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A Day Trip To Grantham

by Mel Smith

I am delighted to present here a compendium of photographs taken by the late Rob Taylor during his many day trips to Grantham.  Like many other railway enthusiasts he was attracted by the sight and sound of mainline expresses thundering through Grantham station. This is very much a 'spotter's collection' composed of images taken on different occasions, but hopefully it will provide you the reader with a flavour of a typical day trip to Grantham.  Albeit an imaginary journey it still evokes many happy memories of my own trips to the station during this period, alas without a camera...

Rob was born in Nottingham in 1943 and developed his lifelong passion for railways, in particular steam trains, after visiting his aunt and uncle who lived in The Railway Cottage at Rolleston, situated on the Nottingham to Lincoln line.  At about the age of 10 his Grandpa bought him a cine camera and took him to view and film the busy railway scene at two local railway stations, namely Nottingham Midland and Nottingham Victoria.  Rob’s Grandpa also bought him his first train set and, years later, he progressed to building a layout in the loft of his house where he was able to enjoy running his own collection of trains, just like the full size engines he loved so much.

When Rob was old enough to venture further afield he was often accompanied by his great friend Colin who later became best man at his wedding.  Over the years they embarked on many an adventure together which, until his illness, never ended.  Colin has many happy memories of those times with Rob, especially of the days when they would both buy a platform ticket at Nottingham Victoria and then jump on the first train to Grantham.  Somehow they were never caught out for not buying a ticket and they would spend the day trainspotting and taking pictures of the trains in and around the station.  Sundays of course were mostly spent looking around the vast engine sheds at nearby Colwick!

Rob never lost his love of railways and, thanks to the kind generosity of his wife Ann and son Kevin, we have been able to put together a gallery of Rob’s black and white photographs.  They were taken during some of those memorable day trips to Grantham with Colin in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

As mentioned earlier, Rob was lucky enough to own a cine camera and it is hoped that we will be soon able to add to the website a short colour film taken on one of his Grantham trips during those glorious far off days of steam.  If you want to be notified when this evocative piece of film is added then please follow the instructions to subscribe here.

Let’s go back in time to that period and imagine Rob and Colin getting off the Nottingham train. They busily move up and down the station, quickly jotting down the numbers of the engines as they appear.  As well as a notebook, Rob also has his camera with him, but film is precious so he is careful when choosing which engines to record with a photograph.  They see lots of old favourites and also bag a few new ones, or 'cops' as they are properly known in trainspotting circles.  Is there perhaps time for a sandwich and maybe a swig of Tizer before the afternoon session?  At lunchtime a relatively quiet spell descends, but not long after the activity of shed movements, engine changes and the thrilling experience of through trains soon picks up again.  Of course, like all enjoyable experiences, the time rushes by too quickly and in a few minutes they will have to board their train back to Nottingham.  Rob's notebook now has many new entries and his camera contains a roll of 127 film recording a typical spotter's day trip to Grantham.  Thanks to Rob, and of course his family, we are able to reminisce and enjoy those photographs again some fifty-odd years later.

Hopping off the train from Nottingham Rob's first photograph is of Class A2 No. 60533 Happy Knight which has just reversed into the engine spur next to platform 4 to await the arrival of a train for the north, which it will take over. When the arriving locomotive has been detached and draws forward, the signalman in Grantham North box will use the disc signal, just in shot at the bottom right, to authorise the driver to move No. 60533 forward onto the main line. The fireman has anticipated the move by changing the headlamps to the 'express passenger' position - two lamps, one above each buffer.


Moving further down the platform this is a view from the Western platform and Rob quickly snaps Class A3 Pacific No. 60105 Victor Wild moving forward along the goods line, while in the background Class A1 No. 60125 Scottish Union is spotted and recorded in the notebook.


The tortured sound of squealing wheel flanges on rail fills the air as we have another view of Class A3 No. 60105 Victor Wild, now reversing towards the shed. The old gas lamp post stands redundant; electric lighting had been installed in the shed yard during the 1950s. The photograph was taken at some time after a works overhaul in November to December 1960, when smoke deflectors were fitted to this locomotive.


