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Highdyke to Westborough in Fifty Pictures: photographs by Tom Boustead

The ten-coach 'Yorkshire Pullman' ascends towards Stoke Tunnel on Saturday 23rd June 1962 with class A3 No. 60066 'Merry Hampton'.
On the left in Highdyke Yard are four trains of ironstone, their colour complementing the deep chocolate and cream paintwork of the Pullman cars. The smoke drifting across the back of the scene is from a locomotive at the far end of the longest set of wagons whose fireman is, most likely, making ready to depart.

The stretch of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) that we consider as Tracks through Grantham territory extends from Stoke Summit 13 miles northward to Westborough, which is between Hougham and Claypole and was once the location of a minor road crossing and a small signal box.  This page explores most of 'our' section of the ECML in a selection of photographs taken by Tom Boustead as we travel with him from Highdyke to Westborough.

Our journey is in time as well as space, so we've borrowed the Tracks through Grantham Tardis.  Tom was first attracted to the line in the 1950s which, of course, were still the days of steam, sidings and semaphore signals; the railway appeared little removed from the system which the 20th century inherited from the Victorian era.  But change was in the air.  During the 1960s the route was 'dieselised'; in the 1970s it was modernised (or rationalised, depending on your point of view); and in the 1980s it was electrified.  He continued to observe the scene until the early 1990s.  Thus the pictures span five decades.

These photographs are an absorbing record of 'what, where and when'.  However, as we journey north we also become increasingly aware of the imprint of the East Coast Main Line on the landscape of South Kesteven.

From the photographic perspective we enjoy unusual viewpoints and creative compositions, often from positions accessible only with the authorisation of a lineside photography permit.  We see how variations in season subtly change the lineside ambience; how weather conditions and the time of day affect the intensity, direction and quality of light, and the depth of shade.

We're very grateful to Steve Philpott who has expertly scanned the pictures.

1. Highdyke

Travelling north, Highdyke is reached immediately beyond Stoke Tunnel and 4½ miles south of Grantham station, at the point where the line crosses the Roman road Ermine Street (London to York, via Lincoln), known in this area as High Dyke.

After Highdyke the line continues its descent from Stoke Summit at a gradient of 1 in 200 all the way to Grantham.  In the southbound direction this is a tough climb to take at high speed or with a heavy load.  Every train reaching Highdyke from Grantham has climbed 120 feet, and the ascent continues for another mile through and beyond the tunnel.

There are two reasons for Highdyke's importance in railway operations; one still applies, the other is historic.

  • Since 1882 the railway from Grantham up to Highdyke has had three running lines, one for northbound (Down) trains and two for those heading south (Up).  Through the tunnel there is space for only two tracks, so at Highdyke the southbound lines converge.  For nearly 140 years efficient signalling of Up trains through this junction has been vital to ensure that the limited capacity of the tunnel is used to best effect by the variety of traffic that shares it, from non-stop passenger expresses to slow and heavy coal trains.
  • From around 1917 until 1973 ironstone was extensively mined in the locality south west of Highdyke.  A single track branch line was built to interchange points near the quarries.  Sidings were laid out at Highdyke where loaded wagons were received from the branch and assembled into trains bound for iron and steel works in Lincolnshire and the North Midlands.

There's more in Tracks through Grantham on Highdyke signal box here, on the ironstone traffic here, and on the High Dyke branch here.

On the morning of Thursday 6th August 1959 class J39 No. 64887 of Colwick shed is approaching the entrance to Stoke Tunnel with an unfitted freight and coal train. Tippler wagons loaded with ironstone occupy one of the sidings at Highdyke Yard.
The 10:50 Leeds (10:04 ex-Halifax) to London King's Cross (train 1E06) is about to enter Stoke Tunnel on Saturday 23rd June 1962.  No. 70039 'Sir Christopher Wren' of Immingham shed (40B) is one of seven 'Britannia' type locomotives which migrated to Humberside from East Anglia in the early 1960s, after steam traction was speedily eliminated between London Liverpool Street and Norwich.
Mick Grummitt comments, 'On a busy Saturday, when there were a number of extra trains running, King's Cross shed would borrow one of Immingham's 'Brits' (after failing it) and send a B1 to cover the turn.'
Gateshead-based Class 55 Deltic No. 55017 'The Durham Light Infantry' heads north from Stoke Tunnel on Saturday 23rd February 1974 with train IN14, the 11:47 London King's Cross to Newcastle service.
On the left, telegraph poles carrying the railway's communication network march up the hill and over the top of the tunnel to Stoke signal box and the south.
In the foreground is Highdyke Yard, deserted since ironstone workings along the branch line from Stainby and Sproxton ceased in August 1973.  The infrastructure remained intact until October 1974 to provide access to the Market Overton site of Flying Scotsman Enterprises.
A great view of Highdyke Yard from above the north portal of Stoke Tunnel on 23rd February 1974.  Deltic No. 55001 'St. Paddy' climbs towards the tunnel with the 08:00 from Edinburgh Waverley to London King's Cross. This happens to be the date when this locomotive was officially renumbered from [D]9001.
With the tracks clear of traffic this is a good opportunity to study the layout. This side of the signal box are four of the six sidings used for marshalling groups of outgoing full wagons into complete trains, ready to depart northbound on the main line.  On their left, beginning to rise at a gradient of 1 in 40 on an embankment, is the High Dyke branch to Stainby and Sproxton. Rising beyond the box are two sidings where empty wagons arrived before being taken up the branch. The connections to and from the main lines are beyond the box as the tracks curve away to the right.
On Sunday 13th May 1984 two High Speed Trains (HSTs) pass on the Up and Down main lines. Introduced in 1977 as the 'Inter-City 125', HSTs were used on scheduled services through Grantham until Sunday 15th December 2019, a unique record of more than 42 years' service.
Much track realignment and rationalisation took place in the 1970s to enable HSTs to maintain their 125mph top speed for as many continuous miles as possible.  Some of this will be evident in other photographs as our journey progresses.
Nature is re-establishing its hold over the site of Highdyke Yard a decade after the track was lifted. Highdyke signal box closed on 24th October 1977, after which the box and the few remaining buildings were quickly demolished.
Photographed just around the curve from the previous pictures, the Uddingston (Lanarkshire) to Cliffe (Kent) cement empties approaches Highdyke on the Up main line on Saturday 23rd June 1962 hauled by two BRCW Type 3 (class 33) locomotives, Nos. D6581 and D6579, which were based on the Southern Region of BR.
Most of the signals on the gantry control the convergence of the Up goods line (far right) with the Up main line, entry to Highdyke Yard and access to the ironstone branch.  On the ground this side of the gantry is a fogman's shelter, lying in its stored position, for Highdyke's Down main line starting signal and Great Ponton's distant (the red and the yellow signal arms).  The siding on the left was once the route taken by the Down (northbound) main line.

