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Railcars (Diesel Multiple Units) in Grantham and Lincolnshire.

by Mel Smith.

Can you remember the first generation Railcars? Perhaps you referred to them as Diesel Multiple Units, or maybe DMUs for short?

My own early memory of travelling on a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) goes right back to either 1959 or perhaps the summer of 1960.  I’m not entirely sure of the exact year to be honest, it was certainly in the late 1950s or early 1960- 61. The half-remembered journey must have been from Skegness to Nottingham and I was probably returning from a week in my Aunt's caravan at Ingoldmells. The only few ‘hazy brain frames’ that I remember from this journey are in fact of the stretch along the main line south from Barkston Junction. I remember travelling through a cutting which had perhaps three or four overbridges with dense green woodland to the side and then entering the northern portal of what I found out later was Peascliffe Tunnel. In my mind's eye I do know that without question this sequence took place in bright sunlight and colour and only ends when we plunge into the cool darkness of the tunnel. Oddly enough I have no memory of coming out the other end!

A two car DMU, having just left Peascliffe Tunnel, clatters along the main line on its way to Grantham in the early 1960s. Photograph - Noel Ingram.

In later years one of the best things that I can recall when travelling on a DMU was the rather nice option to place your feet on the heater, especially in the winter months! Another memory was looking out for an opportunity to sit in the old 1st class compartment when no one else was around; the seats were much more comfortable in there! It was fascinating to be lucky enough to get a seat immediately behind the driver and watch him applying the brake as we approached each station. Once we had stopped I remember the rattle, throb and thrum of the idling engine.  I would listen out for the buzz buzz from the guard and then the driver's buzz buzz in return. Soon moving off, the noise of the engine would increase as more power was applied, then as if coasting, the engine would momentarily go quieter again between each gear change. The large windows at the front provided a driver's eye view and I was able to see right along the line into the distance.

A nice illustration showing the clear view of the line ahead as provided by a ride in the cab of a Skegness bound DMU that's about to plunge into Peascliffe Tunnel. Once through the tunnel, and about a mile further on, the train will take the line eastwards at Barkston South Junction, towards Honington, before heading to the coast. 
Photograph - Noel Ingram.
The view from the rear was pretty good too, as shown in this image taken from the cab of a DMU joining the Up main line at Barkston South Junction. Trains travelling in the opposite direction (from Grantham) would cross from the Down main to use the Up main for a few yards before branching off to the right as can be seen in the track work in the centre of this picture.
Photograph - Noel Ingram.

A combination of old jointed track and 1950s vehicle suspension invariably resulted in a gentle bouncing motion in your seat. A quick glance back down the carriage provided the very amusing sight of everyone else bouncing around too! After each stop the guard would be kept busy doing his rounds, diligently checking his tickets. Once satisfied that all was in order and correct he would then open the connecting door to visit the driver for a casual chat, placing an almost guiding hand on the driver's shoulder and stooping to see the road ahead. Some of the drivers had quickly picked up the habit of sounding the two tone horn with a rather dubious rendition of On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at  It was a wonderful way to see Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire!

That's enough of my own early memories, so let's look at how it all came about. In this article I have tried to put together a general overview of the origin and development of Lincolnshire's DMU services and how they gradually replaced steam on local services in and around Grantham. It is not a technical masterpiece for the expert aficionado, but will hopefully provide you with enough background information and encouragement for your own further reading.


During 1955 British Railways (BR) published a modernisation plan which included an ambition to remove steam from Britain’s railway system by replacing it with electric or diesel power. By 1958 BR’s Eastern Region had already taken delivery of its first five English Electric (EE) Type 4 diesel electric locomotives. These were used initially on the main line from London, through Peterborough, Grantham and onwards to the north. The next five years would see further changes on the main line with the introduction of more EE and Brush Type 4 and EE Type 5 locomotives.

The secondary cross country lines from Grantham, connecting the town with Lincoln, Sleaford, Boston and Skegness to the east and Nottingham and Derby to the west, had already experienced an early implementation of BR’s modernisation plan. During the mid-1950s some local steam hauled services were replaced by ‘Railcars’ or, as they were more commonly known, ‘Diesel Multiple Units' (DMUs). So let’s take a look at some of the events that happened in the years before the introduction of the Lincolnshire Diesel Railcar Scheme.


GWR Railcar W20W stored at Worcester in 1965.  Wikimedia Commons - RuthAS

Records show that in August 1952 ex-GWR ‘Railcar’ No W20W had been used in trials between Leeds and Harrogate. In September 1952 this ex-GWR ‘Railcar’ travelled south, undertaking further trials over a 4 day period whilst running on local passenger services in the Boston area. The ‘Railcar’ visited a variety of places, including Grimsby, Skegness and Mablethorpe.  What an astonishing surprise its presence must have been for any casual Lincolnshire lineside spotter who happened to be in the area at this time!

The purpose of these trials was to look at the suitability of the Lincolnshire lines for operation by BR's forthcoming new two-car ‘Railcars’ (DMUs) which, as we shall see later, eventually began operating in earnest during the mid-1950s. Once the trials were over No. W20W returned to its home ground on the Western Region.

A few years after these trails had been completed and a little further north, over the county border, BR introduced the new ‘Railcar’ or Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) services in the West Riding area of Yorkshire and also in West Cumberland. It wasn’t long before Lincolnshire’s own diesel powered ‘Railcar’ / DMU scheme followed. For simplicity and continuity, we will now refer to them as DMUs throughout the rest of this article.


BR's new DMUs were descended from vehicles designed and manufactured by what was collectively known as the 'Big Four' railway companies, these being the LNER, LMS, GWR and SR. These companies had been nationalised on Thursday 1st January 1948 to form the new British Railways (BR).

One of the fundamental ideas behind the design and operation of DMUs is that the engines of all individual motor coaches in any length of train can be controlled together.  This means that additional power can be made available as the length of the train increases to meet variations in traffic requirements. However, the introduction of new and varied DMU types in itself created coupling problems.