Next Rob comes across Class A4 No. 60015 Quicksilver also reversing towards the shed.  The building on the right, partly behind the tank wagon, is identified on an old station plan as a plumber's shop.


Class WD No. 90732 stands in the shed yard, its tender well filled with coal in the Grantham tradition. 90732 was the last in the class and named Vulcan, you can just about see the nameplate by the cab window. This design of locomotive was built during and after World War 2 for service at home and abroad. Behind is an O4/8, a rebuild of a Great Central Railway design of heavy freight locomotive also constructed in large numbers for service overseas, but during the First World War.  The two locomotives are standing in an area which was in front of the 'Old Shed', whose dilapidated remnants were demolished in 1960. In the background we get a glimpse of the coaling tower looking like some giant concrete Tyrannosaurus Rex.


Class A1 No. 60125 Scottish Union is now at the Western platform (No. 5) with a northbound passenger train. One of the crew finds some time to explain the mechanical mysteries of the engine to an eager young observer.


A shrill whistle from the south gives Rob just enough time to get into position on platform 3 as Class A2/3 No. 60513 Dante swiftly enters Grantham station with a northbound passenger train. Safely holding his Dad's hand a much younger future spotter looks on, maybe he still remembers this moment?


Next along is Class A1 No. 60125 Scottish Union of Doncaster shed.  A pause on platform 3 and time for the crew to take a breather as they await departure for the north with a passenger train. Rob thinks it is well worth taking a photograph as the platform is clear of other spotters. Could that be John Betjeman waiting for a train to Lincoln on platform 1?


Another Class A1, No. 60157 Great Eastern of Doncaster shed, puts in an appearance on a northbound passenger train.  Rob again takes the opportunity to record the moment while she waits for the off.
On the left the concrete extension of platforms 1 and 2, opened in 1945, can be seen joining the brickwork of the original platform. The extension was built to the then standard height for platforms, requiring a gently ramped section from the lower original platform.  At the far left can be seen a goods platform with access from Station Road.  Supplies arriving by rail in goods wagons for the passenger station were unloaded there.


Having taken a leisurely stroll down to the south end of platform 3 Rob is alerted by the distant sound of a chime whistle from somewhere beyond the curve at the north end of the station. A minute or so passes and, with the growing steady beat of a loco working hard, the warning whistle for the unwary sounds again. Now getting louder, the express appears around the bend and comes into view. With his camera ready Rob gets a lovely shot of A4 Pacific 60029 Woodcock as she gets the full attention of both spotters and station staff before tearing through Grantham southbound. How many of you remember unforgettable scenes like this? Tell us about it, we'd love to hear from you.


Probably one of the most photographed steam engines in the world, but here Rob captures Class A3 No. 60103 Flying Scotsman during one of her day to day regular duties up and down the east coast main line. She is seen departing southwards from Grantham past the old granary.


It happens to most photographers. Just as you are about to press the shutter someone walks into the picture! Probably rather annoying at the time, but looking back now the gentleman going about his daily work adds something to this view of Class A2 No. 60514 Chamossaire of New England (Peterborough) shed as she gently backs onto a southbound train before taking it forward to London.


With 60514 having departed southwards some ten minutes earlier (see previous image) we enter a relatively quiet period. Rob hangs about at the south end of platform 3 and is soon rewarded by the arrival of Class A1 No. 60135 Madge Wildfire, apparently a nickname of Margaret Murdochson, a beautiful but senseless girl created by the pen of Sir Walter Scott in his novel Heart of Midlothian


Rob's now moved up to the north end of platform 2 to take this photograph of Class A4 No. 60028 Walter K. Whigham as the loco gets ready to depart for the north. The engine was originally called Sea Eagle way back in March 1937 and was actually based at Grantham from October 1945 until May 1948.  During her time at Grantham shed (in 1947) was renamed Walter K. Whigham. In the following year (1948) she was transferred to King's Cross shed and remained there until withdrawal during December 1962, sadly being scrapped in mid-January 1963.