2. Great Ponton

Travelling north from Highdyke the line curves gently to the right through the limestone rocks of Great Ponton Cutting to reach the site of Great Ponton station, which opened with the Great Northern Railway's 'Towns Line' in 1852.  The station closed to passengers in 1958 and was demolished soon afterwards.  The goods yard closed in 1963, but the signal box remained in use until 1972.

The site of Great Ponton station on Thursday 28th June 1962. Class A4 No. 60022 'Mallard' passes with train 1E29, the 12:40 service from Hull to London King's Cross. The cement terminal in the goods yard was established to supply contractors building the A1 Grantham Bypass, then under construction with reinforced concrete carriageways.

3. Little Ponton

From Great Ponton towards the village of Little Ponton the line runs at first on an embankment through farmland, crossing Whalebone Lane before approaching Little Ponton Cutting (sometimes known as Saltersford Cutting).

There's a video of Woodnook Valley (SSSI) including passing beneath the Whalebone Lane bridge under the ECML (from about 3:20) here.

Little Ponton Cutting was driven on a curve through the Lincolnshire limestone.  Excavation, initially for two tracks, appears to have started in 1850.  The relatively stable rock allowed the sides to be moderately steep, reducing the volume of material to be excavated.  The cutting was widened to take the additional Up goods line in 1875-76.  For well over a century the exposed strata have suffered erosion by weathering and by pollution such as acid rain and locomotive exhaust gases.

The Little Ponton and Saltersford area was one of Tom's favourite locations for photography.

Near Little Ponton at about 5pm on Monday 6th July 1964. The railway here is ascending towards Stoke Summit, so an Up goods line, on the right, was available for 4½ miles between Grantham and Highdyke, and expresses could overtake slower trains.  Deep in the South Kesteven countryside Austerity 2-8-0 No. 90304 has a lengthy southbound unfitted mixed freight train in hand - with steam to spare, it seems. The sixth and seventh wagons are carrying road rollers.
The tall three-arched bridge never carried a road.  It was built by the railway company as a link between two parts of a landowner's property which became divided by the construction of the line.  We will come across more of these 'accommodation bridges'.  Many of them fell out of use as farmers adapted their use of the land to the presence of the line.  This striking structure was one of five brick-built bridges in the Grantham area which disappeared prior to electrification.
'The Sheffield Pullman' is southbound on Monday 6th July 1964 at Little Ponton, with English Electric Type 4 No. DP2.
The colour light signal carried on the bracket overhanging the Up goods line relates to the Up main line on which the train is travelling. This was Saltersford Up Main auto home signal, an automatic signal controlled by southbound trains on the main line through track circuits; its predecessor semaphore signal, situated further north on the far side of the bridge, is visible in the photo of 60011 below.  On the left is a splitting banner repeater signal. It gives advance warning of the indication of the colour light signal which controls the junction for Saltersford Down Loop, which is out of sight around the curve in the distance.
Little Ponton Cutting is about to be wreathed in steam and smoke as A3 No. 60063 'Isinglass' of Grantham shed approaches up the bank with a southbound fitted freight on Saturday 13th April 1963.

The photograph above is from a sequence of three consecutive images captured as the train approached.  Below is a short video composed from all three shots.  It's best seen in 'full screen' mode.  There's no soundtrack, so why not let your imagination enhance the experience...


A gleaming A4 is on its way south on the Up main line through the cutting with a loose-coupled trainload of coal on Saturday 30th May 1959.
The locomotive is No. 60011 'Empire of India', an Edinburgh (Haymarket) based engine fresh from a general overhaul at Doncaster Works. Its appearance on a mineral train on a Saturday is most likely a running-in turn, under power but at restricted speed, to check that all is sound before it returns to main line passenger duties.
During the summer of 1959 No. 60011 hauled the non-stop 'The Elizabethan' service between Edinburgh and London on 20 occasions including the first Up train on 15th June, when it would have flashed past this spot at around 60mph.
The rear of the train is passing two signals. On the left, partly concealed by steam, is a colour light junction signal for the Down loop at Saltersford, controlled from Grantham South signal box. On the right is the home semaphore signal for Saltersford Up main line Automatic Block Section. It was motor-operated and normally automatically controlled by Up trains through track circuits, but it could be returned to danger manually from Great Ponton signal box.
This magnificent viewpoint seems not to have been discovered by other photographers.

4. Saltersford

Leaving Little Ponton Cutting the line passes, on the left, the Grantham Water Works.  This is on the site of the Salters' Ford which was a Roman crossing of the River Witham by the Salt Way, a route for salt from Droitwich in Worcestershire to the Lincolnshire coast.  Then the railway itself crosses the River Witham on a short viaduct and enters Spittlegate Cutting.

From the 1870s until 1932 there was a signal box at Saltersford opposite the water works  There were crossovers here between the running lines, and a siding for supplying coal to the works.

In 1943 a loop was laid in on the Down (northbound) side, controlled remotely from Grantham South box.  This is the scene illustrated in Tom's photographs.

Today there's little sign of the loop and the water works siding.  The siding had been taken up by 1957 and the loop was removed in 1968.

