Spilsby Historic Market Town in Lincolnshire

Spilsby Railway Station by Clive Ironmonger

In 1864 the first steps were taken to form a local company to promote a new railway line to be built from Spilsby to meet the Great Northern Railway at Firsby. A meeting was called to launch the project, the thought at the time was that Spilsby had lost fat stock market trade to Burgh-le-Marsh when its station was built in 1848.

courtesy of Spilsby Library from the Badley CollectionThe necessary Parliamentary powers were obtained by an Act of July 5th 1865 which incorporated The Spilsby & Firsby Railway with an authorised capital of £20,000 and loans of £8,333 for the construction of the 4 mile single track branch with one intermediate station to be built at Halton Holegate.

The Great Northern Railway GNR was to provide stock, locomotive, staff, operate and control the entire working of the line for the first 21 years. The GNR would pay the Spilsby & Firsby 40% of gross traffic receipts.

Construction began officially on 14th March 1867 with the ceremonial cutting of the first turf performed by The Reverend Rawnsley on behalf of Lord Willoughby de Eresby the Spilsby & Firsby Railway Chairman. The track construction reached Firsby by August 1867 and towards the end of that year visits of inspection were made of the works by the Government Railway Inspector with his certificate to run being issued in January 1868.

It was expected that the Railway would soon open but disputes with the contractors arose even to the extent of some rails being removed. With these problems resolved the official opening was announced for Friday 1st May 1868.

The opening day saw the Town in carnival spirit with the officials and guests taking their seats for the first train to Firsby leaving Spilsby at 12-40pm returning at 1-30pm having met the London train at Firsby. Following the safe return the party attended the White Hart Hotel where a meal was laid on, toasts were proposed to "The Town and Trade".

At first the line was a success with 1633 passengers receipts shown from Spilsby for July 1868, profits went to pay off the company's liabilities. However by 1885 rail traffic had slumped, this led to the GNR buying out the Spilsby & Firsby Railway Company for £20,000 by an Act of July 25th 1890.

During its peak the Railway ran 7 trains a day with some being mixed passenger/goods trains, a goods/coal train was run through as required. Other than incoming coal supplies and general goods, traffic would consist of all types of farm produce and supplies, cattle from Spilsby Market and sheep from the Partney Sheep Fairs. Both petrol and paraffin were also brought in by rail to be distributed from a fuel depot adjacent to the Station.

With the coming of the Second World War passenger services over the Spilsby Branch were suspended ,only the freight service remained.

Passenger services never resumed and by 1957 concerns were raised about the state of the bridge over the Steeping River. This was constantly being shored up and needed replacement at expected cost of £20,000. Petrol traffic moved over to road transport, general goods traffic was said to be in decline, an upsurge the previous year had simply been as a result of incoming cement products for the aerodrome expansion at East Kirkby.

Despite good word locally and ideas of restarting passenger services with the new diesel railbuses, the fate of the line was sealed, with the last locomotive over the branch on November 30th 1958, official closure was the following day.

Clive Ironmonger

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