Kettering Civic Society
Newsletter 6 (2003) - Steam Train Trip

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Much to the dismay of the Civic Society, British Rail proposed in 1978 to alter the character of Kettering Station by removing the iron work and re roofing the platform canopies: the cracked and dirty glass then in place made maintenance difficult. However, the ironwork - by then 120 years old - was considered to be among the best in the land. The Society sought a meeting with the British Rail Director of Environment, Mr Bernard Kaukas MBE, FRSA, and the London-Midland Region Manager. 

In consequence, it was agreed that the ironwork and canopy roofs would be preserved: we had to agree to the replacement of the glass with translucent PVC material (now in its turn also dirty, unfortunately). This work was complete by 1981. 

Our concern over the featureless car-park led us to promote a tree-planting scheme there, supported in different ways by a great variety of local people, including NCC, KBC, the Duke of Buccleuch, Kettering Scouts, Army Cadets, members of the Youth Opportunities Programme and some local firms. When Civic Trust decided in 1982 to give these renovations one of its coveted commendations, Chairman Mr Heath MBE said the `Society was over the moon about this". Further enhancement of the car park was carried out in the spring of 1985. 

As the 1980's wore on we expressed criticism of the drab appearance of the Ticket Hall; our Chairman was specifically invited to attend both the opening and the George Hotel's buffet lunch in acknowledgement of our interest. Floodlighting took longer. Listed Building consent had to be obtained, and the front of the main buildings thoroughly cleaned. Moreover, the work could not be done cheaply! A good deal of correspondence - and negotiation was undertaken for the Society by Mr Heath and Mr Len Davies. On 27th March 1991 the lights were switched on by Mr Kuakas, whom we now considered a friend of Kettering Civic Society. Mr Heath's speech on this occasion justly acknowledged the grant from Kettering Borough Council and discount by Philips Lighting Ltd. 

The photograph of the illuminated station facade was published shortly afterwards in `Heritage Outlook', the Civic Trust Journal, accompanied by a short article. The finishing touches to the new lighting scheme was made in 1993. Finally, it was gratifying that in 2000 the Society was consulted when the 4m modernisation programme was planned by Railtrack, involving a footbridge and lifts. Following a tour conducted by staff form the contractor, Bovis Land Lease, our Secretary expressed satisfaction that the work was performed in a way sympathetic to the original design. Rumours that we expect one of the new trains intended to supersede the Turbostar models to be called "Kettering Civic Society" are wholly without foundation! 

The Original Idea

British Rail was receptive to the Civic Society's ideas and suggestion when Kettering Station was refurbished - concluding with a special station opening to which we were invited. With this link as a starting point, it seemed a wild idea to hire a real steam engine for the day and starting from the station, travel north, via the Harringworth viaduct,  to York, a Cathedral City with quaint streets, minsters and the Railway Museum. The engine, 'The Union of South Africa' 60009 was booked for l0th May 2003 complete with historic carriages. 

The Union of South Africa 

The locomotive taking you to York today is a Gresley East Coast Pacific, originally belonging to the LNER class A4 4-6-2 and numbered 4488. The name 'Gresley' is taken from Sir Nigel Gresley scion of an ancient family who in 1911 was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway. He died in 1941, still in office, as Chief Mechanical Engineer. His reign saw remarkable developments in the railway world, the A4- a streamlined version of the A3 that preceded it -being perhaps his most impressive achievement. 

The first A4 ran from London to Newcastle in 1935, by summer 1938 there were 35 in service. Some including 'The Union of South Africa' were given British Empire names to commemorate the coronation of George VI in 1937. Our engine was built in Doncaster in that year and was not withdrawn till 1966, having been the last A4 to work from King's Cross. Only five others of this class are still in existence. 

Few changes have been made to 'The Union of South Africa'. She has certainly changed colour! - Originally being painted 'garter blue'. The valancing over the driving wheels was removed from all A4's in 1941 for reasons connected with the war. And on nationalisation the number was changed to the 60009 we see today. According to PN Townsend (in "East Coats Pacific's at Work", 1982), "the A4's achieve a standard of spectacular performance and consistent reliability never surpassed by any other class of steam locomotive in this country". Admittedly, 60009 arrived four minutes late at King's Cross on the prestigious non-stop service from Waverly in June 1953, but this was due to bad luck! and two days later she performed the same journey faultlessly with eleven minutes to spare. Next year, in the summer season she covered 14,934 miles-" a testimony to the locomotives design and the shed staff at Haymarket", remarks Dennis Dey in a recent article for "Steam World". To this day, steam engine connoisseurs tend to regard what succeeded the A4's as inferior, in appearance if not in performance! 