An Up express freight heads south towards Little Ponton Cutting on Saturday 13th April 1963. Class 9F No. 92040 was based at Peterborough New England shed. These modern steam locomotives, designed and built by British Railways in the 1950s, were known as 'spaceships' by the loco men.
On the left is the turnout from the Down main line into Saltersford Down Loop. Until 1932 Saltersford signal box stood next to the platelayers' hut on the right.
Four years earlier, on Saturday 30th May 1959, this is the same location but on the opposite side of the line, at the site of Saltersford signal box.
Just before 10am Class A3 No. 60059 'Tracery' passes by on a Leeds to King's Cross express, with steam to spare. Several trains were coming up from Grantham about this time and No. 60059 was catching up with adverse signals. The driver had shut off steam, causing the safety valves to lift because the fireman had prepared the boiler to deliver power continually during a further 4 miles or so of ascent to Stoke Summit.  Tom remembers that the King's Cross based locomotive was in very good condition.
The first three coaches, along with others further back in the train, carry the early British Railways Crimson Lake and Cream colour scheme that, in 1956, had been replaced by maroon.  However unlike today's trains, which can be re-covered with new corporate branded adhesive decals almost overnight, these vehicles were coach painted.  It was a skilfully applied finish intended, with occasional touching up and revarnishing, to last a decade.
This is the north end of Saltersford Down Loop. On Saturday 12th August 1961 class A3 No. 60066 'Merry Hampton' is heading south on an express.
The size of the Aveling-Barford Ltd. engineering works can be appreciated. It appears on the right in the background of this picture and extended nearly half a mile beyond the bridge in the far distance on the left.
Saltersford Down Loop is seen here in the foreground re-joining the northbound main line. To protect the main line from runaways, trap points led to a sand drag on the left.
On Friday 12th April 1963 Deltic No. D9005, still to receive its name 'The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire', approaches with train 1A35, the 10:00 Edinburgh to London King's Cross service 'The Flying Scotsman'.  The spire of St. Wulfram's Church is prominent behind part of the Aveling-Barford engineering works.
Tom's lineside photography permit enabled him to take shots from positions such as this which were unavailable to most railway photographers.

5. Spittlegate Cutting

These earthworks mark the approach to Grantham station.  In contrast with the rock cutting at Saltersford, the gently graded slopes are a sign of the instability of the clay ground hereabouts.  At first the sides of Spittlegate Cutting were steeper than they are today, but soon after the line opened there were frequent landslips. One, in October 1852, left 'the engine partly buried in the ground.'  The slopes of this cutting have required frequent attention over the years.

The expanse of Spittlegate Cutting is apparent in this beautifully composed shot as the 13:30 King's Cross to Harrogate and Bradford (1N16), including a portion for Hull, is brought into view by Deltic No. D9018 'Ballymoss' on Good Friday 12th April 1963.
A southbound express passenger train passes what is probably an engineer's train travelling north on Saturday 20th July 1963. The locomotives are class 46 'Peak' diesel-electric No. D175 which was based at Gateshead and class O2 'Tango' No. 63932 from Grantham shed.
The vigorous departure of Grantham Loco's class A3 No. 60105 'Victor Wild' with an express for King's Cross on Saturday 2nd August 1958.
Class K3 'Jazzer' No. 61835 hurries a southbound freight through the cutting on Saturday 13th May 1961. This locomotive was based at Colwick at the time, so the train has probably come onto the main line from the Nottingham branch.
The Up and Down main lines pass below the Great North Road through the larger arch of the bridge. The Up goods takes the smaller arch on the right, and beside it is the south tank house. It supplied the water crane visible opposite, between the Up main and Up goods lines.  Water could be taken by the locomotives of trains on either of the Up lines, though stopping on the main line for this purpose was seriously discouraged!
On Saturday 8th August 1959 a southbound express passes beneath the bridge bringing the A1 Great North Road into Grantham from the south. It is headed by class A4 No. 60034 'Lord Faringdon'. The colour light signal on the left carries a plate 'GS 52', which tells us that it is operated by lever number 52 at Grantham South signal box.
This is a superb study in sunlight, steam and shadow.
When the V2 locomotive fleet was designed at Doncaster Works in the 1930s the primary objective was main line express freight.  Here No. 60908 of Peterborough New England shed is perfectly captured performing the role it was built to play. On Saturday 2nd August 1958 it powers out of Grantham and under the Great North Road bridge, the crew getting well into their stride for the five-mile climb to Stoke Summit.
No. 60908 was one of several V2 locomotives that had been lent to the Southern Region in summer 1953 to help out on expresses to and from Waterloo because many of their express passenger engines were temporarily taken out of service for inspection following an axle fracture.
The photograph was captured while taking full advantage of the lineside photography permit which Tom possessed from 1955 until they were all withdrawn in 1968.

6. Grantham South

Passing under the Great North Road bridge, the three running lines which have kept us company from Highdyke are immediately flanked by sidings and shunt lines.  At Grantham South signal box a Down slow line and an Up and Down goods loop appear.  Soon there are carriage sidings on the left, goods yards on both sides and, on the far left, the loco sheds.

Being on an embankment, and closely bordered by industrial premises on the 'town' side, this is an area of railway property which is fairly inaccessible - except by those who had business to be there or had been granted a lineside pass for photography.

For more about this locality please see our pages about Grantham South signal box.

The view north 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 of Edinburgh (Haymarket) depot which was still to receive its name, 'The Fife & Forfar Yeomanry'.
On the right 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.
On the same sunny Saturday a southbound express approaches the bridge.  The locomotive is Brush Type 4 (class 47) No. D1513 from Finsbury Park depot in North London, which had been in main line service for just over 4 months.
The water column mentioned previously can be seen through the arch.
On the evening of Saturday 4th October 1958 an express freight heads north on the Down main line behind class A4 No. 60021 'Wild Swan'.  This is the view from ground level standing in front of Grantham South signal box, which casts its shadow on the crossover in the left foreground.
On Saturday 4th October 1958 a Glasgow Queen Street to London King's Cross express heads past the Up side goods yard as it leaves Grantham station behind.
The locomotive is No. 60503 'Lord President' of class A2/2. Based at York shed, it was an ungainly reconstruction of a remarkable pre-war design, the P2 2-8-2, which is currently the subject of an ambitious new-build project.


