham, Barkston Junction was the starting point for what proved to be the record run of the world's fastest steam locomotive, Mallard. Hauling a southbound test train on Sunday 3rd July 1938, Mallard passed through Grantham station gathering speed en route to Stoke Summit. During the descent of 'the bank' a still unbeaten 126 mph world speed record for a steam-hauled train was achieved.
We hope Tracks through Grantham gives a unique insight into life on the railway through many personal experiences, documents and photographs generously shared with the project. You will also find here the reminiscences of 'loco spotters' of the 1950s and 1960s. Some were local lads, but many travelled to Grantham from far and wide to experience the incomparable excitement of the high speed main line steam railway.
The main line is only part of the story. Village stations, branch lines, mineral railways serving local ironstone workings, even sidings into the works of manufacturers - all these and more have played their part.
In our pages you will find links to other resources on the Internet, and references to our suggestions for further reading in books and periodicals. The Grantham Journal, the town's newspaper, was inaugurated in 1854 and is a marvellous resource for information about railway life in the earlier years. During the 20th century a remarkable number of people recorded and documented the railway scene at Grantham – its trains and locomotives, its tracks and buildings and, most engagingly, the stories of railway people and their families. Authors and photographers have left us a rich legacy in words and pictures which breathe life into railway history.
We hope you enjoy your journey through Grantham's vibrant and fascinating railway history. Our site can easily be explored using the menu above, which appears at the top of every page, or the Sitemap on this page. There are also links within the site to facilitate progress to the next page in a sequence.
We are continually looking to broaden our knowledge and add content, so if you think you can provide new information, or you would like to comment on any aspect of the website, please get in touch using our Contact Form.