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Grantham South signal box – an introduction

by John Clayson

Above: Grantham South signal box is prominent in this view on Saturday 20th July 1963.  Passing on the Down Main line is Deltic No. D9004, as yet unnamed, with the 14:00 from London King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverley 'The Heart of Midlothian'.  The tall signal controls traffic approaching the box in the opposite direction, on the Up Main line, which can either continue on the Main line or cross over to take the Up Goods line as far as Great Ponton or Highdyke.  Its two semaphore arms were operated from the South Box - the arm on the left (Up Main to Up Goods) by lever number 14 and the arm on the right (Up Main) by lever number 20.  The main signal post, the bracket and the two 'doll' posts are all made of reinforced concrete, making for a heavy structure which is stayed by cables carried over the running lines.  There's also a steel tiebar to an adjacent signal post, for the Up Goods line, which is just out of shot on the left.
Photograph by Tom Boustead.

Grantham South signal box was situated 500 yards off the south end of the station platforms, on the west side of the main lines.  It was a short distance beyond the bridge which takes Springfield Road (known as Brick Kiln Lane until around 1900) under the railway.  This was an area of railway property that was fairly inaccessible except by those who had business to be there, so the South box features in fewer photographs than Grantham's Yard and North boxes which were at either end of the passenger station.

Grantham South, which opened in January 1874, was the second largest of the Grantham boxes, being equipped with 86 levers following its final extension during World War 2.  It closed in February 1972, having given nearly a century of service.

The box was staffed round-the-clock in three shifts (two shifts on a Sunday) by a Signalman of one of the more senior grades and a Telegraph Lad, a trainee signalman.  The signalmen at Grantham South controlled all traffic to and from the Peterborough direction on both the Main lines and the Goods lines, and also access to and from the Up and Down side goods yards and the south end of the carriage sidings.

Grantham South box was surrounded by railway tracks.  The main running lines were in front of the box, while behind it ran sidings.  Here are some photographs which help to place Grantham South in the context of the track layout and traffic flows at the south end of the station.

A View from Above

Grantham South signal box is at the centre in this photograph, which was taken on Wednesday 19th April 1950. Near the top left of the picture Springfield Road passes under the railway through a low bridge - one that remains a hazard for road traffic to this day.  Near top right another bridge carries an internal siding serving the extensive Ruston & Hornsby engineering works.  At bottom right one of Grantham shed's class J52 shunting locomotive is at work in the Up sidings.
Photograph from Britain From Above © English Heritage.

A View from the Main Line

Grantham South box is off shot to the left, its shadow darkening part of the scissors crossing, as class A3 No. 60055 Woolwinder passes on an Up express in the early 1960s.
Photograph by Keith Pirt

Views from the South

This view from London Road bridge is a frame from a cine film shot in the early 1930s by Walter Lee. Grantham South signal box is on the left, and the distinctive saw-toothed roofline of the Ruston & Hornsby works is on the right.
The very tall three-posted Great Northern Railway signal enabled the South Box signalman to direct northbound trains straight on along the Main Line, which took them through platform 3, or onto the Slow line through the Western platform, or onto the Goods line which bypassed the platforms altogether. Its height enabled it to be sighted over the bridge by the drivers of trains approaching at speed down the bank from Stoke. Not long after this picture was taken a colour light signal took its place.
Used with permission from the Lincolnshire Film Archive.
A panoramic view of the southern approach to Grantham station on Tuesday 25th July 1961 illustrates how the South Box commanded this area of the railway.
Prominent just beyond the box are the semaphore signals for the Up Main and Up Goods lines, each with two arms, allowing southbound trains to proceed on the same line or to cross from one line to the other. The Up Main signal has been cleared for a train which will soon pass the northbound express that we can see approaching the box from the right.
You can see that the railway was relatively unapproachable here, except by those who worked on it. The western boundary was at the bottom of an embankment (formed of spoil excavated from the Spittlegate Cutting), while industrial premises on the right prevented access from the eastern side.
Photograph by Noel Ingram, used with permission from Steam World.
The view towards the station from beneath London Road bridge on Saturday 20th July 1963. The Up 'Flying Scotsman' train is approaching at speed, headed by English Electric Deltic No. D9006. The South Box signalman is just replacing his Up Main line home signal to danger - you can see that it's not quite resumed a horizontal position.
On the left is the colour light signal for the Down Main line which, in the 1930s, replaced the tall semaphore signals seen in the previous and next photographs.  It was a much more compact arrangement which saved the lampmen a very exposed job, particularly demanding in winter conditions.
On the right, beside the telegraph pole, a loading gauge stands over the siding exit from the Aveling-Barford factory so that a check can be made on the safety of consignments loaded onto open wagons before they reach the main line railway.
Photograph by Tom Boustead

Views from the North

Rail-Online: A3 4-6-2 &emdash; 2751 1932 Grantham
LNER class A3 No 2751 Humorist, fitted with an experimental smoke deflecting arrangement, approaches Grantham with a Kings Cross to Leeds express in 1933. Grantham South signal box is just off shot to the right.
This and other photographs are available from Rail-Online: left click on the image.