Another view of Class A4 No. 60028 Walter K. Whigham now ready to depart for the north. This locomotive was based at King's Cross shed. In the right background is an ex-GCR 'Barnum' coach in departmental use as a mobile workshop. Fittingly, the vehicle is now preserved at Ruddington on the GCR (north)


Another haunting chime whistle from the north and moments later a grimy, weather spattered and unidentified Class A4, thought to be No. 60020 Guillemot of Gateshead shed, runs into Grantham with a stopping service.


Rob moves back to the south end of platform 3 again and is just in time to record a rather dirty Class A4 No. 60018 Sparrow Hawk of Gateshead shed getting ready to depart for Kings Cross with a passenger train.


The perils of those small viewfinders, but nonetheless a great photograph. Rob has moved round to take another shot. Menacing and business-like, No. 60018 Sparrow Hawk is now ready to depart for the south. Her coupling rods take on the shape of a top athlete crouched on the starting blocks.


Next a busy procession of trains from the north. We will have to imagine the smell of oil and smoke drifting on the slight breeze. First up we see Class A1 No. 60136 Alcazar waiting for departure to the south. Like many of this class Alcazar was named after a racehorse, the winner of the St. Leger in 1936.


Not long to wait before Class A4 No. 60032 Gannet of King's Cross shed comes into view and slows to a halt just short of the water crane. A timeless scene etched in my own memory, but how many of you have stood at this spot on days like this? Do let us know about your own day trips to Grantham.


Looking majestic and every inch a thoroughbred Class A3 No. 60109 Hermit of King's Cross shed awaits departure for the south. The photograph was taken at some time after release from a works overhaul in January 1960, during which smoke deflectors were fitted to this locomotive. Time to move back up to the north end of the station again.


A mournful whistle from afar heralds the arrival of another A4. It turns out to be an old favourite, No. 60026 Miles Beevor. Here Rob is able to get a nice shot of the loco drifting into Grantham Station from the North. It's sad to think that after withdrawal from service Miles Beevor languished in a sorry state for many months at Crewe.


A dramatic shot of A4 Pacific 60025 Falcon as she sets back onto her train at the south end of platform 2. This image nearly did not make it onto this gallery as it had suffered from the scourge of all photographers, a slight double exposure due to the film not quite winding on enough. My own prolonged efforts with Photoshop were unsuccessful on this one, but thankfully the image has been restored by the kind efforts of  friend and contributor Steve Philpott.  It's interesting to note the smokebox vacuum gauge fitted adjacent to the nameplate. This subject has been raised in a post on the LNER Forum and you can read more about it here.


It's not too long now before it will be time for Rob to catch his train back to Nottingham, so maybe he can fit in one last photograph of Heaton (Newcastle) based Class A1 No. 60116 Hal o' the Wynd departing with an express for the north. It's been a long day with plenty of numbers in the notebook and hopefully some memories captured on film. No digital modern stuff in those days! It will be a waiting game now until the negatives and prints come back from the chemist. Good news! As you will have just seen they did return safely, and what a nice little gallery they have made. Thanks Rob!

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20 thoughts on “A Day Trip To Grantham

  1. Richard Cumming

    A great set of photo's these. Thanks for the memories.

    One interesting note - the photo of the WD early on is the last in the class 90732 and named Vulcan. You can see the nameplate just by the cab window. The only BR nameplate so affixed that I'm aware of.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Thank you for spotting that Richard. It's really good that people appreciate the images we put on the website and it also allows us to add even more information to photographs. I will update the caption accordingly. Thanks - Mel

      1. Alan Phipps

        Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane. I recall as a very young lad in the mid 1950s arriving for the first time at Grantham from Nottingham. On the way in we passed close by my first A3, Galtee More, with its beautiful, shining green livery. I can almost hear and smell the steam now as I write this. Happy days.

  2. Steve

    Top notch bloke and, as is evident, pretty handy with a camera. Very much missed by all who knew and loved him. Thankyou for sharing these.

