Unseen old photographs discovered

Posted by Chris Graham on 10th September 2020

Unseen old photographs

Unseen old photographs: The Cleethorpes Miniature Railway in the 1940s, with steam. (Photo: CS Balderston)

When unseen old photographs of the earliest days of the world’s first heritage railway to be built by enthusiasts turned up at the back of old cupboards on another railway, the finders immediately wondered if there were any other old, unseen photos of their railway? Well, it turns out that there were, with some of them dating back to 1949. What’s more, none has ever been published before.

The photos of the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway were taken in 1962 by photographer CW Underhill of Belper, Derbyshire, on its original site at Humberston, south of Cleethorpes, where it opened in August 1960. There had been plans to celebrate the 60th anniversary of this significant world first at its ‘new’ site, at Skegness Water Leisure Park, more than 40 miles to the south, on which it reopened in 2009. These celebrations have been postponed until 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the line remains closed to passengers and to its volunteer workforce.

Unseen old photographs

crowds watching Cleethorpes Miniature Railway operating in the late 1940s. (Photo: CS Balderston)

At Cleethorpes, Peter Bryant, a director of the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, found the old photos when tidying drawers and files to see what was at the back of them. He sent them to the LCLR’s volunteers at Skegness, asking whether they too would check old files for any photos from the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, today’s Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway was the Cleethorpes Miniature Railway, run by the erstwhile Cleethorpes Borough Council, using parallel, 10¼in gauge tracks.

A sepia postcard from 1952 showing Cleethorpes Miniature Railway running past the Boating Lake footbridge. (Photo: Chris Bates Collection)

Now some of the earliest-known photographs of the Cleethorpes miniature line have been found by LCLR volunteer Peter Balderston. Some were taken in 1948-49 by Peter’s father, CS Balderston of Grimsby (on the same roll of film, as his honeymoon photos!). Thius was not long after the Cleethorpes line was opened by a Mr Botterill from Peterborough.

Twin track on the Cleethorpes Miniature Railway during the late 1940s. (Photo: CS Balderston)

Cleethorpes Borough Council took it over in the winter of 1958-59, and it’s now been running longer than most of Britain’s miniature railways. From 1974 to 1976, Peter was a driver on the miniature railway during his summer vacations from university, by which time the gauge had changed to a unique 14¼in. It’s now 15in, in common with contemporaries, such as the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch and the Ravenglass & Eskdale.

Unseen old photographs

Photographer David Enefer manages to get wife June, baby Frances and the ‘Rio Grande’-style loco in this 1981 photo. (Photo: D Enefer)

Other photos came from a renowned Lincolnshire railway photographer and LCLR volunteer, David Enefer, who, for many years, was also a driver on the Cleethorpes line. They show his wife, June, and baby daughter, Frances, in 1981, beside one of the ‘Rio Grande’ outline locos used on the miniature railway in the mid-1970s.

Peter Balderston was a student, summer-time driver on the miniature railway in 1974-76, when he photographed one of the ‘Rio Grande’ locos at work. (Photo: P Balderston)

Another LCLR volunteer, Chris Bates from Horsington, turned up an old sepia postcard dating from 1950, featuring the miniature railway. He’d acquired it when writing the book Railways of North Lincolnshire, with fellow enthusiast Martin Bairstow.

A rarely photographed (and rarely seen) replica of Flying Scotsman at work on the miniature line. (Photo: P Balderston)

The LCLR’s spokesman, John Chappell, said: “We’ve been delighted to help our friends and neighbours in the north of the county to showcase their early days. It’s a sign of the friendship between Lincolnshire’s unique heritage railways. We wish the Cleethorpes line every success in reopening after the coronavirus shutdown, and hope it will soon be possible for our railway in the Skegness Water Leisure Park to operate again as well.”

Unseen old photographs

Flying Scotsman approaches the original Thrunscoe terminus; the track to the right led to storage sheds for the carriages and locos. (Photo: P Balderston)

CCLR director, Peter Bryant, added: “Photographs of the old Cleethorpes Miniature Railway are surprisingly hard to come by, so we’re very pleased that our friends at the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway have been able to find these and share them with us. Our railway has evolved considerably throughout its 70-year history, and it’s fascinating to see the changes in these photos.”

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