Rail-Online: A4 4-6-2 &emdash; 4492 1939-07-04 Grantham
LNER A4 Pacific No. 4492 'Dominion of New Zealand' passes Grantham South Box with the down 'Coronation' from Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley on Tuesday 4th July 1939.
Photo: T.G. Hepburn/Rail Archive Stephenson
This and other photographs are available from Rail-Online: left click on the image.

Views from the Station

The distant view of Grantham South box, as seen from the station platform in August 1961. The signal post on the right, with four vertically arranged miniature semaphore arms, controls the exit from the Down Goods Yard to the (from top to bottom) Up Shunt, Up Goods, Up Main or Down Shunt lines.
The Tees-Tyne Pullman passes at speed on the Down Main line.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson
Viewed in June 1962 from the station platform, Grantham South box is on the right. The circular disc signals in the vicinity of the box control various shunting moves in the Up direction, while the semaphore arms visible above the passing northbound express on the left relate to the Up Goods and Up Main lines.
The railcar is occupying the Down Slow line; to its right is No. 1 carriage siding.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson

Views from the Box

The following photographs were taken by Mick Grummitt, Rest Day Relief Telegraph Lad from 1959 to 1962 at Grantham North and Grantham South boxes, and also at Crescent Junction, Spital Junction and Westwood Junction boxes at Peterborough.

A northbound express with class A4 No. 60030 'Golden Fleece'. Part of the complex construction of a double slip crossing is visible at bottom right.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
English Electric Type 4 No. D201 on a northbound Pullman.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
Class A3 No. 60066 Merry Hampton is hauling an express passenger train which is scheduled to stop at Grantham.  It was running late, so Control asked for the train to be routed to the Western Platform so as to let non-stop expresses past to save further delay to them.  It’s being diverted from the Down Main line onto the Down Slow line and the Western Platform using the 'scissors' crossover immediately in front of Grantham South box. The driver has stopped on the crossover, saying he did not know the road and required a local driver as pilot to go into the platform with him. This managed to delay trains behind him by about another 15 minutes.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
Class A3 No. 60039 'Sandwich' hauls a southbound express on the Up Main line.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
Class A3 No. 60049 'Galtee More' is leaving the Down goods yard to the Up Slow with the all stations pick-up goods to New England.  I guess the crew would be very pleased to have it on such a turn, shunting all stations on the way.  Would think she will soon be going to Doncaster for a general overhaul, looking at its appearance.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
Class A1 No. 60141 'Abbotsford' of Copley Hill shed in Leeds on a southbound Pullman express train, probably 'The Queen of Scots'.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
A V2 locomotive with an express heading south on the Up Main line. On the right an N2 locomotive shunts the Up side yard. Several of these locomotives arrived from the London area after their work on suburban passenger services north from King's Cross was taken over by diesels.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
A fish train passes on the Up Main line hauled by class B1 No. 61179 of King's Cross shed.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
A southbound class H freight passes the South box on the Up Main line, in charge of BR class 9F No. 92070.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
The prototype Engish Electric Deltic in its spectacular blue, cream and silver colour scheme fills the frame as it speeds past on the Up Main line.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
A brand new Birmingham RC&W Sulzer Type 2 on the Up Main line.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt
Hull-based class K3 'Ragtimer' No. 61814 on the siding behind the South box. Newly overhauled at Doncaster Works, it has arrived with a goods train from Doncaster to the Down yard at Grantham, has just come off the train and is now away to the Loco.
On the left is a yard used by the civil engineer to store track components, with a siding for wagons used on permanent way maintenance trains.
Photograph by Mick Grummitt

A picture taken from the north end of the South Box by the British Railways official photographer to record a special train departing with an export order.

