Notes: The station opened as South Willingham with Hainton being added in 1877. The station had a single platform on the down side of the line with the main station building at the east end of the platform incorporating the stationmaster's house and booking office. The station was always known as South Willington and Hainton although the station sign as seen in photos below, called it Hainton and South Willington.
There was a goods loop at the east end of the station with a short siding serving a loading dock at the east end of the passenger platform and joined to it. A second siding came off the loop running behind the loading dock. Cattle pens were sited alongside this siding. A signalbox opposite the loading dock controlled access to the goods yard. After closure to passengers the station continued to handle goods traffic until 1st December 1958.
Having approved the route, the Louth and Lincoln Railway Company was incorporated on 6th August that year but within a few months it was clear the company would be unable to purchase the land for the proposed junction with the GNR at Five Mile House. With local funding also proving difficult to raise, the company was keen to abandon the scheme but this was rejected by the Board of Trade. The company therefore reluctantly agreed to continue with the project and in 1871 Manchester civil engineer, Frederick Appleby was brought in to finance and build the line in return for taking sole control.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LOUTH - BARDNEY LINE
A new line linking Louth with Lincoln was first proposed at a public meeting at Louth on 3rd November 1865. The proposed route would leave the Lincolnshire branch of the GNR at a junction facing Louth running roughly south west to cross the Great Northern’s Lincoln - Boston line and terminate at a junction with the Boston line east of Five Mile House station. To avoid tunnelling, the middle section of the line would be steeply graded at times running in deep cuttings.
Fredrick Appleby appointed engineers Myers and Tolme to construct the single line which was to be worked by the Great Northern under an earlier agreement of 1866 in return for 50% of the gross receipts. He predicted the railway to be completed in three years.
The 24 mile line was expected to generate considerable passenger traffic, not only from the local area as passengers travelling from the Midlands to Cleethorpes would, the company claimed, save three hours by using the new route. Nobody questioned this doubtful claim that would require passenger traffic to be diverted from an existing better graded double track line. The company prospectus also made exaggerated claims for potential freight traffic when a local mining engineer stated there were extensive good quality ironstone reserves near Apley and Donington. Once blast furnaces were built there, coal could be brought in from the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Erewash Valley coalfields to produce pig iron. It really seemed that the Louth and Lincoln was 'sitting on a gold mine'.
A revised route was proposed shortening the line to 20 miles and including two tunnels, one 803 yards long near Withcall and the other 255 yards long near South Willingham. Beyond South Willingham the line would turn more towards the south than originally proposed and join the GNR’s Boston line north of Bardney station. Although the gradients were not as steep as the original plan they were still pretty considerable. At Bardney all trains would run into a bay platform from the wrong direction, access to the main line requiring the use of cross-overs.
Although Royal Assent was not finally given for the change of route until the 19th July 1872, Frederick Appleby began work at the Louth end in January of that year expecting to complete the work the following year.
Bad weather delayed construction, but by August 1873, 10 miles were completed between Bardney and South Willingham and it was hoped to open this section in October that year. Relations between the GNR and Fredrick Appleby had however become strained as under the earlier agreement the GNR would only start working the line once it had been completed. The Louth and Lincoln was forced to take partial control of the construction while Appleby remained to oversee the completion of the route.
In May 1874, further capital was required to finish the construction but the GNR did eventually agree to work the already completed 10 mile section under a new agreement. The line opened for freight traffic between Bardney and South Willingham on 9th November 1874, this was extended to Donington-on-Bain on 27th September 1875 and finally through to Louth on 26th June 1876. It was soon clear that the company’s expectations were wildly optimistic and even the imminent opening of the Louth to Mablethorpe Railway and the possibilities of extra traffic as a result did little to dispel the gloom of the early receipts. The 12 months from July 1875 to June 1876 showed only £2,094 profit.
The line opened throughout to passengers on 1st December 1976 with five daily trains but this was reduced to four within a month with a fifth on Friday. Intermediate stations at Kingthorpe, Wragby, East Barkwith, South Willingham, Donington-on-Bain and Hallington opened with the line and a further station at Withcall opened on 1st August 1882.Wragby was the principle intermediate station and the only one to be provided with two platforms.
