Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Skegness review 1

Sleaford railway station

12/7/08 Sleaford to Skegness

Cost of ticket £24.50 (Sheffield to Skegness)

Dept Sleaford: 12.01   Arrive Skegness: 13.06

Journey time: 1 hour 5 mins

Distance:  40 miles    Weather:  sunny and cloudy

Traction used: 3 single car class 156 DMUs  (single track part of the way)

Train Operating company: East Midlands

Frequency of trains - one every hour

Sleaford station has a three platforms, no cafe and a staffed ticket office that is only open part time. The train I get is sadly not loco-hauled - that was the one previously - but it has three separate single units all joined together. We pull out over a level crossing, passing houses on both sides of the track and are soon into open countryside. It is very flat here with wide-open fields. You can see farms and houses in the distance. The Peterborough line moves off to right and we are on single track running parallel to A17. Our train is soon doing about 60 mph and passing level crossings quite often. The track is welded so the journey is nice and smooth. Some houses appear on the left as we slow for Heckington station. It has its original red brick station building on the left platform, which is now a railway and heritage museum, whilst the other platform has a bus stop and old-fashioned waiting room. Behind it is a large windmill. We pull away and are back into flat open countryside, once again on double track. On the right in the distance we can see a new wind farm with some wind pumps remaining fairly still on this calm day. The track here is not welded so it is quite bumpy. The views remind me of parts of Norfolk with their flat wide open spaces. We shoot through Swineshead station and then are right next to the A1121, which seems quite quiet for a summer Saturday. Now and again we pass large greenhouses, as this area is well known for its market gardening industries. We slow for Hubbard's Bridge station, which has just two tiny bus stops on its short platforms. There is also a signal/crossing box for the level crossing at the west end of the station. The track becomes single again as we continue alongside the A1121. Car showrooms and warehouses indicate that we are now on the outskirts of Boston. We slow down as new housing appears on both sides of the track and the famous "Boston Stump" church tower is seen on the left. The track veers sharply to the right as a small line to the docks on the right joins us. The church tower is now on the right as we pull into Boston station. There's an old run down signal box just before the station. The station has been modernised with the main station building to the east in yellow brick. There's a coffee shop and ticket office, as well as a newly constructed footbridge. On the west platform are two bus stops in front of two carriage sidings. We go over the river Witham on a cantilever bridge and continue through the town of Boston, pulling sharply to the right before we enter one of the longest straight stretches of railway track in Britain. Originally this continued all the way to Louth, but about five miles from Skegness it turns 90 degrees to go southeast to Thorpe Culvert. We cross another river/canal and then we are out in open countryside. It's still as flat as ever with a mixture of ploughed files, wheat fields and cattle grazing. The train speeds up to 70 mph on this single stretch as far as Sibsey, where it becomes double again. There are loads of level crossings on this stretch. In the distance on the left some hills can be seen - these are the southern end of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Once again the track is quite bumpy as it's not welded, but at least we're making good progress. In fact after about ten minutes it becomes quite monotonous as everything seems just the same - the track, the scenery, etc. It gets me wondering if all this could be flooded in a few years time, what with global warming and the ice-caps melting? Some fields have lavender in them, which gives a mauve addition to the dominant green. Others have cabbage or wheat or sheep grazing, so there is a bit of variety. After about twenty minutes of ploughing our straight furrow, the train slows suddenly and begins to curve very sharply to the right. It's interesting to see where the old track originally went straight on. It's now just a field and very hard to tell, if you didn't know that it existed. We speed up again and soon come to Thorpe Culvert station, which is in a tiny hamlet of about three houses. It has the original red brick station building, which is still open as a waiting room on the left-hand platform, whilst there is a bus stop on the right platform. As usual the scenery is wide-open flat fields. There are more houses to be seen, as we are not that far from Skegness. The next stop is Wainfleet, famous for its Bateman's brewery, as the station signs tell us. There is another original redbrick station building on the right platform, used as a waiting room, whilst the bigger station master's house on the other side is now a private dwelling. Right next to the left platform is a lovely allotment, (or is it a private garden?) full of various vegetables all in season. The track bends to the right and then the left, as it continues across the flat Wash plain before stopping at Havenhouse. The platform is so short that the third carriage I'm in doesn't even reach the platform. It still has its two original red brick station buildings - one a waiting room and one a private dwelling. It seems to serve just a solitary farm though!    We move along for a few miles before small industrial units start appearing on the left, as well as a large gas holder, rusty brown over the years. We slow and arrive at Skegness about six minutes early. There's a nice signal box at the end of the platform and five long platforms in total with D1648 on platform 5 waiting to take a train out to Nottingham. The station has a large concourse beyond the platforms where the famous "jolly fisherman" of Skegness statue can be seen.

Summary:  A busy line in the summer with all the holiday makers from the East Midlands area still using the route, but in winter the passenger numbers fall sharply, which is worrying.      MC