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24 Hours at Grantham Station in 1961: introduction

based on the Summer 1961 Working Timetable

An illustrated* description of a typical 24-hour period at Grantham station.

*Suitable photographs have been included within this article for your enjoyment. They represent similar trains during the years before and after the period depicted (1961)*

The original idea for this page came from Kevin Roche, one of our valued contributors. We thought it was a really good idea, so in collaboration with Kevin the TTG team have taken things forward and developed and created this page. It's been a mammoth task, but now, following an extensive period of research and detailed analysis of the Summer 1961 Working Time Table (WTT), we can bring you a minute-by-minute account of the many workings and movements taking place at Grantham over a typical 24 hour period.  It will be a long haul, literally around the clock from midnight to midnight, so you will need to bring an ample supply of sandwiches and a large vacuum flask.  Both of these can be replenished during normal opening hours by visiting the Refreshment Room situated on Platform 2.

With our starting time of midnight now drawing closer, those summer nights can often turn a bit chilly, so a suitable coat should be considered. Oh... and don't forget your notebook and a few spare pencils!  Have you got the stamina to stay up all night?  Come with us as we travel back in time to the summer of 1961...

Due to lateness of the hour and with no suitable (much preferred) connecting trains available, we have made the journey to Grantham by car. We arrive at the station at about 11.30pm and after parking up in a side street, pass through the main entrance.  There's ample time for us to look around the station and get our bearings. For those not too familiar with the layout of the platforms at Grantham in 1961 we've included some useful aerial photographs:-

After entering the station through the Main Entrance (see above) visitors find themselves standing on Platform 2 (Up Main Line). Platform 2 is used by trains coming in from the north on their way south towards Peterborough North, Huntingdon North, Hitchin, Hatfield and finally London King's Cross. Platform 3 (Down Main Line) is used by trains heading north to Newark, Retford, Doncaster, York, Leeds Central, Bradford, Hull Paragon, Darlington, and beyond to Newcastle Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Aberdeen. There's an Up Goods line just after the Yard Box allowing slower southbound trains to be held up and overtaken. Platforms 1 & 4 are located at the north end of the station (see next photograph below). Platform 5, also known as the Western Platform can be used by branch and on occasion Down stopping trains. Beyond that are two lines often used as 'Carriage Sidings' with adjacent 'Goods Loop'. Grantham’s engine shed (34F) commonly known as the 'Loco' provides coal and watering facilities for both allocated and transient motive power.
Walking in a northly direction along Platform 2 we will come to Platform 1, which is effectively a terminal bay (Up Side) used by trains serving Sleaford, Lincoln and the East Coast. Across the main lines, Platform 4 is another single track terminal bay and is used by trains serving Nottingham and Derby. Platform 5 (also known as the Western Platform) can be used by branch and on occasion Down stopping trains.
This aerial photograph shows the close location of the North Box in relation to the end of Platform 2. The entrance to Platform 1 can also be seen, adjacent to Platform 2, together with the sweeping curves of the Up and Down main lines.
Here we can see the vast array of lines situated to the south of the station, with Grantham's 'New Shed' at the top left of the photograph. The Up and Down Main Lines are also visible together with the Up Slow Line which was accessed from the Up Main Line after the Yard Box, which is just out of view to the right.


After the aerial tour and with our feet now firmly on the ground, here's a selection of photographs taken at platform level.

This is a general view looking north along the platforms. Platform 3 is on the left and Platform 2 is on the right across the two main lines. The Yard Box is seen at the end of platform 2 next to the ramp. In the distance the North Box is also visible. This is where the main lines curve off to the right before heading north towards Barrowby Road Box and Peascliffe Tunnel.


Another view of the Yard Box. Most Up trains will pause here before continuing their journey south. Slow trains would sometimes branch off at this point to take the Up Slow Line just out of view to the right and beyond the signal box. Photograph by Cedric Clayson


In this photograph we are standing at the south end of Platform 3 looking north and both the Up and Down main lines are in clear view. Again, in the distance we can make out the outline of the North Box.


