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Parcels, Mail and Newspaper Trains: Summer 1961

Above: A southbound parcels train at Grantham on Thursday 22nd August 1963, hauled by class A3 No. 60054 Prince of Wales of Grantham shed (34F).  This is thought to be the Delaval Sidings (Scotswood, Newcastle) to Holloway (North London) empty stock train 3E30, timed to pass Grantham at 7.30pm.
Photograph taken by Cedric A Clayson

by Kevin Roche

I have compiled the following table from a copy of the Summer 1961 Working Timetable which I borrowed in the late 1970s, having become interested in Grantham after purchasing one of Colin Walker’s books.

Parcels Trains at Grantham in Summer 1961

Reporting NumberOrigin - DestinationDuration of Grantham stopDuration of JourneyNotes
3N10King's Cross - York 00:05 - 00:42 (37min)6h 42min
3E14Smithfield (dep 23:00) - Doncaster (arr 03:40, non-stop)02:32 (pass)4h 40min
3N13King's Cross (dep 22:55) - York (arr 06:52) 03:28 - 03:53 (25min)7h 57min
3E03York (dep 00:54) - Peterborough (arr 06:04)04:04 - 05:10 (1h 6min)5h 10min
1C49King's Cross (dep 02:00) - Grantham (terminates) *see note below tablearr 05:043h 4minNewspapers and parcels.
944Grantham - Bostondep 06:20
3E05Newcastle (dep 00:16) - King's Cross (arr 11:02)06:49 - 07:08 (19min)10h 46min
3N08King's Cross (dep 05:00) - York (arr 09:23) 07:11 - 07:17 (6min)4h 23min
3E06Joppa (dep 00:42) - Hornsey (12:35, non-stop)08:40 (pass)11h 53minEmpty Coaching Stock
764King's Cross (dep 11:20) - Clifton (arr 20:30) 15.55 -16.17 (22min)9h 10minEmpty Coaching Stock
3N09King's Cross (dep 12:25) - York (arr 22:10)17:17 - 18:36 (1h 19min)9h 45min
3E30Delaval Sidings Newcastle (dep 09.55) - Holloway (arr 00.22)19:30 (pass)14h 27minEmpty Coaching Stock
1845Spalding (dep 19:02) - Grantham (terminates)arr 20:501h 48min
2495King's Cross (dep 18:14) - York (arr 23:44, non-stop)21:15 (pass)5h 28min
984Grantham - Bostondep 21:52
3B17Doncaster (dep 20:30) - King's Cross (arr 01:30)22:22 - 22:32 (10min)5h
3N11March (dep 20:50) - York (arr 00:55)22:38 - 22:44 (6min)4h 5min
3B18Doncaster (dep 21:40) - Bounds Green (arr 00:40)23:10 - 23:25 (15min)6h 20min

* The King's Cross (dep 02.00) newspaper and parcels train 1C49, which arrived at Grantham at 05.04, included vans that were forwarded to Boston and Lincoln. The vans would be attached to local passenger services which departed for Boston at 05.50 and Lincoln at 07.33.  By 1961 these local services were normally operated by diesel multiple units (DMUs), known to Grantham railway staff as 'railcars'.

A diesel multiple unit with a van attached departs from Syston (Leicestershire) for Leicester London Road on Sunday 9th August 1964.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

The parcels trains were run at express passenger speed while on the move, but many of them stopped frequently and for quite long periods for loading and unloading, resulting in some long journey durations.  Typically, a train heading north from King's Cross could make stops at Welwyn, Peterborough, Grantham, Newark, Retford and Doncaster on the way to York.

Because many of the workings were at night there are not many sightings of the locomotives that were used.  Generally, because they travelled at high speed they would be hauled by pacifics;  V2s and 9Fs were also employed.  During the summer of 1961 English Electric Type 4 (later class 40) diesels began to work regularly on certain daytime parcels workings.

Royal Mail Travelling Post Office (TPO) vans would make an appearance on certain night services to Scotland.  Single parcels vans would often be attached to daytime express passenger trains, while several would be part of the overnight sleeper trains that ran to Newcastle and Scotland.

Porters and GPO staff are busy loading mail and parcels onto a northbound passenger train at platform 3 on 18th April 1963.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

The mail carried on parcels trains was either ordinary mail, registered mail, parcels or newspapers.

A northbound train has stopped at platform 3 on the afternoon of Thursday 9th April 1964.  Porter Bob Carpenter, second from the left, is unloading what appear to be newspapers, consigned to Lincoln, onto a railway trolley.  Behind him a GPO worker is carrying mailbags to a post office trolley.  A station Inspector looks on.  His job is to ensure that these station duties are carried out efficiently so the train can be dispatched without delay.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

As well as the main line parcels services, mail and parcels were loaded onto, and offloaded from, local passenger trains for Nottingham, Sleaford, Boston and Lincoln.

Porters transferring luggage, including parcel post mail bags, on platform 1, the 'Lincoln bay', at Grantham on 16th April 1964.  The train is formed from a Derby-built diesel multiple unit (DMU), or railcar, with driving trailer composite car No. E56000 at the north end.
The man nearest the door with his face towards the camera is Jack Duncan.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

At this time a Mail Room at Grantham station was situated at the south end of the Down platform.

The Mail Room forms the backdrop to this photograph of a young passenger, presumably with grandad, as they take a stroll along the Western platform on 9th April 1964.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.
Another view of the Mail Room on the Down side, a wooden building with doors secured by padlock, providing secure accommodation for mail awaiting a suitable train.  The man is a GPO employee, and the barrow is GPO property.
1st August 1963
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

Mail to and from the Grantham area was transhipped between the station and the main post office in the town using road transport.  A supply of barrows was kept at the station for carrying mailbags between the GPO vans and the platforms.

Newspapers were delivered for W H Smith, who were located at the station, and for local newsagents.

This man, standing on the boarded crossing between the main line platforms, is collecting a delivery of newspapers from the Down side platform for the W.H. Smith station bookstall on 18th April 1963.  In his right hand is a package containing 15 copies of the Stock Exchange Gazette consigned from King’s Cross to C.E. Eaton & Son of Grantham.  Eaton’'s had a newsagent'’s shop and a wholesale news business supplying the station bookstall.
The bookstall was on the ‘Up’ side, next to the station entrance, but most papers, printed in London, arrived on trains calling at the opposite platform.  Hopefully he is observing the signals which will warn him of any approaching train.
Photograph taken by Cedric Clayson.

Follow this link to Mailbag Memories, stories about postal work at Grantham station.

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2 thoughts on “Parcels, Mail and Newspaper Trains: Summer 1961

  1. Roger Bryant

    Amazing scenes long gone. I especially liked the picture of Harry Reedman standing on the crossing. If someone did it now I guess they would be sacked!


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