Railway tunnel montage

Fig.1: Britannia Class pacific No. 70038 Robin Hood on the Grimsby to Whitland fish train passing Hollinwell and Annesley Halt on the Great Central main line circa 1963. Photo Credit: David K Dykes. 

Fish Train at Kirkby: The 7 o’clock Brit.

Take yourself back to the early 1960’s, just after 7.00pm around The Hill / Greenwood Drive or down the Quarries (Portland Park) in the vicinity of the Great Central and Mansfield Railway lines and some of you might remember a potent piscatorial odour!  A southbound train had just passed through, there was no mistaking its cargo, it was the Fish Train! 


At one time three fish trains ran through Kirkby-in-Ashfield, however they finished running in February 1965 when the traffic was lost to road transport. In this article, Ian Handley remembers seeing this train spotter’s ritual at Sutton-in-Ashfield Central station in the early 1960’s, when Immingham MPD allocated named Britannia Pacifics were the motive power on the Grimsby to Whitland fish train.

Fig.2:  Britannia Class pacific No. 70037 Hereward the Wake passes through Kirkby Central Station with the Grimsby to Whitland fish train in 1962.  Photo Credit: Martin Weiss collection.

I grew up in Sutton-in-Ashfield and in the early 1960’s the highlight of the week for train spotters was the daily 7.00 pm Britannia hauled fish train through Central Station. For people living in Kirkby-in-Ashfield this would be a little after 7.00 p.m, depending where you waited to see it pass. It was timed to pass Kirkby South Junction at 7.21pm. This was one of three fish trains seen through Kirkby-in-Ashfield and it ran from Grimsby to Whitland in South Wales and on the northern part of this route it was hauled by an Immingham MPD Britannia class loco.

The other two diesel hauled trains were timed to pass through Kirkby South Junction at 6.28 pm (Hull to Plymouth) and 9.40 pm (Hull & Grimsby to Banbury, combined at Mansfield Concentration Sidings).  Someone once informed me that much of the fish was sold on a South Wales fish market and returned to East Coast fish processing plants the next day. Shortly after this, Dr. Beeching cancelled all fish traffic and as they say, the rest is history.

Fig. 3: Britannia Class No. 70039 Sir Christoper Wren approaching Kirkby South Junction on the Mansfield line with the evening Fish Train circa 1963. Photo Credit: Graham Upchurch


In the early 1960’s there were seven Immingham based engines allocated to the fish train service, I was fortunate enough to see five of them. These were:


70037 Hereward the Wake

70038 Robin Hood

70039 Sir Christopher Wren

70040 Clive of India

70041 St. John Moore


The other two were:

70035 Rudyard Kipling

70036 Boadicea


Fig. 3: Preserved pioneer Britannia class No. 70000 Britannia disguised as 70037 Hereward the Wake at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.  Photo Credit: Ian G Handley


Blog by Ian G Handley

Posted by SB2K Admin

1st draft – April 2022. Updated December 2023