But we have to be hauled back to Kettering by modern diesel. From York the 60009 will travel north to its home in Severn Valley, where it is privately preserved, so please say goodbyes shortly after arrival! Kettering Civic Society wishes to place on record our thanks to Rail Charter Services for organising this excursion and to the owner of the 'Union of South Africa" for allowing us to indulge - if only for a few hours - in nostalgia for the great days of British Railways.

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All aboard steam train - courtesy of the Evening Telegraph                                                  Travelling in style - Civic society members prepare for the trip

Hundreds of excited day-trippers crowded on to platform one at Kettering station this morning for a steam trip to York. Nearly 500 people set off on "The Union of South Africa" for the excursion organised by Kettering Civic Society. Society secretary Monica Ozdemir said: "It took a year to plan, but everyone was looking forward to a wonderful day out. "This is the first time we have run a trip like this and it was being held in appreciation of the sensitive way renovations were carried out to the station." Among those gathered at the station were steam train enthusiasts anxious to get a close look at The Union of South Africa, which was built in Doncaster in 1937 and Continued in service until 1966.

This Photograph and others can be ordered from the Evening Telegraph offices

Travel Route of the Union of South Africa - Saturday 10th May 2003 

Outward journey by steam - Kettering - Corby - Harringworth Viaduct - Oakham - Melton Mowbray - Loughborough - Long Eaton - Chesterfield - Rotherham - Doncaster - York 
Return journey by diesel - York - Church Fenton - Moorethorpe - Swinton - Roorethorpe - Sheffield - Chesterfield - Long Eaton - Loughborough - Leicester - Market Harborough - Kettering

The Welland Valley Line 

One of the most scenic routes in the Midlands is the line from Kettering on through Corby, Gretton, Harringworth and Manton to Oakham. Leaving the main line at quarrying which once fed the steel and tube making works at Corby until the end of both quarrying and steel making in 1981. The line as far as Corby was singled in 1987. Corby station, along with the others on this line, closed to passengers in 1966. 

After Corby the train dives into Corby tunnel. It was the Midland Railway's excavations for the line in the 1870s, which revealed the extent of iron ore deposits, thus leading Samuel Lloyd to establish the Corby iron works and quarries. Out of the blackness of the tunnel there opens up a vista across the Welland valley. Once the grazing ground for hundreds of beef cattle it is still a magnificent view far into Rutland. Seven church spires can be seen, and a restore windmill stands on the skyline. Gretton, its station building now a house, sits high on the Jurassic ridge, which overlooks the valley. 

It was to Gretton station that Midland Railway dray horses came from distant cities to frolic in the fields during their annual holiday. Harringworth station is also privately occupied. The viaduct, the last arch of which was keyed in 1878, carries the line for three-quarters of a mile on 82 arches averaging 57 feet in height. It crosses the river Welland and also the now closed LNWR lines from Rugby to Peterborough, Seaton to Luffenham, and Seaton to Uppingham. 

The viaduct was built using an estimated 20 million bricks, made on site from local clay. It has been calculated that if the bricks were laid out side by side to form a pathway 63 inches wide it would stretch for 200 miles, equal to the distance from London to York. About 3,000 navies came from all over the country and were. accommodated in 40 huts at Seaton and 12 at Gretton as well as private lodgings. Their weekly pay was in the region of 1 5s for labourers to 2 l0s for bricklayers. 

There are three more tunnels at Seaton, Glaston and Wing. At Manton Junction the line joins that from Peterborough to Leicester. Beyond Manton tunnel one catches a glimpse of Rutland Water, the largest man-made lake in Europe. 

Elizabeth Jorditn, Gretton Local History Society

Selected Photographs - courtesy of the webmaster               Top | All Aboard | Welland Valley Line | Video | Aerial Photos | Chairman's Letter | Top

Aerial Photographs over the Harringworth Viaduct courtesy of Stuart Tippleston
High quality versions of these photographs are available in presentation folder email
Monica Ozdemir for details


Chairman's Letter  top

We especially welcome you to 'Steam to York', a Civic Society adventure. Never before has Kettering Civic Society embarked upon such an ambitious social event and we thank you all for supporting this unique occasion. Most towns up and down the country have a Civic Society usually formed to defend or protect buildings and the spaces between them. Our Society essentially tried to defend and save older buildings in Kettering town centre, which were to be demolished to make way for a new shopping centre. Regrettably it is only retrospectively in the hearts of older Kettering people that they now acknowledge building losses, which were the reason for our campaigning and contained a lot of the town's history. I can tell you this because it is valuable to be able to contrast losses and successes. 

Earlier in this newsletter you will have read something of Kettering Station and its refurbishment. The station is important for two reasons. Firstly bringing the railway to Kettering brought about the towns commercial success at that time, much as the A14 is doing now and secondly, its Architecture, which you must understand, related to a small market town in its day and which has a certain industrial splendour. It is the successful relationship between the Civic Society aiming to have as much of the station as possible saved and restored during the refurbishment and British Rail and Bernard Caucus, who listened and responded to our pleas which we see as a triumph for the town. We are of course mindful this work didn't happen earlier this year but to finally lay the project to rest in a way which many people relate to seemed a befitting celebration. 

