LH DAVIES reveals Lincolnshire’s spooky history of ghost trains and railway hauntings
Despite Lincolnshire’s incorporation of the predominantly industrial South Humberside in the April of 1996, the county remains one of the more sparsely populated counties in England homing only a few hundred thousand people. Perhaps this is one reason why when the fogs come in from the coast, sinking low over both town and field, there is a greater sense of eeriness to your surroundings.
The 1800s were a prosperous time; Grimsby was fast becoming a boom town, pulling itself towards the title of largest fishing port in the world and to accommodate this, numerous tracks and stations were built, connecting the area to what would be called the Great Northern Railway. These days, however, there remains only a fraction of the railway connections that once crisscrossed their way across the open countryside; lines that remain only to link the industrial areas out towards both the North and South of the UK.
The station at Grimsby Docks lays claim to a rather disturbing entity. Unseen, yet very much present making itself known in the form of a malevolent force. A story from a few years ago tells of a group of train workers instructed to head to a siding where one of the engines was buffered and awaiting maintenance. Two men made their way down to the train, making their way to the front. As they neared their destination however, a sudden feeling of dread began to overcome them and they turned back, refusing to do the work. Hearing their story, another worker decided to investigate, making his way to where the men had suffered their experience. Similarly he got only so far before a deep fear overwhelmed him and like his friends, he ran back up the tracks. Angry that the workers were not doing the work they had been instructed to complete, one of the drivers decided he would do the work himself, taking the tools for the job and heading down to investigate what was going on. Reaching the train he made his way along, yet just as before, when the driver neared the front of the train an inexplicable terror gripped him, from what he described as an overwhelming presence of evil. This was an occurrence that happened on several occasions leading many of the workers to refuse to complete any maintenance near the siding.
A short distance down the A16 before you reach the small market town of Louth, is a village named Utterby, divided down the centre by the aforementioned road. When the trains still ran between Grimsby and the more southern areas of the county, Utterby had a station, Utterby Halt. It was towards this station that in the January of 1953 a man by the name of John Edward Lancaster was walking having finished his shift, working on the local train lines. He had chosen this, the fastest route back to Ludborough, a short distance past the station, despite the low visibility due to a heavy fog that had settled. Before making it to the station, John Lancaster was taken by surprise, killed by a train travelling towards Grimsby. There have been numerous accounts where people have observed a spectral presence along this route that continued to be used by dog walkers and ramblers following the tracks closure in 1961. On more than one occasion the witness described the man they had seen, his appearance apparently identical to that of the deceased rail worker. This station is also known for its ghostly train encounters. Several car drivers have reported that their vehicles have stalled on the crossing trapping them as a train bared down upon them, only for it to go straight through them and disappear. Once gone, their cars start up again with no apparent problems, allowing them to go on their way.
A further tale of ghostly locomotives hails from the Louth to Bardney line. This track was dismantled back in 1956 yet locals and walkers alike claim to have often heard the sounds of a passing steam engine at night. Indeed many have heard the sound of the train’s whistle at Withcall tunnel a place that some might consider creepy in itself. Spanning 971 yards and travelling through the landscape at an angle, no daylight can be seen from the opposite end when entering. Is the whistle that locals have heard coming from a train that crashed due to low visibility?
There are innumerable stories from throughout the county that bare a great similarity to these tales. As the people of Lincolnshire move on. So the ghosts of its industrial past ensure they are remembered.