All aboard the Wolds railway

As Lincolnshire’s only heritage railway, the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway (LWR) is a much-loved part of the Wolds history.

Volunteers for Lincolnshire Wolds Railway.
Volunteers for Lincolnshire Wolds Railway.

As the railway prepares for the summer holiday season, we went behind the scenes to see what goes into the running of the LWR, and meet the people who give up their time for free to provide this joyful experience.

Operating on a stretch of line that was once part of the Great Northern route from Boston to Grimsby, the Wolds railway dates back to Victorian times as this stretch of track first opened on March 1, 1848, to passenger traffic.

The original stations between Louth and Grimsby were Ludborough, North Thoresby, Holton-le-Clay with Tetney, and Waltham for Humberstone. The Line was extended South from Louth and reached Firsby during September of the same year.

Known as the East Lincolnshire line and operated by the Great Northern Railway Company, the railway linked the towns of Boston, Louth and Grimsby.

In 1923, the Great Northern Railway became part of the London Northern Eastern Railway (LNER), and in 1924 most of the Grimsby fish trains were routed on the East Lincolnshire line when it was realised that the line was less congested and the fish could arrive more quickly at its final destination.

In 1948 the line became part of British Railways following nationalisation, and Grainsby station was closed in 1952. All the intermediate stations except North Thoresby, between Grimsby and Louth closed to passenger traffic on 11 September 1961, and the line closed in December 1980.

A lot of hard work and determination from a group of dedicated volunteers formed a preservation society with the aim of restoring it.

After giving Ludborough station a bit of a makeover and restoration work took place on the signal box, the line officially opened to run between North Thoresby and back in August 2009, and heritage steam trains now run between Ludborough and North Thoresby every hour between 10.45am and 3.45pm.

LWR remains the only standard gauge heritage steam railway in Lincolnshire, and what visitors to the railway see today is a result of all the time and effort that a small, but dedicated band of volunteers have put in over the years.

Olive Lynne has been a volunteer at the LWR for nearly 30 years. She said: “There’s around 120 of us volunteers and we all help out in different ways. Some will do maintenance work on the tracks, some on the carriages, and others will run the shop.

"We’ve got some volunteers who’ve been coming here since they were children.”

Visitors to the LWR are treated to a step back in time, with the vintage-style ticket office and the tickets are punched by the conductors.

At present, the Wolds railway operates a Spitfire steam engine with another diesel engine on loan from Lincolnshire County Council, and guests travel in comfort on the railways authentic restored carriages.

My two very excited children were delighted to see the volunteers dressed the part, as well as exclaiming “Mummy, he’s waving the flag and blowing his whistle!” – lovely touches from the volunteers to give children the full vintage experience.

The train then travels the 15 minute route to North Thoresby, where guests are invited to take a look at the engine and even stand on the foot plate, before making the return journey overlooking the stunning Lincolnshire Wolds countryside.

To make the journey even more exciting, the LWR holds regular events where the train is taken over by different characters – today was the ‘Pirates of Ludborough’ where performers joined the train dressed as pirates and held a pirate themed show, much to the delight of the visiting children.

The next event will be this Sunday (August 7) where cowboys and the wild west will be taking over the line for the day, and dressing up is also encouraged.

As for the future, work is now in progress to extend the line for five miles south towards Louth.

To do this, the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway Society needs to raise at least £5million and fundraising events run frequently throughout the year, the ‘Making tracks for Louth’ campaign.

Chairman of the society, Leyland Penn, said: “The society raises money for us to maintain the line and the facilities, and we’ve almost raised enough to get to Pear Tree Lane, so we’ve still got another 4.25 miles to go.”

This will be a huge undertaking for the volunteers, as to build just a quarter of a mile of train track will require 44 lengths of rail – at a cost of £600 per length – as well as 800metres of drainage pipe, 30 tons of gravel, 44 pairs of fishplates, 450 tons of ballast, 528 sleepers and much more.

To offer further experiences for its guests, and to raise funds, the LWR runs cream tea and fish and chips evenings, and people can also have a go at a Footplate Ride in the cab of the steam locomotive, or a Signal Box Experience as you operate the signals, gates and block bells between Ludborough and North Thoresby, under the supervision of the on-duty signalman.

A coach trip has also been arranged from Thursday 1 to Saturday 3 September to visit Beamish Museum, Locomotion at Shildon and The Tanfield Railway in County Durham, with a two-night stay at the Copthorne Hotel by the Tyne in Newcastle.

The price for the three-day trip is £180 per person, which includes entry prices, bed, breakfast and an evening meal at the hotel.

If you would like to book to go on the trip, call Leyland on 07719301788 or secretary John Mimmack on 07904 872824.