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A Visit to Grantham Station – 13th June 1959

Colin Morley contacted Tracks through Grantham after reading an article on this website called ‘A Day Trip to Grantham’ which tells the story of the late Rob Taylor’s many visits to the station from his home in Nottingham, a story based on snippets of information, kindly provided by Rob’s family.  All those trips were then merged into one piece to create a lasting memory of what he would have experienced first-hand.  This story struck a chord with Colin because it reminded him of his own visit in June 1959 and the rare and remarkable sight of two A2s in charge of a northbound train.

Now that the scene is set, we’ll let Colin tell you his own story.

My first visit to Grantham, on Saturday 13th June 1959, was organised by a small local youth club from Leicester’s West End. The invitation to join a group of about eight boys and a female organiser was the first of only two trips I made with the club.  My experience of railways before the Grantham trip was limited to attending Leicester Central’s ‘black pad’ as often as possible during school holidays. The black pad was a favourite trainspotting location on the GC main line. For two years I was drawn to watch BR ‘9F’ locos haul coal trains south and empty wagons returning north, often up to sixty workings a day, and the odd passenger service labelled as an ‘express’ but not looking the part.

Colin's early experience of railways on the GC main line: 9F No 92010 is seen leaving Barnston Tunnel (several miles north of Leicester Central's 'black pad') on a sunny morning in September 1959.

I’d ceased writing down numbers altogether at that point as the engines seen daily had already been noted countless times.  Moreover, I hadn’t known what to do with the numbers once I had jotted them down on a piece of paper; most of them soon disappeared anyway in my mother’s regular bedroom clean-ups.

Being a nine-year-old at the time of my first Grantham visit, my spotting credentials might have been viewed as being highly questionable, as someone who’d not been ‘away’ trainspotting before, nor ever even having been on a railway station. However, the organisers didn’t mention age or prior achievements and I was accepted by the group without question.

That’s the background to an inexperienced youngster with a poor history of record-keeping boarding the bus to Grantham, and why the day’s activity being recounted here is largely anecdotal, with no known surviving written record of the day to rely on.

Having now left Leicester behind us we passed though Melton Mowbray and our driver soon encountered the ups and downs of the A607; resulting in a mixture of reluctant downward gear changes up the hills and a welcome effortless coast down the other side. We entered Grantham along the Harlaxton Road, but I can’t remember where we alighted from the bus.

After arriving at the station my first recollection was of our group gathering at the south end of the Up platform, somewhere near the Yard Box.

The Yard Box viewed from the Down side of the main line.


A3 No. 60055 ‘Woolwinder’

Several minutes passed by without much happening; other than a remarkably clean A3 No. 60055 ‘Woolwinder’ which we noted moving about in the yard. Before 1958 all of Leicester’s A3 Pacifics seen at the aforementioned ‘black pad’ were known to me by their names rather than their numbers, and 60055’s external similarity with those raised my concerns that the day would be a rehash of engines seen previously.

However, that initial concern was soon misplaced by excitement as the day unfolded. It’s worth noting at this point that the following A3’s were at Leicester in 1957, all then being transferred to Grantham by 1959:  No. 60049 ‘Galtee More’, No. 60102 ‘Sir Frederick Banbury’, No. 60104 ‘Solario’,

No. 60106 ‘ Flying Fox’,

No. 60107 ‘Royal Lancer’

and No. 60111 ‘Enterprise’.

It’s also interesting to note that the book transfer date for No. 60102 ‘Sir Frederick Banbury’ and No. 60104 ‘Solario’ was Sunday 14th June 1959.

Back at the Yard Box the excited platform chatter was heightened when someone in the group said they had ‘inside information’ that a new type of diesel locomotive was running on express turns, and we might get to see one or two of them, even the prototype ‘Deltic’ itself! That moment was to be the first and last time I ever looked forward to seeing a diesel. As it turned out, that prospect came to nothing, so any disappointment on my part was short-lived.

