Railway Exhibition.

5th October 2.00 p.m. until 4.00 p.m. -
 "The East Lincolnshire Railway -  45 years after closure."
5th October in the evening - 7.30pm. - tickets from Alford Manorhouse.
"The East Lincolnshire Railway -  45 years after closure."  
- Talk on the Railway by Mr Mike Fowler and social event includes light refreshments

The exhibition runs to October 30th on the usual opening days of the Museum except for the first week when it's open every day (except Saturday).

Alford TownDo you know in 1970 you could leave Alford at 7.50 and arrive in Kings Cross at 10.40 and all for 32/6 (£1.64)? That all stopped 45 years ago on October 5th, 1970, when the East Lincolnshire Railway Line to Peterborough through Louth, Alford, Willoughby, Firsby, Boston and Spalding closed. This was after 122 years and an 8 year battle to keep it alive. Also axed was the Mablethorpe branch and the complete line from Bellwater junction south of Firsby to Lincoln.

The east of the county had seen closures before. Louth to Mablethorpe went in 1961 with Firsby to Spilsby loosing its passenger traffic in 1939. A fairly long route to go in 1951 was the very scenic line through the Wolds from Louth to Bardney.

But the East Lincolnshire was different; it gave the through connection from Grimsby to Kings Cross and certainly today would be a thriving line linking developing centres of commerce and industry and carrying a significant number of commuters.

Actually all was not quite lost on that fateful day as the Boston to Skegness route survived as a long branch line and despite several near misses, is still open today. Almost like a miracle, the Spalding to Peterborough line re-opened 8 months after closure in May 1971, thanks to the wisdom of Spalding Council. Today it thrives and importantly is part of the newly developed East Coast freight route. What a pity, Boston Council didn't have similar insight into the future and still had the line instead of converting it into a very straight A16 road.

Well, 45 years later, and on the very day and date, the line died, a major exhibition commemorating the line's closure will be opening for a month in the Manor House Museum. Surviving relics from many private collections are currently being assembled for the opening on Monday October 5th.

The event is being organised by retired broadcaster and film maker, Mike Fowler. Mike grew up in Spilsby and watched the trains at Firsby, but more significantly has been a railwayana collector since the day the line closed. "Each year in October, I've thought we must do something to commemorate the passing of this lost artery of communication and this year is it!!" said Mike. "My first relic was a 'Station Master' cast iron doorplate from Burgh-Le-Marsh which cost 50p."

Here at the Alford Manor House Museum we are delighted to house the exhibition. "This has never been arranged before nor probably again and our museum will be the perfect venue" said Grant Allan the Museum's Chairman "and for those who travelled on the line or fought for its retention, this will bring back lots of memories."

Exhibits will include platform nameboards from Sutton-On-Sea, Burgh-Le-Marsh, Bardney and Willoughby. Signalbox nameboards from Louth, Midville, Wainfleet and Alford Town. Lamps from Mablethorpe, Firsby, Skegness, Willoughby, Woodhall Junction and Louth. A range of enamel and cast iron signs and notices from a whole list of stations and original local travel posters from as far back as the 1930's. They'll be tickets from long forgotten stations and original newspaper cuttings showing the closure didn't happen without a fight.

The exhibits will be supported by a unique 20 minute video showing scenes from most of the closed stations and a journey on the line. This has been assembled using cine film from all sorts of sources including much never seen before.

You may wonder how do all these once essential parts of a railway come into collectors' hands? Mike Fowler believes there were four main routes.

"Firstly, during the days preceding the closure, a lot of items simply disappear with the use of a spanner or screwdriver, especially where stations are un-staffed at night."

He then said that it was an un-written rule that existing staff, may have sentimental items after closure happens. These then eventually come up for sale.

Thirdly, the staff were required after closure to remove everything possible and assemble it for collection by British Railways. These items were then collected and, in the case of the East Lincolnshire and its branches, went to Auction in Scunthorpe in 1971 and 1972.

Fourthly and finally, Mike told us how he gained some of his collection. "If there was something you required, a letter to the Stores Controller at York and a payment allowed you to remove the item immediately or after closure. I gained cast iron signs from Burgh-Le Marsh level crossing by this route"

On the evening of the opening day, Mike Fowler will be giving a presentation in the museum entitled 'The origin, development and decline of the East Lincolnshire Railway.' "It will be slides of the line in operation and its decline plus some wonderful video footage that'll not leave a dry eye in the house" said Mike.

The Exhibition opens after 12.00 on October 5th and runs to October 30th on the usual opening days of the Museum except for the first week when it's open every day (except Saturday).

For more information watch this web site or ring 01507 463073. Incidentally, more items are still being sought and if you have something to loan, then ring the same number to be put in touch with Mike Fowler.