Here we are looking south along Platform 3. The canopy sits over the Nottingham Bay (Platform 4). Also in view, just below the footbridge, part of the Yard Box is visible at the end of Platform 2. There's an air of expectation as those on the platform await the next train.


Standing at the north end of Platform 3, this is the general view looking south through the station. The Lincoln Bay (Platform 1) is on the extreme left, whilst the Up and Down main lines disappear into the hazy distance. The Nottingham Bay (Platform 4) complete, with its canopy, can be seen in the centre of the photograph. On the right in the Western Platform (Platform 5) an L1 waits with its train. Over on the far right we get a glimpse of Grantham's locomotive yard.


This photograph shows the Lincoln Bay (Platform 1) with the main lines to the far right. Copyright Jeremy Stone.


A view looking north east showing the Western Platform (Platform 5) and beyond that a DMU is waiting in the Nottingham Bay (Platform 4). The Goods Loop is in the foreground and on the left we can see one of Grantham's Water Columns.


Another general view looking south, with the Nottingham Bay (Platform 4) and the Western Platform (Platform 5) on the left. In the distance are Grantham's Engine Shed and Coaling facilities.


In this view, again looking south, on the left we have the Up & Down Main Lines and in the centre foreground we can see the line connecting the Down Goods Loop and Loco Shed with the Down Main Line.


So there's an idea of the general setting for our epic 24 hour observation, but what will we be seeing?

For those readers who may not have a good knowledge of the motive power passing through Grantham at this time, and to hopefully help you visualise events, we have provided a simple profile for each locomotive type:-

Gresley A4 class streamlined 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60001 to 60034).

Gresley A3 class 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60035 to 60112). A programme of fitting German type smoke deflectors commenced with Grantham allocated A3 60049 Galtee More in October 1960. Six of the A3s allocated to Grantham were so modified.

Gresley A3 class 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60035 to 60112).

Peppercorn A2 class 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60525 to 60539).

Thompson A2/3 class 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60500, 60511 to 60524).

Peppercorn A1 class 'Pacifics' with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60114 to 60162).

Gresley V2 'Green Arrow' class with a 2-6-2 wheel arrangement (Nos 60800 to 60983).

Thompson B1 class with a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 61000 to 61409).

Gresley K3 class with a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 61800 to 61992).

Peppercorn K1 class with a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 62001 to 62070).

Gresley O2 class with a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 63922 to 63987).

Thompson L1 class with a 2-6-4T wheel arrangement (Nos 67701 to 67800).

Riddles WD class with a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 90000 to 90732)

BR 9F class with a 2-10-0 wheel arrangement (Nos 92000 to 92250).

English Electric (EE) Type 5 Co-Co Diesel (Deltics) Nos D9000 to D9021).

English Electric (EE) Type 4 1Co-Co1 Diesel  (Nos D200 to D399).

BR Derby Works class 114 Heavyweight Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) (Nos E50000 to E50049).

The locomotive types illustrated above and described in our main narrative were all allocated to a particular shed or depot. This is shown in brackets after the locomotive type e.g. A3 (34F) which just happens to be Grantham.

The others are as follows:-

(34A) King's Cross - London. (34E) New England - Peterborough. (34F) Grantham. (34G) Finsbury Park - North London. (36A) Doncaster. (36C) Frodingham - Scunthorpe. (40E) Colwick - Nottingham. (41A) Sheffield (Darnall). (50A) York. (52A) Gateshead. (52B) Heaton - Newcastle. (55H) Neville Hill - Leeds. (56B) Ardsley - Leeds. (56C) Copley Hill - Leeds. (64B) Haymarket - Edinburgh.

A Word about Train Numbers and Headcodes.

Each train service on the railway (passenger or goods, regular or special) has an identification number or code although unlike, say, airline flight numbers, train numbers in Britain are not generally used in public timetables.