On Wednesday 23rd April 1958 recently overhauled New England class B1 No. 61113 leaves the Down goods yard hauling a train loaded with Aveling Barford grading machines bound for Argentina.
The wagons would have been supplied empty to the Aveling Barford factory, which was accessed by the same siding as Ruston & Hornsby's. They were loaded inside the factory and brought out to the siding a few wagons at a time by the works shunter. Under the control of the Grantham South signalman they were taken across the Main lines to the Down yard by the Up side pilot and assembled there ready to go.
The locomotive is about to join the Up Main line while its tender is crossing the Down Main.  The third and fourth wagons are over the Down Slow, and the middle of the train straddles the Down Goods line (which is equipped with trap points nearer the box).

Grantham South: Principal Routes - Up Direction

Overlaid on the aerial photograph below are the principal routes set by the South Box signalmen for traffic in the Up (southbound) direction.  Scroll from top to bottom to follow the direction of travel.

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Grantham South: Principal Routes - Down Direction

Overlaid on the aerial photograph below are the principal routes set by the South Box signalmen for traffic in the Up (southbound) direction.  Scroll from bottom to top to follow the direction of travel.

Copyright Reserved

Grantham South: Some Shunt Moves

Overlaid on the aerial photograph below in red are examples of routes that could be set by the South Box signalmen for traffic transferring to and from yards and sidings.  Transfers between facilities on the Up and Down sides had to await a spell between trains on both Main lines.  For clarity not all potential moves are shown.

Most shunting moves were controlled by disc signals at ground level, operated from the South Box.  Routes from sidings to running lines were signalled with miniature semaphore arms.  Where there was a choice of routes there were several arms mounted vertically on the same post, reading top to bottom = left to right.

Vehicles and items of plant regularly emerged from the Ruston & Hornsby and Aveling Barford factories, often for export by sea.  Empty wagons were sent into the factory sidings for loading.  Groups of loaded wagons might then be shunted across the main lines to the West Goods Yard, to be assembled into a complete train destined for the docks.

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South of the Box

In 1932 colour light signals were installed on the section of line between Grantham South and Great Ponton signal boxes, replacing the signal box at Saltersford.  There was a siding at Saltersford for the nearby Grantham Waterworks and, between 1943 and 1968, there was also a Down Slow loop at Saltersford, controlled from Grantham South box.

This is the northbound 'Queen of Scots' Pullman train approaching London Road bridge from the south in 1961.  The locomotive is class A1 No. 60120 'Kittiwake' of Copley Hill shed in Leeds.  The colour light signal seen in the distance was controlled from the South box.
Photograph by L. Perrin, lent by Roger Parker.
This is Spittlegate cutting south of Grantham where class A3 No. 60044 Melton is passing with a northbound express in 1960 or 1961. The two signals are the Grantham South box starting signals for the Up Goods line (which is at danger) and the Up Main line (at clear).
Photograph by Keith Pirt
At Little Ponton class A3 No. 60105 Victor Wild passes with a Down express.  The colour light signal suspended from the bracket relates to the Up Main line, the second track from the left. This was Saltersford Auto home signal which normally operated automatically, controlled by track circuits, but could be set at 'danger' from Great Ponton box.  On the right, just visible above the first coach, is a junction repeater signal relating to the Down Main line and its connection to the Down Loop at Saltersford, towards which the train is travelling.
Photograph by Keith Pirt
The same bridge at Little Ponton, seen from the opposite direction, with the southbound 'Sheffield Pullman' on Monday 6th July 1964 hauled by English Electric Type 4 No. DP2.  On the left is a clearer view of the repeater signal relating to the Down Main line and its connection to the Down Loop at Saltersford, beyond the curve in the distance.
Photograph by Tom Boustead

Track Diagram, 1967

Malcolm Rush visited Grantham South signal box on Wednesday 4th January 1967 to sketch the track diagram and make notes.  Malcolm's drawing and notes, along with links to an exterior photograph and other information, can be seen here.  This was part of a wider project involving visits to record similar details at 184 signal boxes.

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5 thoughts on “Grantham South signal box – an introduction

  1. Raymond Phillips

    Well documented article on Grantham South signal box - my Railway Service started there in 1965.
    There's mention of this after the item by John Pegg.
    Ray Phillips

    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Thanks for your feedback Ray, it's good to hear from you. We're going to include the list of South Box signalmen that you noted from your time there in another page: Granthan South Signal Box - people and incidents.
      John Clayson

  2. Andy Brown

    Please can anyone advise me of the names and mileages of the occupation/accommodation crossings on this section of the main line and local names for bridges and cuttings. Thank You


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