  3. Burnie

    Great images and storyline, I only visited the station once in the days of steam when me and a pal cycled from Glen Hills (now called Glen Parva) in south Leicestershire along the A607 to Grantham and back in one day!! Sadly I was only just a teenager (can't remember the exact year, but before 1963) and I didn't own a camera, I remember the sore ride back as much as the station.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Hello Burnie,
      Thanks - it's very interesting to hear your story. That was some ride - the A607 is quite a hilly road; you climb for several miles out of Leicester, drop down into Melton Mowbray then up again to Waltham on the Wolds. We used to go to Grantham from Leicester by Midland Red bus, and some stretches of the road looked quite formidable even from the front seats 'on top'. It would be even worse coming back after a tiring day, and probably into the wind too. My Dad had been a bit of a road cyclist in the 30s, 40s and early 50s, and he used to use the A607 and some of the by-roads in the Vale of Belvoir area for training runs. I can see why. You must have pedalled past our house on your trip - we lived on Belgrave Road near the 'BU' (British United Shoe Machinery) factory - about halfway between the GN station and Melton Turn (where North's, the model shop, used to be).
      John Clayson

  4. Burnie

    Hi John, I spent a fair bit of the early 1960s around Leicester's railways. My brother has our late father's photos and he's scouring them for me in the hope of finding some railway images. I did borrow his camera on occasion and took a few images from the "bird cage walk" at Leicester Midland, at London Road station and at the roundhouse too.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Hello Burnie.
      Ah, the 'bird cage' - that brings back memories. If anyone puts together a 'Tracks through Leicester' website they would need to devote a page or two (at least) to the spot. I reckon the Grantham equivalent was the waste ground opposite the north end of the station platforms, where the loco yard and the goods lines converged - just as they did below the bird cage. Though at Grantham there wasn't the commanding view from above, as at Leicester. If you do find any railway photos please let me know!
      John Clayson

  5. Brian LEWIS

    Awesome memories. At 11 years old, born by Stockingford station near Nuneaton, Grantham was a must. I caught the train from Nuneaton (Abbey Street) on a Sunday in September 1961 (as I had a Saturday job), arriving at Nottingham (Midland). Then I walked to that magnificent station Nottingham (Victoria) - what an atmosphere to see all those years ago - then I was steam hauled by a Colwick 'L1' tank loco to Grantham, arriving at mid-day. Checking my train time to get home I had just over 3 hours to witness those pacifics and others. My first 'A4' was Woodcock, then Golden Fleece; 'A3s' lined up in the shed yard were 60054/56/105/112 - all 'namers'. 'A1s' and 'A2s' passed through too. Many thanks for sharing these historic pictures. I didn't have a camera, so I just have my fond memories of Grantham. Of all the places I visited, Grantham in the early 1960s is still my favourite shed and station. It will never be beaten. Many thanks.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Hello Brian,
      Thank you very much for contacting us about your trip to Grantham in 1961.
      It's good to know that we have hopefully rekindled your interest in this, or
      maybe you (like myself) have held a lifelong love of the railway scene at Grantham?
      I had a similar trip via Nottingham Victoria a few years earlier in 1959. If you've not
      already read that, you can find it by clicking on the Welcome Tab (A first Visit to Grantham Station - 1959)
      If you happen to recall any other Grantham memories please do let us know!
      Mel Smith

  6. Eric Gray

    From 1960 (when aged 8) through to 1965 I spent a week each summer holiday with my grandparents in Grantham. My grandad, Fred Gray managed Baxters the butchers in London Road. I had an uncle who was a steam enthusiast and he used to take me spotting at the station. Coming from Gosport, my concept of trains were rows of green carriages in and out of Portsmouth Harbour station; not really that exciting...
    The first spotting trip was a summer Saturday afternoon and we settled down on the down platform to await my first real train.
    Boy, was I in for a surprise - a non-stop A4 hauled express (could it have been The Elizabethan?) at speed, not more than 6 or 7 feet away from me. Half excited, half terrified, that was it - I was hooked! How I wish I still had my combined volume to see what I had copped all those years ago... To this day I remember the rush of air, the smell of steam and oil that lingered, the strange silence that fell over the station after it had gone. Then, that noise that only a Deltic (in two tone green of course) could make as it sat waiting to depart. Some how the trains of today don't have the same excitement; though I do cop the odd 444, 450 and 377 as I pass through Portsmouth Harbour!