In 1961 the East Coast Main Line was transitioning from a decades-old system in which each train number was a simple number of up to four digits, but there was no embedded code by which anything about the train could be inferred, to a four-character headcode system of ‘digit-letter-double-digit’ which conveyed significant information about the train's type and its route.

The Old System - phased out from 1961

Under the old system lamps positioned on the front of locomotives were the means of identifying the type (or 'class') of train being hauled - see the diagram and the list below).

Under the old system, train numbers were not displayed on the locomotive.

Page 4 of the Ian Allan book British Railways Headcodes published in February 1962


Page 5 of the Ian Allan book British Railways Headcodes published in February 1962


The New System - introduced in 1961

From the early 1960s most main line diesel and electric locomotives were fitted with large four-character roller blind indicators at both ends, so that train numbers could be displayed to signalmen and others.

Page 6 of the Ian Allan book British Railways Headcodes published in February 1962


Page 7 of the Ian Allan book British Railways Headcodes published in February 1962


Page 44 of the Ian Allan book British Railways Headcodes published in February 1962

So, for example, if in the early 1960s you took the 10:00 am departure from London King's Cross to Edinburgh, (The Flying Scotsman) your driver, guard and everyone who signalled it along the route would know it as train '1A16'.

We identify each train as they appear within the 1961 WTT narrative by showing the train number in brackets e.g. (1A16).

Today, signalling is largely achieved electronically rather than visually and there is no display at the front.  A train is identified by its number displayed on screens in signalling centres.

Why we chose to look at the Summer 1961 Working Timetable

The relatively short time covered by the Summer 1961 WTT (12th June to 10th September 1961) is of considerable interest. A changeover from steam to diesel traction during the period that followed it (i.e. the Accelerated Winter 1961 WTT) saw a large increase in the regular use of English Electric (EE) Type 5 (later Class 55) ‘Deltic’ diesel locomotives.  These were being put to use on scheduled services up and down the East Coast Main Line (ECML). In fact 1961 also heralded the last recorded observations of certain former LNER Pacific types through Grantham and, after many years on regular services, a few ‘favourites’ started to disappear. For example, in January 1961 A2/1 60508 Duke of Rothesay appeared for the last time, whilst in June 1961 A2/2 60503 Earl Marischal made a final appearance.  Away from the main line the surviving examples of the smaller LNER steam locomotive types were also being withdrawn locally at Colwick (40E) and New England (34E) namely J6 (0-6-0), J15 (0-6-0), J39 (0-6-0), J69 (0-6-0T), and K2 (2-6-0) classes. The last N2s (0-6-2T) allocated to Grantham and employed on station pilot duties lasted until June 1961, after which they were replaced by L1 2-6-4T locomotives.

As far as we have been able to determine, allocations at Grantham MPD (34F) at this time were roughly as follows:-

A3 class 4-6-2 - eleven locomotives allocated.

O2 class 2-8-0 - eleven locomotives allocated.

V2 class 2-6-2 - seven locomotives allocated, short term just for the summer timetable.

B1 class 4-6-0 - four locomotives allocated.

N2 class 0-6-2T - five locomotives allocated until July 1961.

L1 class 2-6-4T - nine locomotives allocated from July 1961.

For a few years during this period there would also be an influx of V2s each summer to assist with relief passenger and express freight duties. Although a significant number of A3s were allocated, the number of regular diagrams they were required to cover was quite small.  Engine changing on express passenger trains was still a feature at Grantham but this had significantly reduced since reaching a peak during the 1950s.

At this time a programme of fitting German-style smoke deflectors, which commenced with Grantham allocated A3 60049 Galtee More in October 1960, was well under way and six of the A3s allocated to Grantham were so modified.

Quite a number of express passenger trains were now in the hands of the EE (English Electric) Type 4 (later class 40) 1Co-Co1 diesel locomotives, allocated to various ECML depots. However the passenger trains running from King’s Cross to The West Riding were mainly operated with Copley Hill based A1s.  There were also still regular duties for A4s from Kings Cross to Grantham and further north. However, on other express turns still in the hands of steam, there did not appear to be any regular pattern, with Pacifics and V2s from a variety of depots putting in an appearance i.e. New England (34E), Doncaster (36A), York (50A), Gateshead (52A) and Heaton (52B).  The Summer 1961 WTT also marked the last regular steam working (8th September 1961) of The Non-Stop Elizabethan between King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley. The last day produced A4 No 60009 Union of South Africa on the up service and record holder A4 No 60022 Mallard on the down train.

