(…and the mystery of 60100 Spearmint)
by Alan Wilce
Like many other boys in the late 1950s and early 1960s I had a keen interest in trainspotting. It was a favourite hobby of mine and I remember many spotting trips with friends to local places in and around my home town of Melton Mowbray. Sometimes we ventured south west of Melton to the not too distant city of Leicester and once we went to Nottingham, some 20 miles to the north-west. Our group of trainspotting friends often spoke about another ‘not too distant’ place that lay 16 miles north east of Melton. This particular place was the subject of regular ‘spotting conversations’ and the colourful description of the sights and sounds of those who had actually been there stoked up the fire of the others (like myself) who hadn’t...
Grantham or, much more importantly, its railway station was looked upon as the place to go to if you wanted to be considered as a serious trainspotter. Grantham meant only one thing, green pacifics on named trains, dashing up and down the main line from London to such exotic places as York and Newcastle, or an even more exotic and mysterious place called Scotland! So, with that notion firmly in my mind, I asked my parents if perhaps one day they would take me to Grantham.
It wasn’t too long before they did, and I have a very clear memory of that car journey with my Mum and Dad from Melton to Grantham. This midweek outing took place in the summer of 1960. The journey was relatively short, but motor car drivers in those days did not feel the need to move at the sort of breakneck speed seen on modern roads in this day and age. Things were much more leisurely, in fact it was a rather pleasant journey on the A607 through undulating Leicestershire countryside. On the way we passed through places with wonderful names like Thorpe Arnold, Waltham on the Wolds, Croxton Kerrial and Harlaxton before arriving in Grantham itself.
Sitting in the back of my Mum and Dad’s car we entered the town. I do remember eagerly leaning forward to get an early glimpse of what I knew must be the railway bridge that carried the main line up above. Once under the railway bridge Dad turned right to go up a long rising street that had a high brick wall on one side. I noted with some excitement a tell-tale name on the wall ‘Station Road’. This was my first visit to Grantham station and from memory we must have arrived at just after 6pm and stayed until around 9pm.
Dad parked the car and I gathered up my essentials for the evening, notepad and pencil etc. We all walked across the road to the entrance and, after obtaining official platform tickets, made our way onto the platforms. As you can imagine, to this day I am still fascinated by the experience of that evening. My parents quickly spotted the Refreshment Room and after watching me cross safely over the footbridge to the Down side platform they gave me a wave and went inside. I glanced up and down the main line and, although there was nothing in sight in either direction, a feeling of awe and expectation filled my young mind. Here I was at Grantham station, the main line to London and Scotland, Streaks, A3s and Pullman trains galore! A very pleasant few hours followed, as I soaked up the atmosphere of the station and carefully noted down every engine I spotted in my notepad.
So, what did I see? Over the decades my notes for that evening have long disappeared, but I do have many clear recollections. I remember that, although the shed itself was not visited, 90732 Vulcan, along with 60524 Herringbone and 60511 Airborne, were in the yard opposite platform 5. A4 60017 Silver Fox appeared from the shed a little later, although unfortunately I did not see any loco changes taking place. Another memory of that wonderful evening was seeing my first sightings of five A4s. I recall that The Heart of Midlothian was hauled by a class 40. The Scotch Goods was either 60020 Guillemot or 60002 Sir Murrough Wilson, it was usually a Gateshead working.
A few days after my trip to Grantham a dip into my pocket money allowed me to buy the Ian Allan ABC combined volume for summer 1960, a serious trainspotter’s bible. From my notes I meticulously copied all the engine numbers that I had seen, marking them in neat black ink. The ABC combine has survived and looking through the Eastern Region pages they all tie up with my memory of that unforgettable evening.
So what are my lasting impressions? As mentioned earlier my visit covered a period of around three hours, between 6pm and 9pm, and I’ve listed below some of the main locomotives and trains observed, and these match my diligently marked up ABC.
At about 6.15pm I saw the Up Queen of Scots Pullman, possibly hauled by A1 60131 Osprey or sister engine 60134 Foxhunter. Some 15 minutes later, at 6.30pm, I saw the Down Tees Tyne Pullman, again this was either 60131 or 60134 as above.
