Bottesford's Railways

A brief history

By Alan Pizzey

A sketch map of railways in Bottesford
A sketch map of railways in Bottesford
Bottesford East Station on a 1919 OS Map
Bottesford East Station on a 1919 OS Map
A train seen from 'Holliers'
A train seen from 'Holliers'
A westbound train pulling into Bottesford Station
A westbound train pulling into Bottesford Station
Map ca.1960 showing the site of Bottesford South Station at the west end of the village.
Map ca.1960 showing the site of Bottesford South Station at the west end of the village.
A local G.N.R. man. Can anyone identify him?
A local G.N.R. man. Can anyone identify him?
Mr. Sellers, Crossing Keeper, outside the gatehouse, Bottesford c. 1940
Mr. Sellers, Crossing Keeper, outside the gatehouse, Bottesford c. 1940
The Level-Crossing Keepers cottage today.
The Level-Crossing Keepers cottage today.
Bottesford Station c. 1930?
Bottesford Station c. 1930?
The remains of Bottesford Station today. The building was probably designed by the Nottingham architect T.C. Hines.
The remains of Bottesford Station today. The building was probably designed by the Nottingham architect T.C. Hines.
Looking North across Orston Lane crossing towards Bottesford junction.
Looking North across Orston Lane crossing towards Bottesford junction.
J6 engine at Orston Lane Crossing
J6 engine at Orston Lane Crossing
Nottingham to Skegness train 153376 approaching Bottesford, July 2007
Nottingham to Skegness train 153376 approaching Bottesford, July 2007
Gate to the goods yard today.
Gate to the goods yard today.

These notes set out the historical development of Railway Services in Bottesford, and it is hoped that they will encourage residents to communicate their memories of our Railway Heritage to add to them.





In 1838 it was first proposed to construct a railway line from Ambergate in Derbyshire to Nottingham, Grantham and on to the port of Boston. In the event the Nottingham to Grantham section was built, and passed into the ownership of the Great Northern Railway [GNR] which saw the route as a means to connect its east coast mainline with Nottingham for goods and passenger services. This line passed through “Bottesford for Belvoir”, an important destination on the route.


The Service – Then and Now – in terms of frequency, timing and convenience.

In 1854, the timetable for the Nottingham to Grantham line was published in the Grantham Journal. It showed the extent of the railway service to and from Bottesford at this early date. There were six trains a day in both directions on weekdays, with trains to Grantham running from 8.29 am until 10.09 pm, and to Nottingham from 9.18 am until 8.24 pm. The journey time to Grantham was usually 21 minutes, but an express could complete the journey in 12 minutes. To Nottingham trains usually took 42 minutes, but the express service would arrive after a 28 minute journey.

Today, Bottesford has eleven trains a day in both directions with shorter journey times than in 1854. The average time is 13 minutes to Grantham and 31 minutes to Nottingham, but this is still not as fast as the express service of 153 years ago!

Click this link to see a set of old photographs show the Flying Scotsman passing through Bottesford.

In 1854 the 8.29 am train from Bottesford carried passengers to Grantham in time for a 9.00 am start at work, and the 6.50 pm brought them home by 7.08 pm. This compares favourably with the current timetable which has no train from Bottesford to Grantham between 7.14 am and 9.16 am to cater for Bottesford residents who work in Grantham.

Also, in 1854 a passenger starting at Bottesford at 8.29 am and changing trains at Grantham could reach London by 12.30 pm, with a return service starting at 5 pm and arriving at Bottesford at 8.24pm [if you caught your connection at Grantham!]. Connections northwards from Grantham to York were not very convenient, but it was possible to depart from York at 4.10 pm, arrive at Grantham at 6.35 pm, and catch a connection to Bottesford arriving at 7.08 pm.

In the 1890’s, special weekend excursion trains brought day trippers from Nottingham to visit Belvoir Castle by horse drawn transport from Bottesford Station, and to take refreshment in the village.


The Great Northern & London North Western Joint Railway – 1879

This was the grandiose title of the North/South railway line through Bottesford which connected to Melton, Leicester, Market Harborough and Northampton. The GNR alone owned the section on to Newark. Bottesford had north, south and west junctions connecting the joint line to the established east/west route ~ see the sketch map and click here for a history of Bottesford South Station.

The exploitation of ironstone workings on the Leicestershire Wolds and connection to the coal traffic from Nottingham were more important than passenger service as an economic reason for the construction of this railway. Ironstone was carried north to the West Riding and coal south to London; fleeces for the Yorkshire woollen industry went north and yarn returned to the hosiery factories of Leicester. The likely revenue from these opportunities overcame the early objections of the ‘fox hunting’ lobby in the House of Lords in 1872. The GNR joined with the LNWR in promoting the line to counter plans by rival railway companies. The LNWR thus gained passenger service access to Nottingham and a share of the coal traffic using a loop line from Stathern to Saxondale via Barnstone. Many short quarry railways were connected to the main line, such as the line from Denton and Harlaxton which joined the east/west line at Muston. Locomotives on this line had to build up speed to haul trains over the bridge across the A52 – sometimes they stalled and had to run back for a second or even a third attempt. Some ironstone was carried to the Stanton Ironworks at Ilkeston. Thus the area south of Bottesford had several quarry railways whose track beds now form part of our heritage in use as footpaths, cycle tracks and bridle ways. The Rutland Railway Museum has some 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 “puffers” on show and further information and explanation of these quarry lines.

By 1880 Bottesford had four signal boxes and two stations with important junctions to the east/west line. The timetable of 1887 shows only 4 trains a day, both north and south, stopping at Bottesford, but it was possible to “stop” four more if required! Travelling south, the 7.49 am from Bottesford reached Melton at 8.19 am, and Leicester at 9.01 am. If you “stopped” the 9.37 am at Bottesford you reached Melton by 10.04 am, Market Harborough by 10.42 am, Northampton by 11.08 am and using a through carriage arrive at London by 1 pm. Trains from the south to Bottesford all went to Grantham; only trains stopping at Redmile went straight on to Newark, with a journey time of 31 minutes.

The LNWR provided locomotives for the Nottingham / Melton / Northampton service, and over the years Mr Webb’s designs of the 1870’s worked out their declining years on the line. In the 1920’s it was possible to see “coal tanks”, “cauliflowers” and “jumbos” at work and even the famous Precedent class

“Hardwicke” appeared. The GNR used such interesting locomotives as Stirling and Ivatt “Singles” and later, Ivatt “Atlantics”. A selection of carriages was employed from the six wheeler “bumpers” to smoother bogie stock, with some odd mixtures of liveries to be seen.

In early days on the joint line there was some coal traffic from Doncaster to Newark and thence south to Northampton. A daily Newark/Northampton goods service was operated by the GNR and they also operated a Grantham/Leicester service, both via Bottesford.

During the Second World War, freight trains used the line to the petrol storage facilities in the Redmile area. This traffic was a matter of great secrecy, but the district still received considerable attention from German bombers. There was a large American arms dump at Great Dalby, south of Melton, as well as one at Bottesford West, also supplied by this line.

Passenger traffic was always sparse on the joint line, since many of the stations were far from the villages which they served. The more flexible bus services were strong competitors in the 1940’s and 50’s. By 1950 only two trains a day travelled from Leicester to Grantham, and this service was withdrawn in 1962. Today, villagers relate how, when they were boys, they visited the signal boxes in the evenings for a chat and a cup of cocoa with the signalman. Even in the 1970’s night time oil tanker trains from the Humber Estuary came south via Newark and round to the Bottesford west signal box, where they gave up their “token” to the signalman. Today there is still oil freight traffic to be seen on the east/west line at Bottesford.

Throughout its life however the line did provide a useful route for Excursion Trains running at weekends from Leicester to the coast at Skegness, Mablethorpe and Sutton on Sea. At one time excursions ran via Newark and Doncaster to Bridlington or Scarborough. Trains comprising fourteen full bogie coaches made the journey to the Lincolnshire coast hauled by a selection of elderly locomotives. Even as late as 1954 20,000 passengers travelled on this service in 72 excursion trains during the season. A typical journey departed from Leicester at 8.30 am and 2 hours and 40 minutes later arrived at Skegness – returning by 9.16 pm. Some of these excursions were scheduled to stop at Bottesford – 9.39 am to arrive in Skegness at 11.10 am. Seasonal holiday trains ceased running in 1962 when the north/south line from Melton to Bottesford was closed.

Peter Mackness has commented that the steam train shown in the photograph at Orston Lane crossing would most probably be one of the Grantham – Leicester services, in this case bound for Leicester. During the 1940s and 50s trains on this service usually consisted of two coaches and were almost always hauled by a J6 0-6-0 tender engine from the Grantham shed as shown in the picture.