We were of course eager to see our first view of the famous streamlined Gresley A4s and sure enough a distant chime whistle was the reward, heralding the arrival of passenger trains from both directions. This was my first sighting of a streamlined locomotive and many more were to follow. Soon a very welcome procession of A4 hauled trains passed through the station and we were thrilled to spot No. 60022 ‘Mallard’ No. 60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ and No. 60034 ‘Lord Faringdon’.

Some had fascinatingly long and unfamiliar names. Amongst them was the imposing No. 60008 ‘Dwight D Eisenhower’ which in later years I learned could have been named ‘David D Eisenhower’ had someone used his proper birth name.

I recall quietly wondering to myself; why was Canada a Dominion, and what on earth was a Woodcock? I thought that the A4 straight nameplates, with red backgrounds, were most impressive and a big improvement on the smaller and invariably dirty versions I’d already seen at Leicester and knew later to be Class B1 ‘antelopes’. Turning my eyes in the direction of the yard again, the appearance of another A3 No. 60063 ‘Isinglass’ was a reincarnation of those earlier days at Leicester, where I had seen it a few times before, even though it was a Grantham loco.

I also remember the movement of other locomotives in and around the yard, these being A3 No. 60067 ‘Ladas’ and A1 No. 60114 ‘W.P. Allen’.

The highlight of the day and a most memorable sighting was A2 No. 60533 ‘Happy Knight’ heading north in tandem with A2 No. 60534 ‘Irish Elegance’ recently ex-works from Doncaster and probably running in. Double-headers of that engine type have been described to be so rare as improbable. Several eminent railway commentators when asked about this working have suggested that it was against operating manuals and should not have been sanctioned, one citing line weight restrictions at Newark.

A2 No. 60533 'Happy Knight' seen here during a previous visit to Grantham is in the Yard. No. 60533 was spotted by Colin heading north through the station in tandem with A2 No. 60534 ‘Irish Elegance’ on Saturday 13th June 1959.

At the time I hadn’t the good sense to notice if both engines were in steam, nor identify the leading engine, but both numbers were clearly identified. The noise from those on the platforms confirmed something special was happening and it took a later explanation about the unlikely appearance of a rare Scottish engine for me to grasp the importance. Sadly, I next saw No. 60534 in Scotland in 1963, languishing on a scrap line at Bathgate…..

A2 60534 Irish Elegance at Bathgate.

I’ve often wondered why the 60533/60534 spectacle didn’t attract greater railway media attention.  Out of curiosity I once spent all day in the railway library at York Museum without uncovering any reference to the event and I remain perplexed as to why. As mentioned, 13th June 1959 was a Saturday, and the working must have been witnessed either side of Grantham.  One correspondent has confirmed that No. 60534 was noted back in Scotland on 17th June 1959. Perhaps someone reading this account saw the working and can provide more detail?

The Grantham experience certainly provided the impetus to go full speed into trainspotting but there was a delay of some months before other visits took place. This was largely due to my starting senior school where like-minded boys had decided that group activity should be by train to high density centres, allowing multiple ‘unofficial’ shed visits on the day. Visits to Kings Cross, Old Oak Common, Nine Elms and Willesden were more popular than Grantham or Peterborough. Standing on station platforms became the least preferred spotter’s option, in fact trainspotters were actively discouraged or banned at some BR stations. The attitudes were not new as evidenced by the headline in London’s Daily Telegraph in 1948 - Stations Ban 'Train-Spotters' - Boys a Nuisance.

The Ian Allan Combined Volume May 1960. The Spotter's Bible - Purchased for the princely sum of 10/6d (52.5p)

I purchased my first Ian Allan Combined Volume in 1960 and the engine numbers seen at Grantham were the first to be entered using my record of the day written on a sheet of paper. Lack of foresight meant the list was never converted into a hard copy for future reference, and to my eternal regret the list was later mislaid. Visits to London’s King's Cross station and main-line sheds soon accounted for larger numbers of locomotive sightings and very soon the Grantham sightings became indistinguishable in the mix.