7. Grantham Passenger Station

Into the 1970s at Grantham a number of characteristics combined to make the station an exceptionally good location for watching and photographing the railway at work.  Here's a list; there are some features that still apply today:

  • A variety of traffic, ranging from main line passenger expresses (including titled and Pullman trains) and local connecting services to fast freight and heavy mineral trains; some stopping, including for locomotive changes, others passing through at speed;
  • Modest size, so that all activity was easily observed, yet large and busy enough to have most ‘big station’ facilities such as a bookstall, refreshment rooms, an announcer, a parcels office, GPO postal traffic and a goods depot;
  • A clear view along straight track for about a mile south, with a wide platform end for a selection of viewpoints;
  • A curve to the north offering interesting perspectives for photography; for example, superelevation of the main lines on the curve gives a dramatic ‘lean’ to approaching Up trains - which, if not stopping, power through the station to maintain speed up the forthcoming ascent to Stoke Summit;
  • An open aspect from the west giving, in fair weather, good lighting for afternoon and evening photography;
  • Interesting architectural and landscape features such as industrial buildings, signal boxes and semaphore signalling, Victorian gas lamps, water columns, decorative structural ironwork, and equipment such as old platform barrows and trolleys.
The classic southbound departure out of Grantham. Setting off in good style on Sunday 4th September 1960 is gleaming King's Cross based class A4 No. 60029 'Woodcock'.  The circular window on the rear of the tender tells us that it has a corridor to enable a change of crew while on the move, denoting that this is one of the locomotives assigned to the non-stop Anglo-Scottish 'Elizabethan' service during the 1960 summer season.
The backdrop is the Lee & Grinling company's warehouse on the left and their malthouses in the distance on the right, while in between is the railway's Up side goods yard.
A locomotive change has taken place at 1.30pm on Saturday 10th September 1955. Grantham shed's class A2 No. 60533 'Happy Knight' sets off for London King's Cross, having taken over from A1 No 60126 'Sir Vincent Raven' which is reversing towards the north end of the station. There it will access the shed for turning and servicing before working back to Tyneside, where it was based at Heaton shed in Newcastle.
The Yard Box signalman looks on. The two small metal boxes in the foreground, one beside the right hand rail of each of the tracks, house detonator placers. They could be activated by levers in the box, placing a small explosive charge on the rail head. The sound of the explosion when run over acted as as an emergency warning of danger to a driver.
On a damp and dreary Saturday 21st February 1959 all eyes are on the English Electric prototype 'Deltic' locomotive on the 12:30 Hull to London King's Cross service, which it had taken over at Doncaster.
This powerful diesel-electric locomotive carried a striking powder blue colour scheme.  Its cream details are nicely echoed by the diesel multiple unit seen alongside at platform 3.
'Deltic' was completed late in 1955.  For the next three years or so it was used mainly between London Euston and the North West of England, and was never seen at Grantham.  The West Coast Main Line opted for electrification, but 'Deltic' had attracted the attention of the East Coast Main Line management, who were seeking reliable high-speed diesel power to replace their legendary steam fleet.
'Deltic' was brought to Doncaster in mid-January 1959. Trials showed that the locomotive was too wide to operate on the northern section of the route, so it generally worked between Doncaster and King's Cross. This is the scene on the fifth day of its first period of regular service through Grantham.
'Deltic' continued to be a common and popular sight at Grantham until November 1960. By that time the first of 22 production locomotives, ordered on the back of this prototype's success, were well under construction.
The steam rising from beneath the front coach was generated by a small boiler on the locomotive. All first-generation diesel locomotives in Britain intended for passenger services were equipped with similar boilers to supply the train's heating system until, by the 1980s, most coaches had electric heaters powered from the locomotive's generator.  Another nod to the steam railway is the pair of oil lamps carried, one above each buffer, to convey the 'express passenger train' headcode - even though electric lamps have been designed into the body.
The classic Grantham northbound departure is captured here as class W1 No. 60700 gets away from platform 3, probably in 1957. This unique locomotive was a rebuild into conventional form of an experimental engine, LNER No. 10000.
The inclination of the tender from the vertical shows the extent to which the left hand rail is raised to enable trains not stopping at Grantham to take the curve north of the station at speed. The design and maintenance of intersecting tracks at locations such as this demanded a high level of skill from permanent way engineers and their staff.
The signalman at Grantham North box is attending to an instrument on the block shelf, probably informing his colleague at Barkston South Junction that the train is on its way.

8. Grantham Loco Yard

West of the passenger station and goods yards was Grantham Loco, its location identified from a distance by the tall coaling plant constructed in the late 1930s to mechanise the laborious manual activity of supplying steam locomotives with fuel.

Footplate staff began working from Grantham in 1850, when a small engine shed was brought into use at Ambergate Yard near the canal basin, the original terminus of the line from Nottingham and the first railway to arrive in the town.  The main line opened two years later with basic locomotive stabling and servicing arrangements near the new station.  Grantham became fully equipped for its future role as a locomotive changeover point on the East Coast Main Line in 1862 with improvements to the shed facilities included the installation of a locomotive turntable.  It was not long before the first of many generations of Grantham footplatemen established a deserved reputation for skilled locomotive work and fine timekeeping on what became the world's most prestigious high speed railway.  A new shed, the 'top shed',  was opened in 1897, and the final significant upgrade was the coaling plant 40 years later.

With the advent of diesel traction on the main line in the early 1960s there was no longer any need for locomotives to be based at Grantham and the Loco closed in September 1963.  Part of the site was taken over by the Reads Ltd. can-making factory which opened in 1969, but it too has disappeared from the scene.  The land, including a large area of railway-owned allotments,  is today largely occupied by housing.

Class A3 No. 60061 'Pretty Polly' stands as Main Line Pilot on Saturday 20th July 1963, its tender fully coaled, prepared to take over any express whose locomotive might be in difficulty.  On the right are the coaling plant and the tank of the water treatment plant, where chemicals were added to the mains supply to prevent hard scale building up inside locomotive boilers.  Ash disposal at Grantham remained primitive to the end - ash and clinker was dropped into pits between the rails, such as in the foreground, to be shovelled out and into wagons for removal, usually to landfill sites.