These problems were due to the different electrical control types that had been incorporated in individual designs. The result was that some of the first-generation DMUs were mutually incompatible and therefore were unable to work as planned, in multiple with each other. To get around the problem the control systems were colour-coded in order to prevent jumper leads from being connected in error. In total five codes were introduced: A Red Triangle, A Yellow Diamond, A White Circle, An Orange Star, and A Blue Square.


By courtesy of the Great Eastern Railway Society we are able to reproduce the following article that first appeared in The British Railways Eastern Region Magazine for 1955. The article refers to the initial rail car schemes in West Riding and West Cumberland and also mentions the forthcoming introduction of DMU services in Lincolnshire.

‘The Lincolnshire diesel rail car scheme, which will be introduced shortly, will be the third such scheme on British Railways. The first and second schemes were the West Riding and West Cumberland, respectively. First and third class accommodation will be provided in the Lincolnshire scheme units which have a power coach consisting of two A.E.C. 150 H.P. diesel engines and a driver trailer coach. A special feature of the design is the extensive use of light alloy metal which has been used for the purpose of providing a good power to weight ratio. To reduce condensation and noise the inside structure and the underside of the floor are to be sprayed with asbestos. The controls throughout are electro- pneumatically operated and consist of electric relays which operate the various magnetic valves. The controls are grouped together on a control table which occupies the left hand portion of the driver's compartment. Automatic type braking is provided for by a conventional type hand brake, and the brake system has an additional reservoir pipe containing a higher vacuum which gives a quick release. Each power car is provided with two engines, the driving controls are at one end only of each power car and each driving trailer car, and the trains are marshalled so that a driving compartment is at each end. The area which will be covered by these diesel rail cars embraces the following towns and resorts: Lincoln, Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Gainsborough, Firsby, Skegness, Mablethorpe, Grantham, Boston, Sleaford and Sutton on Sea. The rail car units are designed to run at 65 m.p.h. Initially the diesel railcar units will be stabled at Lincoln, Boston and Grantham. Fuelling points will be provided at Lincoln, Boston and Grantham and also in the Grimsby & Cleethorpes area. The normal maintenance between overhauls of light weight diesel rail cars in the main works is carried out by motive power staff and the Carriage & Wagon Engineer's department. Motive power staff will require the units every day for 1 to 2 hours and up to 12 hours every 10 days, whilst the Carriage & Wagon department, at present, require them every 4 days in a place having good lighting facilities for about 4 hours.


The Derby ‘lightweight’ DMUs were the first to be designed by BR in the 1950s, being built at BR’s Derby Works between 1954 and 1955. They were called ‘lightweights’ due to their all aluminium body construction. They were very successful and paved the way for mass production of many other class types that emerged over the years to come.

The first of the Lincolnshire Derby 'lightweight' sets, Nos 79021 + 79613, moved from Derby C&W during the late morning of January 24th 1955, arriving at Lincoln loco shed in the early afternoon. By mid-February 1955 there were three sets at Lincoln, being housed in the old Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) locomotive shed adjacent to Durham Ox Junction. With the initial batch of Lincoln based DMUs now settled into their new home, the early part of 1955 was used for trial running. The aim of the trials was to look at their overall performance and determine the most suitable routes for their use. This also of course allowed for the important process of staff training.


Operating a fleet of DMUs on a rail network dominated by steam highlighted some of the problems that would be encountered during the implementation of BR’s Modernisation Plan. Diesels require a relatively clean working environment, so improved premises would need to be found for housing and the essential maintenance of DMU sets. The temporary DMU accommodation at the old MS&LR loco shed at Lincoln was not really adequate or in keeping with this part of the BR Modernisation Plan. A new purpose-built depot was therefore constructed for the DMUs, as well as for housing diesel shunting locos. The steel framed shed would incorporate three roads, two having pits for underframe work. Work was soon to get underway on the new facilities at Lincoln.

Lincoln Depot 1957. This photo appeared in British Railways Eastern Region Magazine for February 1960.

By courtesy of the Great Eastern Railway Society we are able to reproduce the following article that first appeared in The British Railways Eastern Region Magazine for 1955. The article explains the need for the construction of inspection and maintenance depots throughout the Eastern Region, including at Lincoln.

It is hardly necessary to say that the Region will have its share of diesel railcars, locomotives and shunters. Already 55 twin railcars have been allocated to the Lincoln, Norwich, Cambridge and Stratford districts, and within five or six years all the branch and secondary services should have gone over to railcar operation. Very few steam shunting engines will be left and quite a number of main line diesel locomotives will be available. Inspection and maintenance depots must be provided for them, in some cases with an eye to facilities for electric units later on; work on the first diesel railcar depot at Lincoln is already well advanced and others will follow quickly. One of the problems of the motive power transition period will be to decide where to employ diesel locomotives as they come along and how best to deal with the maintenance of both steam and diesel locomotives at the same time and in the same place. The best course will probably be to concentrate the diesels in selected districts and to eliminate steam facilities depot by depot.


Towards the end of March 1955 Derby ‘lightweight’ DMUs (79xxx series) could now be seen operating on many services throughout Lincolnshire. By Easter (April) 1955 nine were in the area, 79021/79613 to 79029/79621. During mid-May the existing fleet was joined by three more sets from Castle Bromwich. These were gradually introduced to local traffic, working further selected routes from the start of the summer in 1955. This was the forerunner to their full introduction in the coming winter months.

A Derby lightweight unit emerges from the dark depths of Peascliffe Tunnel into bright sunshine as it heads towards Grantham with a train from Skegness sometime in the late 1950s. Photograph kindly supplied by The Transport Archive.


The Grantham to Lincoln and Grantham to Boston services were among the earliest to be handed over to the new DMUs during the period 1955 to 1956. They first started to appear at Grantham during the summer of 1955 when they took over some of the local services. At the time it was thought that they would not be regularly operational within the area until after the autumn of 1955, but regular services from Grantham commenced in September 1955 when DMUs were used on the line to Nottingham (Victoria). By 1956 the DMUs were operating on the Grantham to Lincoln services via Honington and in the same year they also commenced work on the Grantham to Boston line via Sleaford. As stated earlier, the majority of Lincolnshire’s local secondary line services were by this time covered by the Derby ‘lightweight’ DMUs (79xxx series). By August 1956 the Derby ‘lightweight’ DMU allocation at Lincoln numbered 79021/79613 to 79033/79625, covering the area to the north and east of Grantham.

