by kind permission of the Boston Standard
Words by Chris Bates
branch ran through some of Lincolnshire’s most beautiful scenery for
7.5 miles from Woodhall Junction (on the Lincoln – Boston GNR line),
with one intermediate station at Woodhall Spa and a most elegant red brick terminus in Horncastle.. The line opened on 11 August 1858 and closed to
passengers on 13 September 1954.
outlived much of the East Lincolnshire line: closure to freight did
not take place until 5 April 1971. Sadly the station was demolished
The whole line would have been perfect for a preservation society…
Ten years after
closure to passengers, a special train was operated by the
East Midlands branch of the Railway Correspondence & Travel
with a Black 5 – surely the first and last visit by this type – taking the train to Horncastle before setting off for a tour of other Lincolnshire lines.
The train was BIG
news in Horncastle and the Standard devoted most of a page to it. As
a trainee on the newspaper at Boston, I was sent to ride on
the excursion and report on the occasion, using it in a roundabout way to travel part of the way to my mother’s home in Grimsby. Huge crowds waited
in Woodhall Spa and especially Horncastle to see the train. The paper’s photographs are a marvellous social commentary on rural Lincolnshire and
railway enthusiasts in 1964, as well as a vivid record of an important part of the county’s railway history. Take time, for instance, to look at the clothes of young and old.
Long before the train arrived, crowds of children (by the look of some, on their way to or from the
swimming pool) and groups of older people thronged Horncastle station platform waiting for the train.
No one from Network Rail to tell them not to dangle their legs over the platform or walk on the track!
The Black 5 arrived tender first and backed into Horncastle head shunt to run round.
Note the gas lamps still extant 10 years after the demise of passenger services and the track
still evidently well used by the surviving freight service.
The Standard’s photographer posed some of the waiting children and their adults beside
the bulk of the Black 5’s boiler and Belpaire firebox while they examined what must have been the
biggest locomotive ever to visit Horncastle.
The points having changed, the Black 5 moved forward into Horncastle loop to run round,
watched by a mixture of enthusiasts and local people.
A wonderful view of the special’s stock (BR Mark 1’s , LMS TSO’s and what looks like a GCR carriage between them)
with the Black 5’s tender visible beyond the loading gauge, to the left of the goods shed. Note the guard walking beside
the second Mark 1 on the left of the picture – the passengers and public enjoying a freedom to stroll along the track which would be unthinkable today.
What the well dressed enthusiast wore to tour Lincolnshire branch lines in 1964: the Standard’s photographer was clearly
fascinated by these natty chaps in their sports jackets and ties and focussed on them and their cameras as they turned
their lenses on the Black 5 preparing to make Horncastle’s last ever passenger departure. Amazingly, what the Standard’s
snapper didn’t photograph – or the subeditors didn’t include in the paper -- was the train leaving Horncastle
station! But look – NOT AN ANORAK IN SIGHT (or a tartan pattern flask or a woolly bobble hat)!
POSTSCRIPT: on a couple of occasions between
the operation of the RCTS Special and 1966, I found myself in
Horncastle on my employer’s business needing to get to Woodhall Spa and in the absence of a bus or any personal transport,
cadged a ride on the footplate of the branch goods train. Thus I could probably claim to be the last passenger to use a Horncastle train service.