9. Grantham North

North of the station platforms were the junctions for the Nottingham line and for the Up and Down goods loop.  Beyond a series of connections and crossovers two twin-track routes, the main line and the Nottingham line, ran parallel for half a mile.  They crossed a massive curved brick viaduct with divergent skew arches over Harlaxton Road and Wharf Road.   The curve continues on a wide embankment with bridges over Dysart Road and Barrowby Road, where the Nottingham route diverges to the left.  The main line, having resumed a straight course, crosses a further bridge over the Great North Road, known here as North Parade.

The track layout is quite different today; there are no main line connections on the curve and a single, bi-directional track has been substituted for the pair of Nottingham lines.  After the Nottingham line diverges it runs alongside the main lines as a bi-directional slow line, which connects into the main lines on the straight approaching the North Parade bridge.

'The Grantham curve' with its raised, superelevated track and clear skyline is a dramatic setting, especially in the warm, low light of a clear late afternoon or evening.

It's Saturday 6th October 1962 and a full load of ironstone is on its way to Frodingham steel works, with a Grantham crew in charge of class O2 heavy freight locomotive No. 63962. The driver and the guard will be keeping a check on the speed to maintain control as gravity urges the unbraked tippler wagons forward on the eight-mile descent from Highdyke Yard to Barkston Junction.
The North Box signalman has his window open. Is this an untypically hot autumn day, or is there another reason?
Another load of ironstone, but this time in wagons fitted with the automatic vacuum brake and therefore allowed to travel at faster speed.  This consignment from Highdyke Yard to Aldwarke, Rotherham, rattles past Grantham North signal box on Saturday 6th October 1962 with Grantham shed's A3 No. 60056 'Centenary' at the head.  This locomotive was based at Grantham continually from 1953 to 1963.
On the same day and from a similar position we swing the camera lens to the north to capture the cement empties train again. It was seen before, passing Highdyke double-headed, but this time it's hauled by No. D6579 alone and crossing the bridge taking Wharf Road and Harlaxton Road under the line. On this occasion the train isn't getting a clear run through Grantham. The Yard Box distant signal is indicating caution, so the driver will be slowing down, while looking around the curve for a banner repeater signal near the north end of the platform.  It will tell him if he is to stop, to continue on the main line or be turned into the goods line at the south end of the station platform.
The inter-regional cement workings between Kent and Lanarkshire took these locomotives to York from their base at Hither Green depot (73C) near Lewisham in South East London.
On the left, the line speed for northbound trains increases to 85 mph round the curve, following restriction to a lower limit over the points at Grantham North for the Nottingham branch.
Heading towards Barrowby Road on Saturday 6th October 1962 is class A4 No. 60032 'Gannet' with a northbound express.
A King's Cross to X to Newcastle train departs from Grantham at 4.5pm on Saturday 20th September1958. Class A2/3 No. 60517 'Ocean Swell' was based at Heaton shed on Tyneside. "The low light has detailed the engine very well as it leans into the curve nearing Barrowby Road, laying a very nice smoke trail. This is one of my very early shots as I'd bought the camera just two months earlier."
The Nottingham lines in the foreground are still laid with bullhead rail while the Down Main line has more modern flat-bottomed rail, though still with a joint every 60 feet.
The milepost on the right tells us we are 106 miles north of London King's Cross as English Electric Type 4 (class 40) No. D279 of Gateshead shed passes with an express freight train on Saturday 6th October 1962.
Looking again at the track for a second, during the four years that have elapsed since the previous photograph the civil engineers have been busy upgrading the permanent way. The Down main line now has continuously welded rail (CWR), while old bullhead track of the Up and Down Nottingham lines has been renewed using jointed flat bottomed rails.

10 Barrowby Road

This is one of the Grantham area's most interesting locations from the perspective of railway history.  The line from Nottingham arrived in 1850 on the way to its terminus near the canal basin, half a mile beyond.  Two years later, the Great Northern Railway opened a new stretch of the East Coast Main Line between Peterborough and Retford, on which they built a larger station at Grantham, more convenient for the town and providing services both north and south.  The line to Nottingham became a branch and its junction here with the main line became known as Grantham Junction.  Grantham Junction was next to a bridge over the road leading to the village of Barrowby, now the A52 to Nottingham

In 1881 the embankment between here and the north end of Grantham station was widened to take four tracks, the pair of Nottingham lines running independently of the main line.  Thus there was no longer a junction, and the new signal box built as part of the upgrade was named Barrowby Road.  

Today Barrowby Road remains the point of divergence of the line to Nottingham, although the actual junction has moved again and is now south of Grantham station.  Since the abolition of junctions at Barkston in 2005 trains to Sleaford, Spalding and Boston have taken the Nottingham line as far as Allington.

At 3.49pm on Saturday 6th October 1962 class B1 No. 61088, a Colwick loco., is re-starting towards Grantham from a water stop at Barrowby Road with a train of empty mineral wagons.  "I was waiting and watching for an opportunity of a train on the main lines, up or down, when this one arrived at the signal and stopped in a near perfect position to show all of the signals and to fill the 35mm frame very well.  Luck was there for once!"

11. Peascliffe

From the outskirts of the town to Peascliffe Tunnel the line is straight and level.  It used to run entirely through farmland.

Since the 1960s some of the fields on either side, south of the bridge which carries Belton Lane over the line , have been developed for housing.  There's now no sign there, on the right, of the one-time Peascliffe signal box , or of the junction for a short-lived branch line to an important WW1 military training camp at Belton Park.  However, widening of the distance between the lineside fencing to accommodate the junction is still apparent, if you know where to look!

Beyond Belton Lane bridge Belton Woods golf course has today replaced the fields over and around the south end of the tunnel.

Leaving Peascliffe Tunnel on Sunday 21st April 1963 is the 15:40 Harrogate / 15:50 Bradford Exchange to London King's Cross 'The Harrogate Sunday Pullman'. The locomotive is English Electric Deltic No. D9007 'Pinza' of London Finsbury Park depot.
Above the first coach is the site of a shed once used as a store and mess room by the gang of men who maintained the tunnel.

12. Belton

The line resumes its long descent from Stoke Summit through Peascliffe Tunnel to Barkston Junction.  This section is all in tunnel or cutting, and there's evidence that over the years its drainage has required frequent attention.

Belton is the name of a nearby village, and Belton signal box was once located half a mile north of the tunnel. The names of neighbouring Jericho Farm and Jericho Woods are also used locally to identify the area.

There's no sign of encroaching housebuilding here; the line now passes through farming country until it reaches the outskirts of Newark.

There were once four bridges across the cutting to maintain local access after the line was built.  The only one that remains, Gadd's Lane bridge, has been rebuilt to provide clearance for electrification.

The neighbouring farmer has been busy gathering the harvest as 'The Flying Scotsman' approaches Peascliffe Tunnel, passing beneath the un-rebuilt Gadd's Lane bridge, on Saturday 2nd July 1977. Class 55 Deltic No. 55008 'The Green Howards' heads train 1E05, the 09:50 Edinburgh Waverley to London King's Cross.
From June to December 1977 British Rail dedicated the 07:45 service from London King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverley and the 15:00 return as "The Silver Jubilee" in honour of the 25-year reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The buffet car was decked with 1952-1977 memorabilia, and place settings, napkins etc. all carried "The Silver Jubilee" motif.
On Wednesday 8th June the inaugural service departed from King's Cross hauled by class 55 Deltic No. 55012 'Crepello', and it was captured here speeding out of Peascliffe Tunnel complete with special headboard.
The gas-lit warning board at bottom right indicates that the train is approaching a temporary speed restriction, details of which will have been notified to the driver when signing on before the journey.
From Gadd's Lane bridge Tom has captured the 'GNR & GCR Rail Cruise' leaving Peascliffe Tunnel on the morning of Saturday 20th October 1979. Organised by the Thompson B1 Locomotive Society, this tour began and ended at London King's Cross. Its extensive itinerary can be found on the Six Bells Junction website. English Electric Type 4 (class 40) No. 40067 is on the first part of the tour, from King's Cross to Tinsley Yard (Sheffield) via Newark, Lincoln, Cleethorpes, Scunthorpe and Doncaster.
Eurostar class 373/2 sets 3309 and 3310 form the 09:10 King's Cross to York on Sunday 18th June 2000, leaving Peascliffe tunnel and approaching Gadd's Lane bridge at 10:30.
Back in time: similar shape, different era on the East Coast Main Line.  'The Flying Scotsman' climbs the bank from Barkston Junction towards Peascliffe Tunnel on the afternoon of Saturday 27th September 1958.  A4 No. 60014 'Silver Link' is about to pass the site of Belton signal box.
Both bridges in this view have been removed.

13. Barkston Junction

Here we curve to the left, cross the minor road from Barkston village (which is more than a mile to the east) on a bridge - at one time this was a level crossing - and we then cross above the line which links Nottingham with Boston.  That's the situation today, but until 1972 there were also north-to-east and south-to-east connections from the main line.  Barkston was a well-known triangular junction.

Barkston station, which closed in 1955, had an unusual disposition of platforms, two facing the main line and another on the south-to-east spur.

There's more on Barkston North Junction signal box here; on the junction's role as a locomotive turning facility towards the end of this page ; and on its attraction as a spotting location here.

An Up express heads away from Barkston South Junction on the afternoon of Saturday 27th September 1958 with class A2 No. 60526 'Sugar Palm' of York shed.

14. Hougham

A little under a mile north of Barkston Junction the line crosses Frinkley Lane on the level.  The road here is now a footpath, but years ago vehicles could use the crossing.  About ¾ mile further, on the right, the site of Hougham station is today a featureless storage yard.  We pass beneath Gelston Lane and into a short cutting, emerging onto a low embankment bridged by Brandon Road.  From here it's 8 miles dead ahead to Newark.

Passing the site of the station and yard at Hougham on Monday 8th October 1973 is a northbound freight hauled by Brush Type 2 (Class 31) Nos. 5620 and 5673. By this date all that remained at Hougham station, which closed to passengers in 1957, was the station house and some small outbuildings.
On Sunday 1st October 1967 the A4 Preservation Society organised 'The Splendour of Steam Rail Tour' from London King's Cross to Leeds, Carlisle and return. The Society's class A4 No. 4498 'Sir Nigel Gresley' hauled the train between Peterborough and Carlisle, handing over to Western Region No. 7029 'Clun Castle' for the return leg as far as Leeds.
Tom's shot at Hougham is splendidly framed by the bridge which takes Gelston Lane over the railway, with the signal box and Stationmaster's house visible through the arch.
This locomotive was based at Grantham shed between April 1944 and June 1950.
Taken from the bridge seen in the previous shot, on Friday 10th August 1973 train 1E11, the 09:00 from Aberdeen to London King's Cross, approaches the site of Hougham station. The vacant trackbed on the right was once a siding accessed from the station goods yard. The class 55 Deltic locomotive is No. 9006 'The Fife & Forfar Yeomanry'.
The bridge in this photograph was another accommodation bridge.  By providing a safe and convenient crossing it 'accommodated ' (i.e. took account of) the need of the landowner to continue to manage their land as one unit. Like many such bridges it was removed, by negotiation with the landowner, prior to the electrification of the East Coast Main Line to avoid the cost of rebuilding it to ensure the necessary clearance.
The telegraph poles have been out of use (and are 'wire-less') since the Grantham panel signal box took over the signalling of the line as far as Claypole in February 1972.
Electrification of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) was completed through the Grantham area in 1989, and reached Edinburgh in 1991. A new fleet of 31 class 91 locomotives was built for the East Coast route between 1988 and 1991.  No. 91006 is photographed from Brandon Road bridge, about half a mile north of the former Hougham station, heading towards Newark at about 7.30pm on Monday 2nd July 1990.
In the far right distance is the bridge which appeared in the earlier photograph of A4 No. 4498, rebuilt to provide clearance for the overhead wires.
When the West Coast Main Line was electrified in the 1960s its fleet included locomotives suitable for fast fitted freight as well as passenger duties.  This was not generally the case with later electrification projects.  Diesel-electric Class 37s Nos. 37252 and 37113 are on an Ipswich to Trafford Park, Manchester container train north of Hougham at 16:47 on Friday 6th September 1991.  These venerable locomotives were completed in 1965 and 1963, and both remained in service until 1995.
A southbound express is approaching the opposite side of the same bridge at 18:44 on Tuesday 29th May 1979. Class 40 No. 40077 (originally D277) was a regular sight on the east Coast Main Line, being based at York or Gateshead for its entire operational life between 1960 and 1983. Compared with earlier pre-electrification photographs the telegraph poles have been taken down, removing a feature evocative of the railway scene for more than a century, but almost unacknowledged. For about 15 years, until electrification masts went up, the lineside landscape here was unencumbered by posts and poles.

