Oral history workshop

Fig 1: This print of the Grimsby Fish passing Kirkby South Junction was No. 22 of a limited signed edition of 100. My wife Janet and I saw the print on sale at Loughborough Central Station on one of the occasions we enjoyed lunch there in the restaurant car train.

To me this was the classic view I had enjoyed many times so it was fitting that we bought the print. In fact Janet treated me to it, as a Father’s Day present. The “Britannia” seen here is No. 70037 ‘Hereward the Wake’. The artist was Richard Piccaver. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush Collection.

Youthful Days – Part 9

In Youthful Days Part 9 Malcolm Rush focusses his attention onto the “Britannia” Pacifics used to haul the Grimsby to Whitland fish train.

In Part 8 my memories of the “Britannia” Pacifics were of those which could be seen at Annesley loco shed. I never saw any of those passing through Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Along with many other people, though, I did wait with much anticipation to see a regular train which featured “Britannia” haulage through Kirkby. This was the 4.30pm Grimsby to Whitland fish train, known locally as the “7 o’clock fish”, because of its passing time at Kirkby South Junction. Well, I say that but it seems strange – anyone who saw the train between Mansfield and Kirkby South all seemed to call it the “7 o’clock fish” !!! According to the Working Timetables the actual booked time to pass Kirkby South was 7.21pm.

In 1962/63 motive power was rostered by Immingham shed in the form of one “Britannia” Pacific from the pool of Nos. 70035 ‘Rudyard Kipling’, 70036 ‘Boadicea’, 70037 ‘Hereward the Wake’, 70038 ‘Robin Hood’, 70039 ‘Sir Christopher Wren’, 70040 ‘Clive of India’ or 70041 ‘Sir John Moore’.

Watching its passage was a thrilling experience, and I couldn’t help sensing the power of the engine as it sped along hauling its cargo of fish vans which left such a pungent odour clinging to the air for several minutes. It was a popular working and witnessed by many along its route via Lincoln (Pyewipe Junction), Clipstone and the former Mansfield Railway through Kirkby-in-Ashfield then onto Nottingham (Victoria) and beyond.

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Fig 2: Another view of No. 70037 ‘Hereward the Wake’ hauling the Grimsby fish, taken at 19:30 on 25th July 1963. The location is Bulwell Common Station. Photo Credit: Tom Boustead

I didn’t own a push-bike until the mid 1960s so it was generally a case of Shanks’s pony, especially the journey from home to Lindley’s Lane bridge. However, some relief to those walking journeys came in the guise of a home-made wooden trolley. This was built from various off-cuts of wood which were scrounged, along with suitable pram wheels. I think the only bits which needed to be bought were the staples used to secure the steering ropes and perhaps the pram wheel axles.

I know I can identify the year I was using one of these trolleys as being 1963. That is because I was besotted with the Grimsby fish “Britannia” Pacifics – I fitted my trolley with mock smoke deflectors (blinkers), complete with handwritten nameplates. My trolley was No. 70037 ‘Hereward the Wake’ !! These trolleys were an interesting mode of transport. My version called for you to lie on your stomach with your feet providing both acceleration and braking. One downside was that, by always using my right foot to propel and slow the trolley, my shoe wear became one-sided and I needed two right foot shoes for every one left foot shoe!

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Fig 3: This photo shows trolleys where the riders sat upright – for those, though, you generally needed someone to push you (or a fully downhill route) and I didn’t have either of those luxuries! Photographer unknown.

The Brits on the fish train lasted from early 1962 until the end of 1963.

However, I was able to re-unite with three of the former Immingham Brits on 1st August 1964 when I went, with my brother Gordon, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle and visited Kingmoor and Upperby sheds. This was actually an official visit I had arranged (although I was only 12 years old!)

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Fig 4: My permit for the visit to the Carlisle loco sheds. I must have been pretty laid back in those days because I left it until the last minute to apply for the permit, giving my Aunt Hannah’s address. The number of persons for the visit was 10 but we had no trouble collecting a willing group to accompany us from the station. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush Collection.

That was a red-letter day for me because my spotting book shows 273 entries with 204 being cops. The three ex Immingham Brits I saw that day were Nos. 70039 ‘Sir Christopher Wren’, 70041 ‘Sir John Moore’ and my old favourite 70037 ‘Hereward the Wake’. Also, looking back on my records for that day I find it surprising that, on returning to Newcastle, we then went round Gateshead loco sheds!

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Fig 5a: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.1

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Fig 5b: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.2

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Fig 5c: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.3

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Fig 5d: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.4

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Fig 5e: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.5

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Fig 5f: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.6

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Fig 5g: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.7

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Fig 5h: My spotting book extract, 1st August 1964 Carlisle p.8

I’ve made it a bit of a crusade to document what I can find out about 3V11, the 4.30pm Grimsby to Whitland fish train. I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain the Working Timetable data for the entire journey, including the light engine working from Immingham shed to Grimsby Fish Docks.

The earliest spotting record I can find of a Brit on 3V11 was posted on Facebook by Stewart Warrington. He saw 70041 “Sir John Moore” at Leicester Central on Friday 16th March 1962. The Britannias were transferred away from Immingham by December 1963 and 3V11 was then diesel hauled to Annesley Yard (travelling via Retford and Worksop, joining the GC line at Killamarsh using the Waleswood Curve). Steam then took over from Annesley Yard, generally a BR Standard 9F 2-10-0. This continued until all fish traffic on the GC ceased from 1 February 1965.

Some extracts from my research are:

  • From the data I have used, the journey length from Grimsby Fish Docks to Whitland was 352.5 miles.
  • The train left Grimsby Fish Docks at 4.30pm and arrived Whitland at 8.40am the next day, a journey time of 16 hours 10 minutes.
  • The average speed, including stops, was 21.8 mph.
  • The Brits took the train from Grimsby to Banbury, a journey length of some 159 miles. The loco then departed Banbury at 22.45 as light engine to Woodford and then returned to Grimsby hauling the 01.20 4E00 fish empties, stopping at Annesley South Junction at 3.19am to 3.21am for the Woodford enginemen to be relieved by Lincoln men. The empties arrived at Grimsby Docks at 07.30. (I would say deliberately done to ensure that the Brit returns to Immingham and was not poached for some additional journeys !) See Fig 6 later on.

A re-occuring question which crops up in the railway social media is why send fish all the way to South Wales when there was already a fishing industry there. The answer is, of course, that the fish from Grimsby came from the cold Northern waters and wasn’t available to the fishermen further south.

Another question is why Whitland as the destination? I might have stumbled across the answer to that during my Working Timetable (WTT) research. The BR WR Bristol District WTT 1960/61 describes the train from Swindon as being “4.30 pm SX Grimsby to Whitland Fish and Milk Empties”. More research shows that, at Whitland, a Creamery was established in 1914 and it grew to become the largest manufacturing Creamery in Britain.

For more information on the Fish Train, see Ian Handley’s blog, ‘Fish Train at Kirkby: The 7 o’clock Brit’ https://kirkbysteam.co.uk/fish-train-the-7-oclock-brit/  

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Fig 6: Extract from the BR ER Immingham Depot “Freight engine and Trainmen’s workings” commencing 9th September 1963, until further notice. This shows the rostered engine as a 7MT (Britannia class) and it gives the timing and enginemen details from Immingham shed to Banbury. That is where the Brit was replaced. It then returned, light engine, to Woodford Halse loco shed, ready to take the fish empties back to Grimsby Docks. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush Collection

Blog by Malcolm Rush

Posted by SB2K Admin – 22nd November 2023