By July 1877 the Louth and Lincoln were urging the GNR to take over the line as quickly as possible but the GNR weren't interested. Another unsuccessful approach was made to the GNR after a bad year in 1880. In May 1881 a Permanent Receiver was appointed and in August that year the GNR made an offer £200,000 which was just over half the cost of building the line. The Louth & Lincoln decided to cut their losses and accepted on 20th December 1881. Royal Assent for the transfer was given in August 1882 and the Louth and Lincoln Railway Company passed into the possession of the Great Northern Railway on 30th June 1883 and the line settled down to a modest income.
As well as the local coal merchants based at most stations the freight traffic was mainly agricultural with cattle, sheep and other livestock being transported to market. The line also carried some timber, bricks and sand.
By the early years of the 20th century the railway had become an established part of rural life. Before telephones began being installed in the area during the middle 1920s the station was the focal point for emergency calls to doctors and hospitals. The busiest days for passengers were Wednesdays and Saturdays with most people travelling to Louth market.
When the local springs dried up the railway would supply a tender of water, which would be left in a siding for the use of railway employees. Later, drinking water for most stations on the line was supplied from the Donington station tap, itself served by a 3 inch bore pipe which ran alongside the track from Withcall Tunnel. Regular visitors using the line included the 'stallion man', who made periodical visits to the farms along the route. The stallion man and his charge would travel in a specially designed stallion box with a compartment for the horse and an accommodation cabin attached in which the man would live and sleep during his tour of the area. The stallion boxes would be kept in goods sidings during the period the stallion was covering the local mares.
World War I saw the felling of many acres of pine trees around Withcall which were taken by rail and used for shoring up trenches on the battle fields of France and Belgium. On 11th September 1939 The passenger service was suspended and reinstated on December 4th. The line was at is busiest for freight traffic during WW II when railheads were established at Wragby, South Willingham, Donington-on-Bain and Withcall to supply armaments to the nearby airfields and Hallington was used as a dump for empty shell cases.
Most of the bombs delivered by rail came in to Donington-on-Bain, which was perfectly suited for this kind of traffic due to the village’s position in a valley and between two long tunnels. A quiet little wayside station, well-equipped with sidings, but from the air as difficult to find as a needle in a haystack, was the perfect spot for the RAF’s bomb transit depot used to supply the many airfields of the Lincolnshire based bomber groups.
After the war the line returned to its quiet existence but after nationalisation it was clear that the passenger service could not be maintained and in March 1951 BR announced its intention to close the line to both passengers and freight following the continuing reduction of all traffic. The Rural District Council raised objections, mainly to the loss of the freight service stating that it would lead to an increase in the price of coal if it had to be brought in by road; it was also pointed out that the line was useful to local farmers for transporting sugar beet to the Bardney factory. After
negotiations the Council agreed to BR’s proposal to close the line to passengers, but opposed its closure to freight traffic stating it was absolutely essential that the line be maintained for the delivery of freight and the collection of produce from farms in that part of the Wolds.
Closure to passengers was announced for 5th November with the last train being 3.57pm on Saturday, November 3rd. Freight traffic continued although it was clear that the lines days were numbered due to the high cost of maintaining the service and infrastructure. The section of the line between Louth and Donington was closed to freight traffic on 17th September 1956 and a further section between Donington and Wragby closed on the 1st December 1958 with the final section into Bardney closing on 1st February 1960.
The course of the line is traceable for most of its length and much of it has now been converted into private farm roads with a permissive footpath between Hallington & Withcall. All the stations are intact with the exception of Kingthorpe which has disappeared without trace and Withcall where only the truncated platform remains.
Tickets from Michael Stewart, area map drawn by Alan Young
Source: The Louth to Bardney Branch by AJ Ludlam and WB Herbert. Published 2987 by Oakwood Press ISBN 0 85361 348 6
Other web sites:The Louth to Bardney line. Includes brief history, photographs, maps etc. Two fotopic pages by John Musselwhite with pictures of the line in 2008. Lincolnshire & East Yorkshire Transport Review includes pictures of the line. David Enefer's Rail Pics of Lincolnshire
To see other stations on the Louth - Bardney line click on the station name:
Louth, Hallington, Withcall, Donington-on-Bain, East Barkwith, Wragby, Kingthorpe & Bardney