15 Westborough

Westborough was a very basic signalling block post whose purpose was to divide the 4-mile stretch of line between Hougham and Claypole signal boxes into two roughly equal sections.  At busy times this enabled more intensive operation under the 'absolute block' working required by parliament on passenger lines.  Situated where a farm lane crossed the tracks on the level, the signal box was small, having only six levers.  It opened in 1872 and closed in June 1964.  In a sparsely populated area the village of Westborough lies 2 miles to the south east 'as the crow flies'.

An Up train south of Claypole approaches the bridge which takes Clensey Lane over the line.  Just south of the bridge was the most northerly signal operated from Westborough signal box, so this location forms Tracks through Grantham's northern boundary. Class 55 No. 55014 'The Duke of Wellington's Regiment' speeds south with an express in April 1979.

With this view on a fresh spring day we conclude our travels through time and space.  We began in 1959 at Highdyke, near milepost 101, and leave near Westborough at milepost 114¼.   We've descended about 230 feet (70m).  It's time to hand back the keys of the Tracks through Grantham Tardis.  We hope you've enjoyed the trip!

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.

24 thoughts on “Highdyke to Westborough in Fifty Pictures: photographs by Tom Boustead

  1. Richard Cumming

    In a few days we would all have been at Grantham enjoying one of our regular meetings.This journey has helped overcome the loss and provided a welcome delve into the past on a gorgeous Sunday morning.
    See you all in six months hopefully. Keep safe.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Good morning Richard,
      Thankyou for your response. I'm glad that these views help to fill the gap of the loss of the club meeting for everyone and that you like the reminders of times past, the escapism of memories is very useful to us at this time.

  2. Roger Bryant

    Hi Mel and John.

    Tom's pictures and the information is fantastic. It kept me quiet for quite a while and I will be going through it again as I always seem to see more on a second visit. Tom certainly took some excellent photographs.
    The mention of HST's made me think that in early December 2019, when we went off to Portugal in our motorhome, HST's were still thrashing through Grantham. When we arrived back in January all was quiet except for the Grand Central diesels and freight. It must be the quietest the ECML has ever been except for the current virus situation. Thanks Tom.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hello Roger,
      Thankyou for your reply.
      It's good to hear that you like the pictures and I would agree that a second, or maybe more, look through them discloses detail unnoticed on the first occasion, I look through my shots several times thinking that I should have done something differently. For the information it's the team of John, Mel and Steve who are so good at detail and caption writing, many thanks to them.
      I always enjoy my now rare visits to the ecml, not to photograph but to view through binoculars. Modern trains still provide some variety and I never know what is going to come along. It's such an important line, but I must admit that the loco hauled trains are favourite for me.

  3. Andy Overton

    Fantastic photos, thanks very much for putting these up on the website. What an absolute delight to see photos from earlier years where the background is given as much attention as the subject - far too many steam era pictures are repetitive front-three quarters shots of locos which could have been taken anywhere, for all you can see of the wider railway environment. And the diesel-era photos were much appreciated. Great work from a great photographer.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hi. Andy,

      Thankyou for your message and it's good to know that you think the pictures are ok. When taking photos. from the lineside there is more choice of background, scenery etc. afforded by the permit than there is from the platforms alone, each have their advantages though and it's good to have a long look at an engine, perhaps with the loco. changes which were such a slick operation at Grantham. I liked both and the time flew by whichever I was doing.
      There are many more modern traction enthusiasts now and I would have had to be very careful with the assortment that I offered, you have noticed this. My selection would otherwise have been a tribute to Sir Nigel!

  4. David Turpie

    Superb shots indeed, and very informative captions. High Dyke sidings full, empty and trackless brings back memories of spotting days. So too does the shot of the GCR & GNR Rail Cruise rail tour as I was a passenger on it! I really enjoy this website - never know what will appear next, but always know it will be interesting.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hi. David,
      Thankyou for your reply and glad you like the pictures. You must have done most of your train watching at one of my favourite places, namely High Dyke. In my earlier photo. days I used to walk up to there from Grantham, it was always interesting and busy but took quite a while to get there. I found it a good location for afternoon and evening photos. when the sun had gone around, and lately a good place to park which made it a lot easier - although by the time I got a car the steam was disappearing.
      You mention the GCR & GNR tour photo which was taken at Peascliffe, another favourite place and a bit of a trek from Grantham but usually worth the effort. The 40 was a bonus and I remember as usual made a lovely noise.

  5. Jim Chesney

    This is to say many thanks for the series of Tom's photos. Many memories have been brought back of trainspotting at many of these locations from the late 1950s onwards. I always wished I had taken more photos but fortunately others like Tom did. Marvellous!

    One comment on the Britannia picture. Brits were comparatively a rarity at Grantham so presumably the loco is replacing a failed engine further north.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Thankyou Jim,
      Many thanks for your comments about the photos. I never cease to be surprised that people like them as there are so many good photters about these days and I could spend much time looking at the papershop mags and the quality of work displayed. That said, please don't be put off by not having many to choose from as the modern miracle of digital photography helps to get the best out of the negs or slides, your memories are worth something!
      Your mention of 70039 is interesting. In the early 1960s I lived overlooking the GC north of Nottingham and 70039 was one of the engines used quite often on a daily fish train southwards, Grimsby/Hull to London or the southwest, usually a very long train. It crossed over from GN to GC at Tuxford North, an interesting routing. This engine must have been a very reliable one.