In the 1930’s the LNWR arranged various day time excursions for football matches and race meetings (The St Leger at Doncaster) starting at Rugby and stopping at many stations on the way, and shopping trips with shops organised to stay open late in the evening.

Working conditions were hard for employees on the joint line and there were some differences of rates of pay and bonus between the GNR and the LNWR. At the turn of the century plate layers would work a 12 hour day for 18 shillings a week, and experienced signalmen could earn 24 shillings per week. A station master on the GNR had a house rent free with electricity and gas paid for as well, but the LNWR pay scales were later adopted and station masters were then charged a rent for their accommodation.



“Great Northern and London North Western Joint Railway” ~ D.L. Franks

“Forgotten Railways Vol. 2 – The East Midlands” ~ P. Howard Anderson

This page was added on 08/04/2007.

Comments about this page

  • Bottesford Station opened in 1850. Michael Honeybone adds that the fastest journey to London in 1852 was to leave Bottesford on the 7.10, change at Grantham, and arrive at Kings Cross at 11.0, a journey of four hours.

    By Neil Fortey (16/04/2007)
  • Peter Mackness, of Sulgrave, Northants, wrote to point out an inaccuracy regarding the type of railway engine shown at Orston Lane crossing:

    In the interests of the historical accuracy of your splendid web site may I draw your attention to the photograph of a two coach passenger train at Orston Lane captioned “K2 engine at Orston Lane Crossing”? In fact the engine is not a K2 but one of Grantham shed’s class J6 locomotives. This train would most probably be one of the Grantham – Leicester services. During the 1940s and 50s they usually consisted of two coaches and almost always hauled by a J6 0-6-0 tender engine.

    By Neil Fortey (17/02/2008)
  • On Mr. Mackness’ advice, we have changed the photo caption from K2 to J6.

    By Editor (19/02/2008)
  • Many thanks for all the hard work that you’ve done. Is there any chance of adding links to larger versions of the illustrations, especially the maps, which in my browser are unreadable?

    By Ralph Mills (07/07/2009)
  • We have redisplayed the images in a larger format to assist in reading the details of the maps.

    By Editor (08/07/2009)
  • Brilliant! Many thanks for making that change so promptly.

    By Ralph Mills (08/07/2009)
  • Re the J6 0-6-0 loco with two passenger coaches at Orston Lane Crossing; it appears to be carrying express passenger designation lamps! So would this perhaps, be a “special” working or the engine crew’s idea of a joke?

    By John Tyers (13/03/2010)
  • I was very interested in your site as I believe that my great great grandfather, Edwin Blatchley, was Bottesford’s first station master. He was station master at the time of his marriage in 1851, living with his Challands in-laws in the village in the census of that year. By January 1852 when my great grandfather was born, he was living at the station house. In the 1855 Directory he is listed as station master and refreshment rooms, so presumably the station now incorported refreshments. He seems to have moved away by 1860. If anyone has any information about his time as Bottesford’s station master, I would be very interested.

    By Joanna Blatchley (20/03/2010)
  • We currently live in the station house at Bottesford and were very interested to read the comments by Joanna Bletchley regarding her great great grandfather. We would like to know if the Station House refered to in the comment was infact the current building, as we were under the impression it was constructed around 1880. If anybody can give us any information regarding the history of the station, its personel and more specifically the house and who has lived in it, we would be very grateful. Phillip and Elaine Berrisford

    By Phillip Berrisford (08/05/2012)
  • Can anyone tell me how old the signal box at Bottesford West Junction is?

    By Richard Clark (28/02/2014)
  • Hello Richard, I think that its date is probably 1879 because that was when the line from Melton was joined to the older Grantham to Nottingham line. This date is given in this excellent account written by Alan Pizzey as the date the line opened, and the ability to control the points from the signal box would have been essential from the start. Thanks for getting in touch, Neil

    By Neil Fortey (01/03/2014)
  • Excellent website but may I correct one discrepancy. The photo entitled Westbound Train Pulling into Bottesford is in fact Flying Scotsman on an excursion in either 1963 or 1984. As a railway enthusiast the engine is unmistakeable. in 1963 I lived in Aslockton and watched the train pass through. In 1984 I returned to Aslockton to see Scotsman pass through again,

    By Adrian Roper (03/08/2015)
  • Extremely interesting and a credit to the good folk who put it altogether. Thank you.

    By richard spendlove (28/11/2015)
  • I doubt whether any of these names will mean much now, but some of them were Relief Signalmen who worked some of your Boxes:- Percy Foster, Sam Richards, Harry Raisum, Ray Faulkener, Alf Aveyard, Percy Tate, Freddie Branch, Dennis Leathley, Stan Waltham, Eric Buxton, Joe Fletcher, Claude Cottingham (Before they vanish from my mind as well). Oh, and Harry Smithson was the Station Master at SEDGEBROOK during the 1940’s. He was a friend of my Father’s and when we went to stay there with them (he had two children same age as my Sister and I). He would always call my Mother ‘Blossom’ – that was why the engine in the television Series “Oh Doctor Beeching” was name-plated ‘Blossom’ after my Mother. The Sedgebrook bit may not be relevant, but Best wishes anyway

    By Richard Spendlove. MBE (29/11/2015)
  • Dear Richard, Thank you very much for adding these names. I hope they will ring a few bells and that we may hear more about them. Sadly, at this time the ‘powers that be’ have decided to take down the last of the old signal boxes at Bottesford, this being the old Bottesford West box, a fine bit of history disappearing. The line is still operating, but the branch lines are long gone and so there ceased to be a need for the box. So it goes! Thanks again, Neil Fortey

    By Neil Fortey (30/11/2015)
  • Oh, I hardly dare to presume another offering, but if of any use… Percy Tale’s Daughter married Claude Cottingham and I think Eric Buxton was the Son-in Law of Harry Raisum (I am pretty sure about that) Oh and another IMPOSSIBLE to be repeated railway event happened at Bottesford West one afternoon in the early 1950’s… Percy Tate went to relieve the morning shift at 2pm and no sooner had he taken duty that he received the bell-signal 5-5. That signified a train that was approaching him had become divided with one part following the other. Disturbing enough in the days before vacuum brakes etc. What made it MORE disturbing was the fact that a few seconds later he received the same bell signal for a train coming in the opposite direction – also in two halves. There was nothing in the Signalling Rules and regulations that catered for that unlikely eventuality and no official way to deal with it. I asked him what he did and he – in true Percy Tate fashion – muttered, “Oh, I muddled through”. In the circumstances, the understatement of ALL understatements…! And in connection with an event which had probably never happened before in the history of the railway industry and CERTAINLY never could now. Percy was born about 1895 in Woodhall Spa. Now, I PROMISE I won’t write again, save to say that these men were the ‘salt of the earth’ and to have worked with them was a privilege beyond riches. I almost weep for the way their/our industry has been so decimated.

    By Richard Spendlove. MBE (30/11/2015)
  • My great great grandfather,Smith Taylor, was the Gatekeeper at Orston Gate and was, I understand, hit by a train and killed in November 1919. He, along with various other generations of our family are buried in Bottesford Churchyard. I have spent many hours trying to find any reports of the accident, without success. If anyone has any further information I would appreciate hearing from them.

    By Jayne Taylor (17/01/2018)
  • Dear Jayne, Many thanks for your enquiry and interest. The Grantham Journal for the 8th November 1919 (page 9), carried a report of the accident. A digital version of the report can be found on the British Library Newspaper Archive or via Find My Past. Microfilm versions are available through Grantham Library. The Grantham Journal also carried a very brief report of his funeral on the 15th November 1919. Best wishes, David (Editorial Group)

    By David Middleton (17/01/2018)
  • Adding to the comment thread here by Adrian Roper on 3.8.15 the “westbound train” is indeed Flying Scotsman as I remember this day when the photograph was taken by my grandfather Arthur Bradshaw. As I remember, the photo was taken in the morning at about eight O’clock as I was allowed down there before school. As for the year of this photo I remember that I was still at Bottesford Primary school. As my grandfather was present this gives a date of at least prior to February 1970 when he died, so I think it was either early 1970 or late 1969. In the original photograph I am standing (in school uniform) with my mother on the downside platform in the right hand corner of the photograph.

    By Richard Bradshaw (23/10/2018)
  • Interesting reading, does anyone have information regarding the Gypsum mine at Kilvington using the GNR line to Newark in the 1950s?

    By Nigel Willatt (29/12/2019)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.