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Thank you for your reply Eric. Some wonderful and at the same time sad memories you must have of that transition period, when the power of steam was gradually eclipsed by the power of diesel hauled services, especially the 'Deltics'. If you happen to recall any other memories of your trips to Grantham then please do contact us.
      Mel Smith

  7. Peter Langsdale

    I lived in Grantham in 1953 for 6 months, aged 10, and was very quickly introduced to the area above the west side of the road bridge under the station. Locomotives would pass here to exit the shed, and of course we squashed pennies under them. I will never forget the very first Pacific I saw, 60118 Archibald Sturrock. Another memorable monent was seeing 4-6-4 60700 for the first and only time. I am now 75 and still during UK visits from my Swedish home visit Grantham station and spend an hour or two photographing the movements there.
    Later aged 15 and living in Lincoln I once cycled to Newark, stayed on Northgate station with a platforme ticket to get a breather, watched a few expresses, all named Pacifics of course, and then cycled back again, While I was passing Swinderby airfield a Vampire crashed on the runway, the ambulance quickly arrived but stayed, so I suspect the crash was fatal.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Thank you for adding your own personal memory of trips to Grantham.
      That area near the shed was a favourite for many generations of spotters and enabled everyone to get closer to the engines they loved.
      Best wishes - Mel Smith

  8. Chris Noble

    My first visit to Grantham station was in 1962 I think (the year D0280 Falcon made its appearance on the ECML). I was on a trip with my dad, accompanied by one of his work colleagues and two sons. Until that time, I'd only spotted around Nottingham and Derby; so was not prepared for the excitement of Grantham!

    The first loco I saw on that day was 60034 Lord Faringdon, stopped with a northbound train. Wow, what an impressive sight, but not nearly as exciting as what was to come during the day. Streaks tearing through, with rakes of Pullman coaches! Even Peaks looked better on the ECML than they did on the Midland. That really was a day I shall never forget.

    I returned to Grantham regularly after that, by train from Nottingham Victoria and, later, Midland. I was never disappointed and was always sorry to get the return train to Nottingham, looking back through the coach window in the hope of seeing just one more A4.

    I've been a few times during the last couple of years in an effort to somehow recapture the magic, but to little avail. Grantham is still my favourite station, but class 90 and 91 hauled trains at speed through the station just don't quite cut the mustard.

  9. John Barlow

    I have just discovered your excellent website, whilst looking for photos of steam trains at Grantham. I spent the day there yesterday (20/11/21), this being my first visit in over 60 years! As a schoolboy I would get the train from Nottingham Victoria, return fare around 2 shillings, for a day of spotting at this marvellous station. Loads of namers, with the highlight being "streaks", or A4s. An abiding memory is seeing the streak-like W1 4-6-4 number 60700 on a North bound stopper. Eventually train spotting finished but all through the years I have retained a love of Grantham station and a desire to revisit. So yesterday I made the long journey from my home in Somerset, travelling on the new Azuma trains of LNER. So pleased to find that some station buildings have remained, even though so much has changed. Still a wonderful place to experience the thrill of being close to trains at speed, but an electric at 100 mph is far less impressive than steam at 80. Many thanks to your contributors

    1. TracksthroughGrantham2

      Thank you for your kind comment John, we are pleased that you stumbled across our website. There are lots of pages to wade through, so please feel free to send in further comments relating to other pages. Grantham still retains some of the atmosphere from yesterday-year and the anticipation and excitement of trains passing through the station at speed is exhilarating, but as you say, not the same as a steam hauled express! The occasional modern day steam tour still attracts an audience though and allows us to reminisce.
      Thanks again - Mel Smith

  10. Colin Morley

    My first organized youth club trip away from Leicester was 13 June 1959 for a day at Grantham station. Vivid memories remain but my records long lost. Anyone with any sightings that day, would greatly appreciate details.

  11. TracksthroughGrantham2

    It's nice to hear from you Colin. Hopefully someone will be able to help! We'll get back to you with anything that comes to light. Thanks again - Mel Smith


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