A 2-car Derby 'lightweight awaits its next duty at Grantham on 19th June 1955. Photograph used with permission from RCTS archive Ref JAY1268.


Rail-Online: DMUs &emdash; DMU 1950s Grantham-ROneg-1803-037
Two 2-car Derby Lightweight railcars rest at Platform 1.
This and other photographs are available from Rail-Online: left click on the image.
Table 63 & 64 of the Summer 1955 Timetable for Grantham and Lincoln services.


A local diesel multiple unit train entering the up bay platform - the 'original' platform 1 which no longer exists. Photograph taken by Humphrey Platts.


The Derby ‘lightweights’ were not at Lincoln for long. The arrival of the Cravens and Derby ‘heavyweight’ units changed the balance at Lincoln and a gradual exodus to other areas followed. Having arrived in Lincolnshire in March 1955, by March 1957 most of the Derby 'lightweights' had moved to Norwich. The first to leave the Lincoln Depot were 79021-3 and 79613-5, being transferred to Norwich in the autumn of 1956. More departures followed - in April 1957 79024-33 and 79616-25 transferred to Gorton. They were followed by 79034 + 79250 in June 1957, thus bringing an end to the short lived use of the Derby ‘lightweights’ at Lincoln.

Table 60 of the Summer 1958 Timetable for services between Grantham and Lincoln.
A handbill to publicise the winter 1958-59 services.



“I can remember travelling from Lincoln as early as 1955 and being excited about being able to see the view ahead through the driver's windows. I think the fact that Grantham's B12's were all transferred away in January 1957 is significant, as they had hauled a lot of those workings. I'm not saying no steam on these workings after 1956/7 but not very much. The DMUs did all seem to arrive pretty quickly, and worked most of the local trains round the County. The Lincoln to Grantham line via Honington in 1955 – 1956 had four units working intensively, covering all the lines from Lincoln to Grantham, Boston and Skegness”

Derby 'lightweight' E79026 stands in the Lincoln Bay at Grantham with a service bound for Boston. Photograph kindly lent by Stuart MacKay -

“My memories of Grantham from 1956 and the following years are of DMUs on all the local trains except I think some of the services to Nottingham and Derby"

A Derby Lightweight (796xx series) diesel railcar set at Grantham in August 1955. The photograph was taken by Godfrey Yeomans and is reproduced with the kind permission of Newton Abbott Railway Studies.

“I remember trains from Sleaford arriving at the old platform 1 (Lincoln Bay) but sometimes crossing the main lines and finishing up in the bay between the down main and the Nottingham platform. I can only think that this must have been something to do with the situation regarding main line trains during the time of arrival, as a departing train for Boston or Lincoln from the old platform 1 would still have to cross the up main line when leaving”.

CRAVENS DMUs (Class 105).

The Derby 'heavyweight' DMUs were bolstered by the arrival of Cravens units.

A Cravens DMU slowly comes up to the buffer stop in the 'Nottingham Bay' at Grantham.

The Sheffield Company ‘Cravens Ltd.’ had also built a fleet of DMUs (class 105). A total of 405 units were manufactured, including 278 powered vehicles. These entered service between 1956 and 1959 and were used extensively throughout eastern England. Although the Cravens class 105 DMUs were not built in the same quantities as the other DMU classes around at the time, they remain arguably one of the classic DMU designs to appear as part of BR's first generation fleet.

A Grantham bound Cravens DMU is caught in late afternoon sunshine, mid-way between Peascliffe Tunnel and Belton Lane bridge near Great Gonerby.


A class 114 (Derby Heavyweight) 2-car DMU stands at Grantham's platform 5 with a Nottingham service on Sunday 19th April 1959. Photograph used with permission from RCTS, archive Ref JAY3084.

During 1957 the Derby ‘heavyweights’ (later class 114) were introduced to Lincolnshire and they too were also allocated to Lincoln Depot. These heavier DMUs were built between September 1956 and July 1957 and incorporated steel bodies on a longer 64 ft 6in (19.66m) underframe compared with the Derby ‘lightweights’ which were only 57 ft 6in (17.4m) and had aluminium bodies.

The view looking forward through the cab of DMU Car No 50046 at Grantham on 29th May 1957. 50046 was introduced to service on 29th March 1957 and allocated to Lincoln Depot (40A). Having cleared the North Box, an unidentified locomotive gets its train underway from platform 3.

Forty-nine 2-car ‘heavyweight’ units were built. They were numbered E50001 to E50049 for driving motors and later renumbered as 53001 to 53049. The driving trailers were numbered E56001 to E56049 and later renumbered 54001 to 54049.

Porters transferring luggage and mail bags into the Guard's brake compartment of a Derby 'heavyweight' diesel multiple unit (DMU), or railcar, with driving trailer composite car No. E56000 at the north end.  The scene is on platform 1, the 'Lincoln bay', on 16th April 1964.
"On the LNER Encyclopedia forum on October 5th 2010 correspondent 'strang steel' wrote:
E56000 was paired with MBS (Motor Brake Second) E50000, which had two Rolls Royce 238 hp engines and hydraulic transmission. The other units in the class had B.U.T. engines and mechanical gearboxes. They were classified as 'blue square' for multiple unit operation, but I think that E50000/56000 were 'blue star' and therefore could not work in multiple with the rest of the class - hence their early withdrawal in 1967. We used to identify this pair purely by sound, as there were no gear changes when accelerating from a station stop, unlike all the others in the class, just a continuous noise from the engines."
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.