Kettering is a key mainline station today, nostalgically there are Kettering people who worked on the railway in the days of steam, those who delight in the magic of steam and a bygone age, those who travel by train to specific destinations and those who enjoy a delightful scenic train journey. What better way than to say thank you to British Rail for listening than to charter a real steam engine with a pedigree and bring together a diverse range of people. York has been chosen specifically for many reasons. The route is interesting, the distance is great enough for one of Staniers special engines to show what it was capable of, half a century ago; the destination has so many different attractions to interest our many travellers and of course is an historic Railway City. 

Bringing together so many different travellers with so many different backgrounds and interests and introducing those of you who are not members to our Society, we hope that some of you may wish to become members. Our Society is making a transition from defending the past to looking to the future. The biggest campaign we are associating ourselves with is the Milton Keynes expansion study, which is considering the viability of introducing 169,000 new homes into this area, which spans from Milton Keynes as far as Corby. The study is one of four equally large investigations to bring development north of London. What is of concern is the impact it will have on our Civic Scene. As regional planning and regional government start to take over our lives, our local culture, which is the key ingredient to making our Civic Scene needs protecting so that too isn't demolished with the town centre buildings, which caused the founding of our Civic Society. 

Month by month we try to have a varying programme of talks and visits with as wide a range of interest as possible. An ongoing project is the placing of Commemorative Plaques around the town to form a rail through its history. Ideas for plaque topics are enthusiastically invited as you are to the plaque discussion workshop in the autumn. Meanwhile enjoy the day, the pleasure of being on an historic train and the City of York. 

Thank you for your company and travelling with us. 

Paul Ansell

Winner gets a 'Ticket to Ride'   top

Josh, 12, was the lucky winner of a free seat on the train trip to York when he guessed the correct answer in a competition held at Bishop Stopford School Christmas Fayre. The second prize of the Prize Draw, which will take place in York today, is a limited edition print by Barry G Price of our train No. 60009 Union of South Africa standing at the platform on York Station next to her sister engine No. 60022 Mallard (1960) is a wonderful coincidence. We wish the winner much pleasure in becoming the proud owner of this print. 

Promoting the Society 

Earlier this year the Society purchased a painting, The Garden at Beech Cottage by Nina Carroll, in memory of founder member Tony Ireson. As we have no premises (this is a dream) we were pleased to take the opportunity to exhibit the painting and to sell greetings cards of the painting as well as books that have been published by local authors. 

The competition and prize draw was well supported at Bishop Stopford Christmas Fayre and people were queuing to be the first to purchase their tickets for the Steam train trip to York at the Evening Telegraph Spirit of Christmas Exhibition, held at Wicksteed Park. 

Proceeds from sales will contribute towards Commemorative Plaques forming a Heritage Trail around Kettering and hopefully more projects Order forms are available and purchases may be made through committee members, also details can be found on this website.

Kettering Civic Society on the Web

Congratulations are constantly being received on the content and quality of our web site. We have Roger Payne to thank for the design. The site has been a useful resource for many and for differing reasons. Over a period of 3 months the site has received over 300 hits. Thanks also to Tony Smith of Kettering Evening Telegraph for his excellent research and articles that he has allowed us to use, they give a colourful insight into the history of Kettering and it's people. We are using the Internet to provide a transition from the Civic Society's earlier campaigns to save older buildings, which occupied most of our time, to the present, and looking to the future in developing the town's civic pride. The web site contains the Society's history, which is being updated with extracts from newsletters and gives information about visits and talks.

Keltering Civic Society would like to thank all for their support throughout the year including: 
The Park Hotel Kettering, Dido Whitehead, www.shirehotel.co.uk  
The reprographic department at Bishop Stopford School, www.bishopstopford.com  
Gretton Local History Society, www.grettonvilliage.org.uk  
Kettering Railway Station, 
Kettering Evening Telegraph, www.northantsnews.com  
Toby & Jo Clegg - Barton Seagrave Post Office, 
Kettering Borough Council Tourist Information Centre, 
CTB Print and Design Ltd, ctb.print@virgin.net 
St John's Ambulance - Grace Brown, Angela Cannell, 
Thornton's Jewellers, 
Train Stewards: Steve Barfon, Scott Thomson, Colin Fleiton, John Harvey, Chris Argent, and Mike Adamar 
Tippleston Photography, www.tippleston.com  
The Living Landscape Trust, 
Wicksteed Park. www.wicksteedpark.co.uk 

If you would like to include items for future newsletters please contact Monica Ozdemir 

Top | All Aboard | Welland Valley Line | Photos | Video | Aerial Photos | Chairman's Letter | Top