At 7.10pm the Down Yorkshire Pullman appeared, closely followed a few minutes later at 7.12pm by the Up Heart of Midlothian, hauled by class 40 D246. The next hour and twenty minutes or so was made up of the following movements. At 7.20pm an Up Bradford to King’s Cross express, then at 7.39pm a Down King’s Cross to Saltburn express. With the station clock now showing 7.46pm, I saw an Up Hull to King’s Cross train pass through, followed ten minutes later, at 7.56pm, by a Down train in the form of a King’s Cross to Leeds service. I didn’t have too long to wait before another Down King’s Cross to Leeds train entered the station at 8.05pm and at 8.15pm I noted an Up Bradford to King’s Cross service coming into view.
Mum and Dad watched many of the trains passing through the station with me, but they also took the opportunity to make a few more visits to the Refreshment Room for tea etc., while I enjoyed the magic of the passing traffic!
At about 8.30pm they told me that in another half an hour we would have to be getting ready to leave for our journey back to Melton, as they did not want to be driving for too long in the dusk and darkness on country roads. The last thirty minutes were therefore taken up with a train at 8.36pm, which was a Down King’s Cross to Hull, then five minutes later an Up train at 8.41pm, an Edinburgh to King’s Cross express.
With my evening at Grantham slipping away my final observations were at 8.45pm, when the Down Master Cutler hauled by class 40 D206 appeared, followed by the last train I spotted, A1 60156 Great Central on an Up parcels.
Here's a brief gallery, albeit captured only in my mind's eye, but the memories have not faded and they are still as real as the evening I saw them!
I’ve copied below the full list of sightings from the summer 1960 ABC and these all fit in with my evening observations between 6.15pm and 8.50pm. This includes other engines not mentioned above but noted by myself at the time.
The locomotives that I recorded over the course of that evening were:-
Class 40s - Number D206 & D246.
Class A4 - Number 60002 Sir Murrough Wilson, 60017 Silver Fox, 60020 Guillemot, 60030 Golden Fleece, 60034 Lord Faringdon
Class A3 - Number 60047 Donovan, 60056 Centenary, 60064 Tagalie, 60066 Merry Hampton, 60100 Spearmint, 60106 Flying Fox, 60110 Robert the Devil, 60112 St Simon.
Class A1 - Number 60131 Osprey, 60134 Foxhunter, 60156 Great Central.
Class A2 - Number 60511 Airborne, 60520 Owen Tudor, 60524 Herringbone, 60533 Happy Knight.
Class V2 - Number 60841, 60874, 60876, 60909, 60977.
Class B1 - Number 61251 Oliver Bury, 61392.
Class 02 - Number 63929, 63930, 63938, 63940, 63948, 63963, 63966.
Class L1 - Number 67753, 67769, 67791, 67799.
Class N2 - Number 69505, 69516, 69531, 69560, 69561, 69580.
Class WD - Number 90422, 90512, 90732 Vulcan (on shed)
Class 9F - Number 92140, 92170.
So here then is where the mystery comes in. One particular ‘underlining’ continues to baffle me. You can see from the above list that I’ve marked off A3 60100 Spearmint which, being Edinburgh-based, was obviously a rare engine in this area. The strange thing is that I don’t actually remember seeing it, but to avoid any doubt, be assured that my observations and notes from the evening were faithfully copied into my ABC combine. My appeal therefore to anyone reading this is, do you have a record or recollection of a midweek appearance of Spearmint around this time of year in 1960? It would be really good if I could finally solve this ongoing conundrum! Hopefully someone will get in touch with the answer. I would of course be delighted to hear from them.
An interesting twist to the plot is that I’ve found out that Spearmint was released from Doncaster works on Thursday 28th July 1960, so I wonder where she went on that first journey? Another piece of information that has also come to light is taken from the October 1960 edition of Trains Illustrated.
The ‘ex-works’ engine was seen working the 10.20 am Kings Cross to Leeds service on Tuesday 2nd August 1960. This raises another question, did I see it perhaps working south on either Friday 29th July 1960 or more likely Monday 1st August 1960?
I hope you have enjoyed reading my story and I look forward to any comments.
Alan Wilce, October 2020
The Haymarket A3s were sometimes to be seen at Barkston Junction, where they would turn when on trial after overhaul at Doncaster Works as recalled by Mike Bacon. It was, however, much more unusual for them to reach Grantham station.