By courtesy of the Great Eastern Railway Society we are able to reproduce the following article that first appeared in The British Railways Eastern Region Magazine for 1957. The article explains the facilities put in place for training BR personnel in DMU operation and maintenance. The article went on to show that the ‘diesel instruction train’ visited Grantham on Thursday November 14th 1957.

An interior view of one of the vehicles forming the diesel instruction train that visited Grantham on Thursday November 14th 1957. Photograph: British Railways - Courtesy of The Stuart MacKay Collection.

The modernisation plan is now in top gear, and one result is that more and more diesels are coming into service and more and more trained men are needed to drive and maintain them. With this end in view a diesel instruction train, the first of its kind on British Railways, has just begun a tour of Eastern Region motive power depots.

The facilities thus available are additional to the normal diesel training given to drivers and technical staff, and its visits to the depots will provide an opportunity for further instruction. The new train consists of two bogie coaches which have been specially converted. One of the vehicles contains a models room, a set of driver's controls, and a generating plant to provide current for lighting, whilst in the second coach is a lecture room and living quarters for the resident instructor.

In the models room is displayed a wide variety of the most interesting parts of diesel trains and shunting locomotives. Many are sectioned so that their inner parts are visible, and in addition there is a great variety of large-scale diagrams mounted on hardboard to make them convenient for instruction purposes. The reproduction of the control position includes the various indicator lights, all of which work in response to the driver's actions just as they would on a vehicle in service.

There is also a complete control cabinet from a diesel-electric shunting locomotive. The lecture room has seating accommodation for 38 persons and two projectors are available for showing sound films. A magnetic blackboard and projector for slides and film strips are also included in the equipment. The train is touring the whole of the Region, calling at each of the principal motive power depots where it will remain for periods of up to a week or more depending upon the number of staff at each particular point. 

The driver's new working environment. A typical DMU cab layout.


DMUs were now firmly in control of most local secondary line services to and from Grantham. DMUs, still known as Railcars to Grantham men, were stored between duties in the former carriage sidings. The DMUs were serviced by Grantham steam fitters in the Permanent Way Engineers’ sidings, which were situated on the down side, near to the North Box.  With the steady introduction of diesel power on the main line from the late 1950s and early 1960s, the end was nigh for steam power at Grantham. The steam era had seen its share of accidents and mishaps over the years and the new DMU services also provided a few stories for the local press who referred to them as 'Diesel locomotives' or sometimes 'Diesel trains'

We are grateful to 'The British Newspaper Archive' - © 'The British Library Board' for being able to source and reproduce the following transcripts taken from the local weekly Friday newspaper the Grantham Journal.

The Grantham Journal for Friday August 19th 1955 reported on an incident at Sudbrook.


One of the new Diesel locomotives recently brought into service locally, crashed through a level crossing gate at Sudbrook on Wednesday afternoon. Cause of the mishap has not been explained, but it has been suggested that the wind might have blown the gate into the path of the train which was travelling from Grantham to Boston. Fortunately no one was hurt. The front panels of the train were dented and several panes of glass in the driver’s cabin were smashed by the impact, which strewed wreckage down the line for 50 yards. The debris was quickly cleared  by the train crew and railway workers and passengers were able to continue their journey after a delay of five minutes. Gatekeeper on duty was a relief worker, Mr Herbert Thacker of Wilsford.


‘The gates were closed to traffic for about half an hour’ he said. Wife of the regular gate keeper, Mrs E Baker, of Station House, Sudbrook, told the ‘Journal’ that when she first heard the train coming she paid little attention. Then suddenly there was a terrific crash. ‘I thought the front of our house had gone’ she said and admitted that it was some moments before she ventured  out to see what had happened as she was ‘so terrified’.

The Grantham Journal for January 27th 1956 reported on a tragic accident at the level crossing on the Barkston and Hougham road.


The 6.26 pm two coach Diesel train from Lincoln to Grantham was approaching the Barkston and Hougham road railway crossing when the driver, George Edward Wilkinson, of 89 Boultham Park Road Lincoln, thought he saw a small light. He sounded the hooter of the locomotive, but the next thing he observed was a man crossing over the line in front of him. The man, 34 years old Philip Huckerby, a farmworker, of Hough on the Hill, was knocked down by the train and he died from his injuries shortly afterwards. At the resumed inquest at Grantham on Friday, conducted by the Borough Coroner, Mr T.J. Pert, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’

43 M.P.H...

Driver Wilkinson added that he was travelling at about 43 miles per hour and he was only about six yards away when he saw Huckerby attempting to cross. The Guard, Frederick George Tindall, of 24 Colegrave street Lincoln, said that after passing over the crossing the driver immediately applied his brakes ‘full on’ and the train came to a standstill. He heard the hooter sound just prior to the crossing and later, looking out, he saw the driver climbing from his cabin to the ballast. He did the same and when he asked Wilkinson what was the matter he replied that he thought he had seen someone going over the crossing just in front of him.


Examining the leading unit of the train, witness found a cycle underneath, and, walking back towards the crossing, he found Huckerby lying on the up-road. George Arthur Chapman, of No 1 Cottage Honington station, a casual crossing keeper, told the Coroner that he arrived on duty about 6 pm and he went into the cabin. He was expecting the Lincoln – Grantham Diesel train just after 7 pm and shortly before that he looked out but saw no lights approaching. He heard nothing which warned him of the Diesel’s approach, but he added: ‘It was such a rough, windy night’ Witness added that he later saw sparks coming from underneath the train, which had come to a standstill, and he noticed the driver and guard looking round.


Answering a member of the jury, Chapman said it was doubtful whether he would have heard the hooter as the wind tended to carry the sound away from him. A railway fitter, Ernest William Brown, of Launder Terrace, Grantham, said he examined the train and found a number of scratch marks. Also the main power pipe was broken and the fuel pipe badly bent, he said. PC Woolley said that about 150 yards from the crossing he found the rear wheel of the cycle which the deceased had been pushing at the time of the accident. This was badly broken, and a further 20 yards along the line he discovered the remainder of the machine, which had been fitted with a battery lamp, front and rear. A very strong wind was blowing at the time, added the officer, and persons attending the incident had to shout to make themselves heard. The wind would be blowing against the train.