Leicester’s proximity to Nuneaton and Rugby unfortunately placed Grantham down the list at a time when cycling became a popular transport mode for spotters. It was only on one other occasion, after the 1959 bus trip, that a friend and I decide to cycle to Grantham. It was another Saturday, 23rd September 1961, that we set off for a day’s spotting. The outward headwind from the east was a well-known horror and unfortunately, right on cue, the wind did turn into our faces again for the return trip and the exercise was never repeated.

However, looking back, after our long and arduous round trip, our day at Grantham station had been fairly fruitful with sightings of: A1 No. 60125 ‘Scottish Union’ - A3 No. 60065 ‘Knight of Thistle’ - A3 No. 60110 ‘Robert the Devil

We also saw A1 No. 60136 ‘Alcazar’ , A1 No. 60118 ‘Archibald Sturrock’ and A3 No. 60057 ‘Ormonde’

Other sightings included A4 No. 60013 ‘Dominion of New Zealand’, A3 No. 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’, A4 No. 60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, A3 No. 60108 ‘Gay Crusader’, A1 No. 60146 ‘Peregrine’  and A4 No. 60024 ‘Kingfisher

A newcomer meets the old guard.

Deltics  D9009, D9002, D9000 and D9013, A4 No. 60010 ‘Dominion of Canada’, A3 No. 60111 ‘Enterprise’ , A1 No. 60157 ‘Great Eastern’, A4 No. 60022 ‘Mallard’, A4 No. 60008 ‘Dwight D Eisenhower’, A4 No. 60034 ‘Lord Faringdon’, A3 No. 60054 ‘Prince of Wales’, A1 No. 60114 ‘W P Allen’, V2 No. 60800 ‘Green Arrow’, B1 No. 61251 ‘Oliver Bury’ and even an ex-LMS ‘Jubilee’ No. 45628 ‘Somaliland’.

Grantham Connections.

Research on my family history has recently uncovered the remarkable fact that the Grantham area was once called home. I discovered my maternal grandfather managed the Welby Arms pub at Church Street Denton for several years until his retirement in 1920. The family would have arrived in the area in 1915.

My grandmother would most likely have done her shopping in Grantham, assisting with refreshments for the Welby Arms and for local cricket matches as reported in the Grantham Journal.

My mother, born in London in 1910, and her older sister would have both attended school in Grantham.  Mother worked in the 1930s as a secretary for the LMS at Leicester and later Derby, living at Langham and commuting daily by train from Oakham and later Melton Mowbray.  She met my father on Leicester station while selling flags for charity in 1940.

My assumption on being the only family member remotely interested in railways was also shattered on learning my great uncle worked his entire life on Great Northern stations in Lincolnshire before his retirement at Skegness station in 1953.

On my father’s side, grandfather S. Killick Morley would have travelled many times through Grantham at the beginning of the twentieth century in his job at the London audit office of the Great Northern Railway.  He was obviously ‘railway minded’ and the author of a highly detailed five-page article in the November 1901 edition of ‘Railway Magazine’ entitled The Colne Valley and Halstead Railway.

I now dwell on my first visit to Grantham passing unnoticed or without comment from either my mother or grandmother.  Both, I suspect, were unaware of the railway environment youngsters occupied at the time, and the less said by me avoided unnecessary adult interference with arrangements.  If I deliberately failed to mention Grantham was my destination, and the day passed as just one of my usual local ventures, it is something I’ll always regret.

Whenever in the UK, I make a point of travelling the ECML and other major routes to relive my earliest train spotting experiences.  Grantham, being the first station, ranks top of the list.

Colin Morley – Melbourne Australia

Note to our readers: Can you provide additional information on Colin's sighting of the two A2s?  After reading this, maybe you have a Grantham related story of your own? If so please do get in touch.

Many thanks - Mel & John, Tracks through Grantham.

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