Grantham storyteller Betty pays tribute to men from the railway

Betty Elmer, who has told the stories of three Grantham railway men in her book Railway Lives

Betty Elmer, who has told the stories of three Grantham railway men in her book Railway Lives

A new book tells the largely forgotten story of a railway tragedy near Grantham that cost the lives of eight men.

An account of the disaster at Barkston before the Second World War is included in the e-book by railway man’s daughter Betty Elmer, who lives in Gladstone Terrace, Grantham.

The book, called Railway Lives, also features the stories of Grantham men Pete Shelbourne, Gerry Edward and Les Marshall, who were drivers of the record-breaking steam locomotive Mallard.

Mallard broke the world speed record for a steam locomotive in 1938, two years after the tragedy at Barkston, which involved raher more prosaic machines.

On a frosty, foggy january morning, a train of ballast wagons and a brake van was ferrying 12 men from Grantham to Newark when it slowed to pass through a cutting.

As it did so, it was struck from behind by two linked light express locomotives travelling from Peterborough to York.

The brake van and five wagons ahead of it were completely demolished, killing five men immediately and injuring three others so badly they died later.

Betty, who moved to Grantham in 1965 from Liverpool, where she was born said: “My dad was a railwayman and I wanted to honour the lives of these hardworking men who deserve to be remembered.”

Betty’s aim was similar when she set out the record the stories of the Mallard engine drivers.

She said: “Grantham was a major depot in the age of steam. Many people have led good, hard-working lives and when they retire it is all forgotten. I wanted to give an impression of what life was like at the coal face and thought it was important to recogise these people’s contribution.”

Betty’s book is based on research she first carried out for a documentry series for Grantham’s community-based radio station, Gravity FM.

The mother-of-four had help in preparing the Kindle book by her daughter Fiona and friend Ela Watts.

An illustration for the book front shows Les Marshall on the footplate at King’s Cross station in London, possibly in 1948, for a publicity shot with a couple of fashionably dressed women, possibly models.

All three railwaymen were interviewd by Betty for her broadcast documentary ten years ago, although Gerry and Les have since died.

Peter was featured in the Journal last year in a special report marking the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s 125mph world speed record. Grantham.




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