Among Huckerby’s possessions, said the officer, he found a pair of spectacles. Looking up the track – the direction from which the train was coming – it was possible, said PC Woolley, to see a distance of approximately 200 yards. Answering Mr S King, who represented the deceased’s family, witness said that in his opinion it would be definitely be safer to wait than cross if a train could be seen 200 yards away. Sympathy with the relatives was extended by the Coroner, members of the jury and Mr John Norton, representing the British Transport Commission.

A sad story indeed.......

The Grantham Journal for Friday August 7th 1957 reported on two incidents involving Grantham Driver Wilfred Ryder.


Alarming experience of Grantham driver....

HOLIDAYMAKERS on the 10.22 am Diesel train from Grantham to Skegness on Saturday had two alarming experiences, and the driver, Mr Wilfred Ryder, of 57 Wharf Road, Grantham, had a narrow escape from serious injury because of flying glass.

The train was packed, and the first incident, which was the less serious, occurred when a parcel of waste food, thrown from a passing train, struck the main front window as the Diesel was approaching Swineshead. On examination at Boston the window was found to be intact though very dirty.

The second incident, which might have had serious consequences, occurred as the train was travelling at speed between Firsby and Skegness, when a beer bottle was thrown from another passing train.

Striking the Diesel train it shattered the window directly in front of the driver, which splintered into thousands of pieces and covered the driver and almost every inch of the panel and floor of the driving cab.

After stopping to report the incident Driver Ryder took the train on to Skegness where the damage attracted much attention from many passengers crowding the station. Except for a few of the pieces piercing his face and neck Driver Ryder escaped injury, though he was so covered with the splinters that he had to take off his clothes to shake all the glass out. The incident was very alarming to the passengers immediately behind him, many of whom commented on the danger caused by such foolish actions.

Driver Ryder, who was able to work the train back to Grantham to time, commented that it could have been serious both to passengers and himself. ‘It must have been my lucky day,’ he added.  When asked if the bottle was full he said ‘I didn’t have time to try it!’

Driver Ryder, who is a Grantham man, has been on the railway for 37 years. Like a brother, he used to drive steam trains, but he has been on the Diesel services for the last few years. His wife is also a native of Grantham and they have two daughters, one married, and a son aged 12.

Quite a nonchalant outlook from the driver!

The Grantham Journal for August 16th 1957 reported on the actions of a careless passenger at Grantham.


As train pulled in to Grantham...

When a Lincoln to Grantham Diesel train arrived in Grantham railway station on July 10th a British Transport Commission police officer saw that a carriage door was open and it was held open for approximately 30 yards.

P.C. E.Gibson described this incident to Grantham magistrates on Tuesday, when John Lord, of Sunningdale avenue, Stand, Whitefield, Manchester was fined £1 for leaving open the door of a carriage while the train was in motion. The officer added that a number of passengers were on the platform at the time. Lord told P.C. Gibson that he looked carefully to see that no one was in the way and he added ‘Really I didn’t know, I am sorry’.

The Grantham Journal for November 1st 1957 reported on a narrow escape after an accident at the level crossing between Barkston and Hough on the Hill.


Lorry was shattered by Diesel train...

A Grantham man, a Gelston man and the latter’s four year old son had miraculous escapes from death when the lorry in which they were driving from Gelston was in collision with a Diesel train on the level crossing between Barkston and Hough on the Hill on Wednesday morning.

The Diesel was en route from Grantham to Lincoln at the time, and no explanation has been forthcoming as to the reason why the lorry, proceeding from Hough towards Grantham, should have been trapped in the path of the train. Normally crossing gates opening outwards on the road are in constant operation at the point.

Alan Harvey (24) of New Beacon Road, Grantham, was seriously injured in the crash and after attention at Grantham Hospital was later transferred to Harlow Wood Hospital with head and leg injuries. Yesterday his condition was described as ‘comfortable’ and ‘as well as could be expected’.

Alfred Bates (26) a dealer of Rose Cottage, Gelston, whose lorry was the one involved, escaped with such minor injuries that after treatment at the hospital he was allowed to go home.

His infant son, Thomas Bates, was detained with head and leg injuries, and on inquiry at Grantham Hospital yesterday the ’Journal’ learned that there was little improvement in his condition, which was described as ‘comfortable’.


A fortunate circumstance was that a woman doctor was on the train, and was able to give the victims instant attention while the arrival of an ambulance was awaited. She was a Dutch general practitioner, Dr Caspers, who was on holiday from Holland and was staying in London. The attention she gave Harvey was probably vital, as he was losing a considerable quantity of blood. Checking the flow of blood with finger pressure while she explained what assistance she wanted, Dr Caspers then applied a tourniquet.

Almost first to leap from the train was ex Grantham policeman Mr Claude Frisby, now a civilian driver with the Force, who rushed to the lorry to extricate the occupants. The train, which was driven by a Lincoln driver, was very little damaged and was soon able to proceed, Dr Caspers and Mr Frisby continuing their journey. Meanwhile PC Wilkinson and other police were soon on the scene and with the arrival of an ambulance the injured were quickly removed to Grantham Hospital.


Only the front of the lorry, which was empty, was caught by the train, but it was swept aside with a great force and crushed against the posts of the gate for pedestrians, one of the concrete pillars being dislodged and swept under the lorry, together with the gate.

The force of the train, although it was not travelling at full speed because of the bend, dislodged the lorry’s front wheels, and the engine and gearbox were wrenched from their moorings. The lorry did not block the line after the crash, but train services were slightly delayed while the injured were being transferred to the ambulance, and again later, when the wreckage of the lorry had to be towed across the line.

Little Tommy Bates has a sister a year or two older. Their father deals in motor cars and the ‘Journal’ understands that his journey on Wednesday was in the hope of disposing of the lorry.

