Written Autumn 1999
Waiting for the Trains
History as a record of people and events in the past would not interest me much if it were not for the fact that we live today in a village shaped by its past. We can see how this has happened in Goxhill and how we are influenced by our history. There is a striking illustration of this in the chain of events, which began in Germany with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Because of the war airfields were built in suitable places in the East of England. After the war they were no longer needed. One such airfield was at Kirmington and this became our Humberside Airport. If events in the past have produced the village in which we live and the amenities that we enjoy, can we look at anything in the past and present, which will determine our future?
At the turn of the century we already had a railway at Goxhill. The New Holland branch of the Great Central Railway provided a service to Grimsby and New Holland and so to the national railway network. There was at that time a railway mania with people proposing new lines, often several rivals attempting to be first to pioneer similar routes to the same destination.
At Goxhill there was a proposal for a line running from Ackworth in Yorkshire to Killingholme in Lindsey. This prospectus laid out its route in great detail from Ackworth across Yorkshire to a point 19 chains south of Addingfleet church then simply said, “Crossing the river Trent” with no hint of how that crossing of a wide navigable waterway was to be accomplished. Another prospectus was issued for the Barton and Immingham Light Railway. This began as quite an elaborate venture but was much modified and eventually involved the use of the Great Central Line from Goxhill to New Holland. A single-track line from Immingham joined the Great Central Line 9 Chains south of Goxhill Station. The line lasted for some years but was eventually closed and the track was removed.
Although the line was closed the Railway Company retained ownership of the land and when from time to time various proposals were put forward for other uses for the track they would not sell or lease or grant way leave for its use. This of course left the possibility that the track might be reopened at a latter date.
Recently our Railway line, which had become passenger only, has been used again for freight. It is not difficult to see the advantage of this because the freight trains, which run to New Holland, relieve our local roads of many heavy goods vehicles.
That is the history and this is where fact finishes and speculation begins. What can be made from facts of history in the light of present circumstances?
A short time ago the Port Services and Transport specialist Simon Group announced a £20 million investment on their Humber Sea Terminal site at Killingholme. There will be two deep-water river berths for ro-ro ferries with supporting land facilities. The terminal will be completed in spring next year and will handle up to 14 sailings per week with an annual Movement of 90,000 containers.
In a newspaper article covering this announcement English Welsh and Scottish Railways were reported as saying that they would be interested in moving some of the containers by rail to their depots for national distribution if the necessary lines could be provided. E. W. S. is a very efficient and successful rail freight transporter. It already operates a very large service from the docks and refineries of Immingham, which is linked to their depots across the country. Not only does it operate through Goxhill to New Holland but also it has been responsible nationally for transferring much freight from road to rail.
Anyone who has looked at the roads connecting to the Humber Sea Terminal will realise that considerable expenditure on a new link to the road system is already needed. There is however a strong movement pressing for more freight to be moved by rail. This movement backed by environmentalists and many others is strongly supported by the department of transport and the deputy Prime Minister. A closer observation reveals that there is already a railway line running through the site of the terminal. The Killingholme to Immingham part of the Barton and Immingham Light railway is still in place.
Could the time for the re-opening of the line be at hand? This would provide an alternative route out of the Immingham and Killingholme industrial areas. At a time when the importance of the South Humber ports is increasing and the desire for rail transport is so well supported this would seem reasonable.
Do not rush to the station with your train spotter manual yet. The old Light Railway joined the main line about two hundred yards south of the Howe Lane crossing. To get from the original track and proceed towards Ulceby would require shunting and placing the engine at the other end of the train. It would also require the crossing gates to be closed for each movement because modern trains are very long.
Whilst everyone is keen to tell us of the reduction in pollution that rail transport offers; we should be well advised to realise that the pollution that will arise will be concentrated in our village beside the track. The inconvenience of the closing of three different crossings at Chapelfield Road Thorn Lane and Howe Lane would be ours.
Now the problem of the inconvenience that would be caused to people in the village would not I fear weigh heavily in any consideration of the matter. The cost and inconvenience of shunting and repositioning the engine would however be a very different matter. To introduce such a system into modern railway operations would hopefully be too costly and inefficient and an alternative layout would be used. There are several possibilities but existing sites Domestic Industrial and Historical have to be avoided. If this is can be done then we shall have both the satisfaction of taking the freight off the roads, which we use but also that of keeping it out of our village. We should examine any proposal very carefully