Local passenger trains originating from Grantham were generally in the hands of Lincoln based Class 114 Derby Heavyweight Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs), although the services to Nottingham Victoria and onwards to Derby Friargate also saw the use of steam locomotives, primarily L1s operating alongside the DMUs. Class C express freight trains were usually hauled by V2s and 9Fs although EE (English Electric) Type 4 Diesels (later Class 40) were by now being utilised.

There was also a significant alteration in the make-up of the Anglo-Scottish cement trains, with a gradual changeover that summer from the use of the original ‘Presflo’ wagons to the new, lighter ‘Cemflo’.  Steam power in the form of 9Fs and V2s also held sway prior to the change-over at the end of the year to Class 33 BRCW diesel haulage.

Occasional fitted ironstone Trains were also operated to Aldwarke near Rotherham and the Stanton & Staveley Works near Ilkeston.

During our 24 hour observation various Light Engine movements of steam and diesel types would also be taking place. Locomotives would be going to and from Doncaster Works. Some of these were new, whilst others were destined for withdrawal, as well as those for general overhaul or minor repairs.

As mentioned earlier, during the summer of 1961 the first batch of EE (English Electric) Type 5 (later Class 55) Deltic diesel locomotives (numbered D9006 - D9012) entered service.  These locomotives were involved in acceptance trials from Doncaster Works after delivery from the English Electric Vulcan Foundry at Newton-le-Willows. Typical workings would initially involve haulage of a full train to Grantham and return. If everything was found to be alright then an extended trip would be carried out the next day to Peterborough. A single diagram for the ‘Deltics’ was introduced at the start of the summer season which extended to six trains along the ECML (East Coast Main Line).

Other classes of Diesel had also being introduced and ongoing acceptance trials were carried out on the main line south from Doncaster. Examples were Birmingham R.C. & W. Co. Type 2 (later Class 26) Diesels (numbered D5347 - D5352) and EE Type 3 (later Class 37) Diesels (numbered D6718 - D6726) which were making an appearance during at this time.  Again, the policy was for an initial trip to Grantham followed by a longer trip to Peterborough, but in this case with shorter formations of coaches.

Sleeper, Parcels and Royal Mail trains could also be seen passing through Grantham, along with various Departmental workings, all of these adding to the great variety of trains to be observed in and around the station in 1961.

So that’s a general overview on what was happening up and down the ECML, and in particular at Grantham, during the summer of 1961.

This is the actual clock that for many years hung on the wall in the Stationmaster's Office at Grantham and of course it was quietly sitting there in 1961, ticking away the hours, minutes and seconds of every day. It's therefore very fitting that we will use this particular timepiece to show each passing hour as we move forward in time through our 24 hour observation.

The Summer Working Timetable - 12th June to 10th September 1961

As well as including a running commentary we have also shown the WTT 24 hour period as four roughly six hour tables, numbered 1 to 4. To fit all of the information in to each table it's obviously been a tight squeeze, but you should be able to 'zoom in' on each table.

Now click this link to go forward to 24 Hours at Grantham Station in 1961: part 1, midnight to noon

Copyright note:  the article above is published with the appropriate permissions.  For information about copyright of the content of Tracks through Grantham please read our Copyright page.

3 thoughts on “24 Hours at Grantham Station in 1961: introduction

  1. Chris Noble

    Congratulations on this splendid, detailed, outline of those 24 hours. I love the writing style, with its incidental insights into station life etc... I really enjoyed reading it and felt I was there. I've never done such a long stint at Grantham, but now I wish I had!

    The signalmen must have been busy; I'd love to see the logs.


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