Alan Harvey, who is an old scholar of Grantham National school, has been working for Mr Bates. His father died many years ago, and he lives with his step-father, Mr G E Peel, in New Beacon Road. Alan has two brothers and two sisters. The elder brother, who is married, works on the railway, and the younger one is still at school. His elder sister is also married, and lives in Norfolk, and the other, Miss Jill Harvey, is a telephonist in Grantham.

An amazing story, in particular in light of the fact that everyone on the train carried on with their journey!

The Grantham Journal for Friday 4th January 1963 reported on changes to train services that would come into effect from the following Monday, the 7th January 1963. Here is an extract from the feature.

'Commencing on Monday alterations are to be made to Eastern Region train services'

The London (King's Cross) to Lincoln (Central) 12.10am Mondays only train will be withdrawn. Passenger steam trains between Grantham, Bottesford, Elton and Orston, Aslockton, Bingham, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Netherfield and Colwick, Nottingham London Road (High Level) and Nottingham (Victoria) will be replaced by diesel multiple unit trains. The revised service will mainly follow the pattern of the existing timetable, but with slight variations.


A tragic accident occurred in January 1963. A 2-car DMU, carrying only 3 passengers and manned by a crew of 2, formed the 10.26 from Grantham to Lincoln Central. The DMU collided with the rear of a stationary Class B1 steam locomotive at Bracebridge Gas Sidings signalbox as it neared Lincoln. Sadly two railwaymen were killed: Grantham driver George Ward and a Lincoln driver who was refreshing his route knowledge. One of the passengers injured in the collision was also from Grantham. The power car of the DMU was extensively damaged at the front end and the leading bogie was driven back two feet. The light engine had unfortunately been allowed to wait on the Down line in preparation for reversal and its presence there had been forgotten by the signalman.

The aftermath of the accident showing the damaged DMU involved in the tragic collision with a B1 Locomotive near Lincoln. Photograph: British Railways - Courtesy of The Stuart MacKay Collection.


A Lincoln bound DMU departs from the bay at Grantham during the winter of 1963. Photograph - Noel Ingram.

Although the new DMU hauled train services were now in place, the winter of 1962-1963 was particularly harsh.  During a period of freezing weather in January 1963, as if in protest at the transition from steam to diesel, steam did - temporarily - come to the rescue as can be seen in the following note from a correspondent.

'During a week or two in January 1963, I recall that the class 114 DMUs were replaced by Ivatt 4MTs hauling 3 or 4 non corridor coaches. I did not see them through the day because I was at school, but they were certainly on the early morning and late afternoon Grantham to Boston services. It was like a swansong of local steam services, presumably because of frozen diesel engines in the DMUs? I doubt that anyone would have been trainspotting at Grantham in those icy conditions, but it would be fascinating to know how they coped with this change back to steam'.

How reliable this substitution was in the coming weeks, especially in the face of the freezing weather, does not seem to be recorded in later editions of the weekly local newspaper, the Grantham Journal.


With the cold weather in recession and spring now on the horizon, March 1963 saw DMUs in the news again.

On Saturday 2nd March 1963 a minor accident occurred at Grantham station when two DMU trains collided. A DMU train arriving from Nottingham ran into another DMU which was stationary in the bay platform. Unfortunately more than 15 people suffered injuries, but most of them were only slight. However two people went to hospital as a precaution although neither of them it is recorded were detained.


In the early 1960s steam was still in evidence at Grantham, although local connecting services were now mostly in the hands of DMUs.

A scene of relative tranquillity is shattered by the arrival of V2 No 60881 storming through the station with a Down express, while over in the Bay a Lincoln Diesel Multiple Unit sits quietly awaiting its next trip.
Looking north along platform 4, the Down side bay platform, on 3rd October 1963.  Compared with the example of the class in the photograph above, the Derby heavyweight DMU here has had its 'speed whiskers' on the front panel replaced by large yellow squares, but it is still painted green.  The photograph below shows a similar unit with the later full yellow ends and blue livery.
The canopy over this platform, also seen in the photograph above, had been removed by July 1964 as depicted below.
The two men’'s attention seems to be on a column of steam from the safety valve of a locomotive round the curve on the main line.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson

By 1964 virtually all the local Nottingham Victoria to Grantham services were in the hands of the Derby ‘heavyweights’ later class 114 DMUs in the E50000-E50049 and 56000-56049 series.

Anyone for the coast?


The Winter 1963-64 Timetable for connecting services after closure of some of the intermediate stations between Lincoln and Grantham.
A British Railways (London Midland Region) handbill dated June 1964, promoting special cheap day tickets on railcar services between Derby Friargate, Nottingham Victoria and Grantham.


As mentioned elsewhere in this article, during the late 1950s a 'diesel instruction train' visited most Eastern Region areas including Grantham, making provision for local training. In later years drivers would have to travel to a specific place for training. Some of this was carried out at the Motive Power Diesel Training School in Ilford. One attendee for this particular course was a Grantham man, the late Roy Veasey* and some of his correspondence relating to this appears below.

An invitation dated Thursday 27th February 1964 in which Roy Veasey was nominated to attend a course of training on Diesel Multiple Units at Ilford. The start date of Monday 2nd March 1964 for the two week course did not give Roy much notice, even though there was an extra day in February (29th), it being a leap year!


The Syllabus for this two week course is shown below.

The Syllabus for Roy's two week DMU course in March 1962. Of particular interest are the four training films. These would be shown on Monday, Thursday and Friday. An external link to each of these films can be found below.

Having successfully completed the two week course drivers returned to the local area and carried on with their training 'in the field'. Although familiar with most of the local routes, they still had to gain experience which only route mileage would supply. Drivers like Roy would also be issued with a copy of British Railways DIESEL TRACTION *Manual for Enginemen* together with a selection of comprehensive explanatory booklets, such as the ones specifically issued for DMUs as illustrated below.

FOREWARD The object of this book, which is the first diesel manual published by British Railways for enginemen, is to help them to become more proficient in the performance of their diesel duties. It is hoped that the information contained in it, which is built up on basic principles, will stimulate thought and interest in operating the new form of motive power with a view to punctual running, safety and good enginemanship.
No reference to driving instruction has been made, as each engineman will be given special training in the operation of each type of diesel traction, at which time he will be provided with the appropriate instructions.
It is up to us all to assist in the progress of British Railways. You can do your part by making yourself familiar with the information in the following pages with a view to providing efficient and trouble-free services.

DMU Operation - Part 1 General Data & Equipment.
DMU Operation - Part 2 Driving Instructions, Preparation & Disposal.
DMU Operation - Part 3 Fault Finding & Data Charts.

Here we have the 4 films referred to in the Syllabus of the DMU Training Course, undertaken by Roy Veasey* in March 1964.

Film: Part 1 'Diesel Train Drivers' Layout of Equipment - Approx. 7 minutes.

Film: Part 2 'Diesel Train Drivers' Driving the Train - Approx. 18 minutes.

Film: Part 3 'Diesel Train Drivers' Dealing with Faults Approx. 36 minutes.

Film: Part 4 'Diesel Train Drivers' Operating Requirements - Approx. 17 minutes.

This next piece of film is also not in the Grantham area but we couldn't resist finishing our look at first generation DMUs by including a link to this enchanting colour film from the BTC entitled 'Diesel Trainride 1959' Most of the footage was recorded in East Anglia with the later sequences filmed on the Newcastle - Carlisle line.

Although the Diesel Multiple Units that had first entered service on local lines lacked a certain amount of comfort and riding quality, to the travelling public they were essentially 'modern' and thus part of the post war Elizabethan era of hope and transition. This period brought about change not only on our railways, but also across other aspects of public transport in Britain. They supplied a relatively clean and reliable service for British Railways at a time when people were beginning to turn to the private automobile and bus services as a means of getting around. By 1965 the advent of BR's corporate identity 'rail blue' colour scheme had washed away much of the earlier green nostalgic livery seen around the area.

It's a strange quirk of our initial resistance to change that those first DMUs were, on the whole, looked upon as interlopers and regarded as just a bus mounted on a railway chassis. They were often ignored by many enthusiasts who understandably mourned the approaching demise of steam. We now look back with a certain amount of nostalgia for those little green units, criss-crossing the Lincolnshire countryside or gently idling in the bay at Grantham.

A Grantham bound DMU leaves Peascliffe Tunnel in the early 1960s. Note how neat and tidy the railway looked in those days. Photograph - Noel Ingram.

Well that's all for now. We hope you have enjoyed reading through this brief excursion into the origin and history of Lincolnshire's DMUs. If you have any personal memories or further information about this period then please do get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.

A future article will cover BR's Corporate Blue DMUs, Pacers & Sprinters.

To be continued..............

© Mel Smith - unless stated otherwise.

*You can read more about Roy Veasey's early railway life here.





13 thoughts on “Railcars (Diesel Multiple Units) in Grantham and Lincolnshire.

  1. John Trevor Williams

    Happy memories of trainspotting on Wigan North Western Station on bitterly cold winter Saturday afternoons in the late 'sixties. Then catching the late-afternoon service back to Earlestown via Lowton Curve. We left it 'till late 'cos it was usually a Cravens unit. These were always much warmer and more comfortably appointed than the equivalent Derby or Birmingham units and, if we were really lucky, it was one of the hydraulics!

    Strange how all the hydraulics were withdrawn as "non-standard", but today ALL the main-line DMUs have hydraulic transmission! It always seemed to make more sense to me - instead of all that revving-up and shutting off then revving up again, you just opened the throttle, at about 43mph the next ratio would come in all by itself, then when you wanted to slow down again, you just shut the throttle - and, er, maybe just apply a bit of brake. The hydraulics always seemed to run so much more smoothly than the DMMUs, which had a nasty habit of - again when you hit about 43mph - of setting up a kind of resonance, which made some the window frames start to rattle worryingly - and for no apparent reason!

    Probably best of all were the Class 123 "Trans-Pennines" - loads of power, spooky non-driving power cars (don't know any other DMUs that had those), loads of noise (Leyland engines half as big again as yer standard DMU - mind you, some of the Cravens had those, too!) and stacks of grunt when scaling those steep sections between Stalybridge and Huddersfield.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Nice to hear from you John and thank you for your own personal memories. We were a hardy lot in those days and thought nothing of standing for hours on cold platforms or remote bridges. Frozen fingers didn't just come in packets from the local shop....! As you say, a trip further afield did have its rewards though, with the opportunity to defrost in a 'Cosy Cravens' unit on the way home.

      Mel Smith

  2. Raymond Phillips

    Very interesting article on DMUs- As a Driver at Peterborough I learnt the DMU with Instructer Dave Lyons (Lincoln)
    In its latter years DMUs were used on Cambridge - Birmingham Royal Mail services. I remember relieving a Cambridge
    Driver at Peterborough to be told the heaters are not very good mate. Better if he had told an untruth!- perishing journey all the way.
    Another job was a parcels DMU from Doncaster to Peterborough, the staff stacked mail bags floor to ceiling behind the cab and I had to
    get this moved to at least leave space hopefully not needed.
    Driving DM Units reminded me of travelling over the Honington - Lincoln line on starting on the railway in 1965.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Hello Raymond, thank you for contacting us and we are glad that you enjoyed reading our article on DMUs in Grantham & Lincolnshire.
      It's background stories such as this that highlight the human element behind day to day operations.

  3. John Trevor Williams

    Straying a bit further afield - there were some curious DMU variations down in the far South-West. Three-car Pressed Steel formations, front ends looking for all the world like "Derby" products, with a "suburban" type window layout, but when you got inside - "semi-fast" type seating arrangements! And connecting corridors between the three coaches, Very non-suburban.

    Then there were the Gloucester RC&W three-coach "Cross-Countries", again facially looking for all the world like Derby products (the three raked windscreens) but quite luxurious within. The big selling-point was, of course, in both types, you could sit behind the driver, watch all his moves, and get a glorious vista of the South Devon countryside ahead.

    Somewhat distant from Grantham, I know - but then again, in latter years, DMUs from all sorts of "foreign parts" were scattered to the four corners of the country. Maybe some of these eventually came Nottinghamshire way?