      1. David Wellington

        Thanks for the shots Tom. I am used to your photos from your GC content elsewhere, so glad to see more of your skills here. On the subject of 40B Britannias, I remember the fish train through Lutterworth at about 22.00; sometimes only catching the smell but not the number. Otherwise on spotting trips to Peterborough from Leicester the first southbound Kings Cross train was ex-Cleethorpes, with a Brit, obviously travelling via Spalding rather than Grantham.
        Despite my teenage spotting days being spent close to Rugby and the WCML, trips to Peterborough and York were the ultimate.....

        1. Thomas Boustead

          Hello David, Thankyou for your comments, I'm glad you like the pictures on the TTG and GC websites, excellent showcases. The Brits were very popular on both although I missed the earlier ones on the 1950s GC, (70014). I didn't take many pics. before about 1958 and then it became a race to catch up before the variety of steam disappeared. I too liked the fish trains on GC, GN, and the ELR with it's long straights and approaching K3's bucking and swaying enough to hit the platform edge at Alford, but they never did fortunately. I have one more GC shot of a K3 on a fish at Ruddington in 1958 and heading towards you at Lutterworth, I will include that on Facebook as soon as I can. The TTG website is the favourite for viewing because the pictures stay on there long enough for me to decide how they can be improved. More work for John! and I am grateful to the team of John, Mel and Steve for without their expertise the scenes would not be so well shown.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Thankyou Tim,
      It's quite pleasing to see work published and to know that others interested like them also. If I can spread a little enjoyment of our subject and take minds off that devastating virus for a while it's a bit of success.
      For the narrative and the interesting and knowledgeable captions, please thank John.



    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hello Tony,
      To be involved with 55012 on that first day of the Silver Jubilee service is a very nice memory to have, the plaque being a constant reminder for you. Honestly, I never saw a Deltic as clean as that before or since, not even the brand new D9001 on its first trip on the up Flying Scotsman whilst standing at Newcastle in 1961 was that good. 55012 positively glistened.
      The north end of Peascliffe tunnel was a very photogenic location with not much foliage to block the view in those years and I cannot remember any other people even being there to enjoy the occasion. I hope you managed a trip on the train, perhaps a cab-ride if you were a team member.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hello Julie,
      Thankyou for the reply. It's good that these few pics. helped to tide you over the missed meeting but hope that your next one will make up for it. I miss seeing the steam engines, first visit to Grantham in 1945 to see Woodcock, Silver Link and the brand new Airborne. Unfortunately no chance of seeing them again.

  7. Derek Steptoe

    What a great step back in time and all very relevant to me and my family. My Dad was yard inspector at Highdyke and absolutely loved it. My eldest brother Terry was signalman at Ponton after being a telegraph lad at Grantham South.
    I was also a telegraph lad at Grantham North and had the pleasure of working the same shifts as Wilf Ogden who was also the town mayor. I joined the S and T department as a linesman and had the wonderful pleasure of helping to maintain the above named boxes and also Barkston south, north and east.
    Fantastic memories brought back to life by these photos.
    Many many thanks, Derek Steptoe.

    1. Thomas Boustead

      Hello Derek,
      So good to know that these photos. helped to remind you of happy times long past, sometimes when I look at these older pics. I am suddenly reminded of other things/events connected with them and memories come flooding back, usually good ones!
      With so many of your family members employed in the various trades and occupations around Grantham, events like Christmas parties must be an absolute joy of story telling, I hope that these few pics. will amplify that for you.
      You mention Grantham North box, that is one that I would really have liked to photograph from especially when they had the repeating somersault signals there, a bit before me though. My favourite picture of all is T.G.Hepburn's pic. of 2744 waiting by the North box to leave with a down express and with a very impatient driver looking back for the guard, just wonderful.

  8. Andy Overton

    Just a quick further comment Tom to say how much I have also enjoyed revisiting the page to see the excellent new photos you have added. Great stuff!

  9. Rob Clipsham

    Hi Tom,

    I loved your photographic journey along the ECML.

    My father Frank Clipsham was a signalman at Westborough in the fifties and told me many tales of his time there.
    One particularly bad winter, after being relieved, cycling back to Balderton in heavy snow was not an option. So my father stopped B17 Sheffield Wednesday at the box; this locomotive had just been outshopped from Donny and was returning from the Barkston triangle trial run. My dad loaded his bike up onto the footplate and was dropped off at Bullpit crossing in Balderton, and was then able to go home to his wife Gladys, my mum, who was very worried about his return.

  10. Thomas Boustead

    Hello Rob,
    Thankyou for your appreciative comments about the pictures and for the most interesting story about your dad's "rescue" in the snowy weather. There can't have been much space left on that footplate with the bike on there but with only a short journey up to Balderton that few minutes on 61661 saved the day. Even on a fine day that bike ride could take the best part of an hour. The road bridge on the long lane to Stubton, just a few yards north of the Westborough sb site, was a favourite viewing place although I never saw working steam there. There is still a track towards the box site, probably a private track and I certainly wouldn't like to take a car down it, maybe a tractor! Thanks again for your comments, I am envious of the footplate ride on that ex works B17.

    1. Rob Clipsham

      Thank you for your reply Tom.
      I visited the site of my father's old signal box at Westborough, that track would have been tough for a bike!!!
      He did say he kept a pair of ferrets by the box and I was raised on rabbits!!!!
      My father also worked at some of the small boxes north of Newark, Crow Park, and Bathley Lane, he must have done some
      miles on his bike.
      When I was learning to drive in the 70s, in my fathers old Wolseley 4/44, I always persuaded him to take me along the Stubton road, so I could view my beloved Deltics from the road bridge and hear that Napier drone miles after the locomotive had passed!!!
      What memories!!!
      I missed out on the Pacifics on the main line, as I was too young, but I was lucky enough to have one journey and that was with A3 Doncaster from Newark to Kings Cross.
      I think your photographs are first rate, the way you recorded the transition from steam to diesel then electric traction, representing the historical development of the finest line in the country, the ECML!!!

      Rob Clipsham


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