High Dyke Branch Rediscovered @(The) – Part 1 Highdyke Junction to Bridge End, Colsterworth

by John Pegg & C Taylor

Part One of two online articles published by the Tracks Through Grantham Group 

The branch was a mineral line that transported locally mined ironstone to  Highdyke sidings on the East Coast Main Line, just north of Stoke Tunnel.  From there it was taken to iron and steel works in Lincolnshire and the North Midlands.

There had been a junction at Highdyke since 1882 when a third running line from Grantham, the ‘Up Goods’, was extended as far as the approach to the two-track Stoke Tunnel.  The High Dyke Branch had originally been promoted in about 1912 as the Waltham and Highdyke Railway, because it was intended to connect Highdyke with Waltham-on-the-Wolds, the terminus of a Great Northern Railway branch line from Scalford, Leicestershire.

The branch was declared open by the Great Northern Railway Company on 3rd March 1919.  However, the connections from the main lines had been installed at Highdyke by November 1916, so the branch may well have been in partial use well before its official opening.

The High Dyke branch was built relatively cheaply across undulating countryside and it was quite steeply graded in parts, being known to generations of Grantham train crew as ‘the alps’.   To avoid runaways on the sharp descent approaching the junction at Highdyke, regulations limited the number of loaded wagons that could be brought down the branch.  Longer trains were assembled in the sidings for onward transport over the main line.

The ironstone mines were mainly opencast and they had their own private railway systems.  There were loading points and exchange sidings at several locations on the branch.  No regular passenger services were ever operated, but there were at least two special excursions, on 19th June 1960 and 15th April 1972.  The branch closed in August 1973 after ironstone mining ceased.  There was an attempt at a preservation and leisure railway initiative – see here – but it failed, and by autumn 1975 all the track on the branch had been removed.

As a comparative latecomer to the local transport infrastructure the High Dyke Branch intersected many existing landscape features, both natural and man-made.  The Great North Road (A1) was spanned by two bridges, the earlier dating from the line’s construction and the second, to the east, a result of the realignment and dualling of the A1 in 1959-61.  The River Witham was crossed and several roads, lanes and footpaths were intersected, requiring bridges or gates.  John has captured evidence of most of these crossings in the photographs.

The maps show the area in around 1974 (after the branch was closed but before the track was removed), unless otherwise noted.

Follow the link to the TTG website

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