    1. Andy Hides

      The strange appearance of the Pressed Steel units was also reflected in the Gloucester C&W units (later designated Class 119). Some of the layouts were based on the Swindon built Cross-Country units (Class 120), but fitted with Derby cab fronts - hence the three cab window layout.

  4. TracksthroughGrantham2

    Hello John,

    Thank you for contacting us. Yes, the countryside in South Devon is indeed glorious and a big contrast to the relatively level countryside found in this part of Lincolnshire. I always enjoyed my own trips in DMUs for holidays or work purposes. When I first started work a regular daily trip for myself in the winter months was a set of rather crowded and noisy units that conveyed me from Nottingham to Long Eaton via Trent Junction. The return evening journey was always more sedate and less congested, thus allowing me to take advantage of that much hallowed seat behind the driver!

    Mel Smith

  5. John Trevor Williams

    Going back to that GWR Diesel Railcar a bit further up. The first time I saw one was at the SVR in about 1968 or 1969. I didn't have a clue what it was and had no prior insight that such things even existed. They certainly didn't appear in the Ian Allan "Combine"! It was number W22W, it was sat at Bridgnorth, which was extremely quiet that day. I could see from the platform that it had AEC engines, and would dearly love to have heard and seen it running.

    A couple of years ago I had the great delight (ah! those far-off days when we were still allowed to leave our own sofas!) of being allowed my own private guided tour of the Railcar now preserved at Didcot. It might still have been number 22, or possibly 23. I was even allowed a sit in the driver's seat, shown all the controls - but still, sadly, not allowed to start the old girl up. Can't have everything, though, can you?

  6. Chris

    Hi Mel.

    Fascinating to hear of the story of the early DMUs in Lincolnshire. You fill in lots of blanks for me.

    My parents were from Grantham area. Mother from Great Gonerby and father from Hough-on-the-Hill. Whilst I was born in Hough-on-the-Hill, we moved to Lincoln in 1953. I recall often, most weeks I think, travelling with my mother to visit family in Gonerby, on the Grantham train. From your information I must’ve been aged 4 when the DMUs were first introduced.

    I don't recall much of the previous steam, other than being intimidated by the smoke, grime and sombre heavy carriages. The locos were great as long as you stood well back. But I distinctly remember the new DMUs. They had their distinctive three high front vertical screens and lots of windows to make them airy, bright and open. Very clean, green and fresh. Great views out all round. If we arrived early enough my mum would take me to my preferred seat, at the front looking through the driver’s window. In the early days the drivers would travel with the drivers’ compartment blinds all up, so that we could see him at the controls as well as along the track and the signals. Sadly, my mum couldn’t explain what he was doing. As time went on the blinds would more often be down. My memory seems to focus on getting on the trains at Grantham. The bay platforms seem familiar.

    I’ve searched the internet to try to get detail on these units in recent years, to find out exactly which class they were. But I was never convinced I’d found the correct units. The dates of manufacture and service were never early enough. Now I know they were “Derby Lightweight”. I didn’t know these were the first of a whole new generation. The details in your report are fascinating. My late father must’ve known the victim of the January 1956 tragedy. My father and aunt (who lived in Gelston) probably knew the driver from the November 1957 lorry incident. We moved away from Lincolnshire in 1959 but regularly returned to visit family. I still have recollections that the Barkston – Hough road level crossing had some sense of forbidding. It must’ve come from my father, who cycled on this road from Hough to Grantham for secondary school.

    Another regular, as a child, was for us to walk down from Gonerby to the trackside and road bridge south of Peasciffe tunnel, to watch the trains. So, I knew the spot of a couple of these photos very well. Obviously, the big expresses were the stars - the Mallards, Flying Scotsman etc. Standing hanging over the field fence, these were mighty machines. With their wheel gear flying round, emitting steam. Often the drivers, firemen and a few passengers, particularly of the slower trains, would wave. When standing (or held up) looking over the bridge parapet, I had to be reassured that it was ok for the fast trains to rock from side to side as they came towards us, with shimmering air above. I always worried about that. Whilst the steam at Peascliffe never worried me it did at Lincoln. I can’t see it on old maps, but I recall there was a footbridge, over the lines within the station, at Lincoln (central) that had a timber (probably sleepers) footway. If a train came through the steam would rise up, or worst still if departing be blown up, between the timbers. It terrified me. Could I fall through the cracks!

    Many thanks for finally filling in my knowledge on the DMUs I travelled on and educating me that these were the first of a new era for British Railways. The local history is fascinating.

  7. Andy Hides

    During the mid-70s I remember seeing the arrival of the unit, probably from Boston, with a 4-wheeled van attached to the rear of the DMU. I believe that a van was attached to an evening service to return.

    Another memory was a primary school (Huntingtower Road) trip to Hull. A pair of Class 114 (Derby Heavyweights) took us, and a school from Newark, to New Holland Pier. There we caught the ferry across the River Humber to Hull. At the time the Humber Bridge was in the process of being built. The return journey was the same as outward.

  8. Alan Morris

    Hi, came across your marvellous page after watching the BTF film diesel train driver. I was trying to find the location of the depot shown. I particularly loved the footage of the journey to Skegness, especially the old somersault signals!
    I was a driver at Bletchley (now retired). and learned the blue square units, driving 105's on the Bedford branch and 115's from Bletchley tmd to Aylesbury.
    Also, it was my good fortune to have my dad as a driver, and had a couple of cab rides to Oxford when the line was open to passengers. This was on "yellow diamonds" (79xx) and blue square. I never got to your area as a young spotter, but did get as far as Sandy on the Cambridge branch. I particularly remember the train going over the flat, 90 degree crossing of the Bedford to Hitchin line.
    Many thanks for putting up with my ramblings, and all the best,

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Hello Alan, Thank you for getting in touch and we are glad that you enjoyed reading this page.
      It's nice to hear from someone who worked on DMUs and we don't mind you 'rambling' at all!


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