Skip to main content

Keeping the age of steam alive!

Entirely by Dedicated Volunteers!

History of the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway

The East Lincolnshire Railway was a main line railway linking the towns of Boston, Louth and Grimsby in Lincolnshire, England. It opened in 1848. All intermediate stations, with most of the route, were closed to passengers in 1970.

History Of The Line

taken from The East Lincolnshire Railway by A J Ludlam

The Proposal

On 16 April 1845, the East Lincolnshire Railway published their proposals for a railway. Many influential people, including the Earl of Yarborough and several of the MPs supported this in the area. There were several ties [including two common directors] between the London & York Railway [later the Great Northern] and the East Lincolnshire Railway. Both had proposals to run into Boston, but with separate termini. A compromise was reached, and a common station was built. In Grimsby the ELR wanted a terminus at Pasture Street, but an agreement with the Manchester Sheffield & Lincoln Railway [MS & L] allowed them to run into Grimsby Town. This was made simpler after a curve from Catherine Street to Garden Street was laid. Both the ELR and GN proposals received royal assent on 26 June 1846.

Work Starts

Work started in early 1847, with an estimated expenditure of less than £9,000 per mile for double track. [Current costs estimated for the rebuilding of the line are £250,000 per mile for single track]. Work even continued on Sunday. The local clergy disapproved, and local newspapers condemned the practice. Some of the workmen were eventually fined when this practice continued. The first train to run along the line was for Directors and other VIPs on 17 September 1847 and covered the 14 miles distance from Louth Keddington Road to Grimsby in 20 minutes.

Open for Business

The line opened for passenger traffic on 1 March 1848. The original stations between Louth and Grimsby were Ludborough, North Thoresby, Holton-le-Clay with Tetney, [later called simply Holton-le-Clay, and Waltham for Humberstone, [later simply Waltham]. These intermediate stations  had ‘staggered’ platforms, with the train passing over a level crossing before stopping. The Line was extended South from Louth and reached Firsby during September of the same year. The line became known as The East Lincolnshire line, and was operated by the Great Northern Railway Company. This was the first section of the railway operated by the Great Northern Railway. At this time there was an agreement between the MS & L and GN regarding running between New Holland and Grimsby, each being allowed to use the other’s line, with ticket revenue split on a mileage basis.

Disputes & Problems

The Great Northern’s hopes of co-operation with opening its London terminus [Kings Cross] were dashed in a dispute with MS & L (later the Great Central). The MS & L did an about-face and aligned itself with the ‘Euston Square Confederacy’ (The London North Western, the Midland and the Lancashire & Yorkshire), in their campaign to block the GNR. The MS & L refused to water the GN engines at Retford, and only a High Court injunction restored common running rights. By mutual agreement this ended in 1851. Other intermediate halts were opened between Louth and Grimsby in preparation for a railmotor service, which started in 1905.


Fotherby Gate House opened 1852, but was used only on marked days, but closed in 1872, re-opening in 1905 as Fotherby Halt. Utterby Halt, Grainsby Halt, Holton Village Halt, Weelsby Road and Hainton Street also opened at the same time. Grainsby Halt and Weelsby Road closed during the war but re-opened afterwards.

In 1923 the Great Northern Railway became part of the London Northern Eastern Railway [LNER]. During 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. Grainsby was a small Victorian Halt, probably one of the smallest halts that passed in BR hands. It closed in 1952. All the intermediate stations except North Thoresby, between Grimsby and Louth closed to passenger traffic on 11 September 1961, although some were still open for goods traffic for a few more years.

Motor trains were used for local services from 1905. This was normally a small engine attached to a single coach, although at busy times other coaches could be added. As many as 8 return trips a day ran from this service. A short low platform was used, and these were installed at the halts and the larger stations. By 1956 all the railmotor services were operated by diesels. North Thoresby and Louth stations closed 5 October 1970. The line remained open to goods traffic from Grimsby to Louth Keddington Road for about 10 years but the double track was reduced to single. Following the final closure in December 1980 the track was lifted [including most of the ballast] and all the station buildings and signal boxes were demolished and the line abandoned.

Fighting Closure

The Grimsby-Louth group formed to fight the final closure of the line following a letter to the Grimsby Evening Telegraph during March 1978. They organised a petition and several rail tours in the hope that they could convince the government and British Rail that local people wanted the line. A rail tour organised by the Branch Line Society was run in March 1978, when a full 5 car DMU traversed the line with the guard operating the now rarely used level crossing gates. The very last passenger train on the line was organised by the Grimsby Louth group. This was the day of the ‘Santa Special’ trains just before Christmas 1980. The driver of the last passenger train was Tony Jones, one of the Directors of Great Northern and East Lincolnshire Railway. After the closure British Rail quickly lifted the track and bulldozed all the buildings, so making the rebuilding of the line so much more difficult. The Grimsby-Louth Group became the Grimsby-Louth Railway Preservation Society, a group of volunteers whose aim was to rebuild the line. The original goal was for a line from Grimsby to Louth, a distance of 14 miles. Work started in a small way, working at both ends of the line, with signal boxes at Hainton Street and Keddington Road. In 1984 the operating base at Ludborough was set up, the line being leased from British Rail.

Modern Day

Purchase & Rebuild

Following a public enquiry in 1991 a Light Railway Order was granted to the Great Northern & East Lincolnshire plc, which allowed them to develop the line. They bought the trackbed between Louth and Waltham from British Rail, but were prevented from buying it all the way to Grimsby due to the Peakes Parkway project in Grimsby. This left about 10 miles of track that could be developed, about 5 miles either side of Ludborough. Since that time, and money permitting, Ludborough station has been redeveloped. The signal box was rebuilt in the original Great Northern style, a waiting room [which houses a small museum and shop] a paved platform and a two-lane engine shed. By this time there was continuous track of three quarters of a mile with carriage sidings and this is being slowly extended as time and money permits.

Continuing Development

2001 saw the start of the development of the North Platform with the building of a toilet block to include disabled and baby changing facilities. 2004 saw the platform to the toilets complete with garden and seating area and the addition of a new Ludborough Station sign. Extensive customer facilities are still being created to further improve the railway experience.

Tracklaying continued in the direction of North Thoresby and 2009 saw the first passenger train arrive in the village’s newly reopened station.

In 2019 work started on extending the line southward towards Louth. The first target will be the 3/4 mile section to Pear Tree Lane crossing, near to the site of the former Utterby Halt station.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty