Narrow Gauge & other industrial railways in the ‘West End’ of Lincoln, including Newsum’s Joinery Works.

(Please note that I do not consider this page to be 100% accurate. TJH 20/01/2012: Much new material has appeared over recent time)

Whilst studying a ‘brownish’ copy of the 1906 6″ = 1 mile map of Lincoln recently I came across what may be a hitherto unknown (to me) n.g. line in the city. Those who have lived in Lincoln for a while will know that in the Long Leys Road – Burton Road areas clay was, for many years, extracted for brick making. The area off Westcliffe Street known as the ‘Hills and Valleys’ was created by clay workings, whilst the ‘big hole’ between them and Long Leys Road, and now filled with compacted refuse, was also a brick pit. The site of Albion Works (now Travis Perkins) was quite extensive but has now gone. Although living only 100 yards or so from them this area was definitely ‘out of bounds’ to me as a youngster, following the drowning of a 13 year old in the flooded brick pit in the early 1950s. I do know from old City maps, now probably long destroyed, that n.g. lines existed within the complex, presumably horse or man powered (although I have seen a suggestion that they were chain worked). From personal memory a small pit existed in the field next to St. Georges’ Hospital, which is now the Albion Crescent estate. The copy of the map that I saw had a straight line running up the middle of the field to the pit. Whilst I don’t think that this proves anything I think it is worth considering that a line of sufficient permanence to have attracted the Ordnance Survey may have existed in the area

I had an early acquaintence with the lines at Burton Gravel Pits, but there were other lines in the the Lincoln Area proper. Many readers of pages like this are aware of the use made of narrow gauge railways by organisations such as Anglian Water Board and their predecessors. In the mid-winter of 1967/68 the ‘Lincolnshire River Board’ carried out extensive culvert work on the A57 (Saxilby Road) in Lincoln. A ‘catchwater’ runs underground between Long Leys Road and the West Common (except when it rains and the water flows on the surface. Ed.), until the road turns away to the right. The drain then flows in a deep ditch at the Common side, until it reaches the ‘Straight Mile’ and A57 which it passes under in a culvert, before becoming a ‘big river’ and flowing into the Fosse. As part of work where it passes under the ‘Straight Mile’ and adjacent to it a 10RB excavator was brought into, together with a locomotive, and a number of side tips. By elimination the locomotive was a Ruston & Hornsby 4wDM, either 421432 or 433 of 1959. (Not so. TJH 12/2005: The locomotive was Ruston & Hornsby 13DL 224311/1943). The line was short lived and no trace remains: I visited it on at least one occasion and took photographs.

Three other industrial lines could be found on the Fosse bank; only one was narrow gauge, but the standard gauge lines will also be described. A large employer in the area was ‘H Newsum & Sons’, a ‘constructional joiner’, whose works occupied the site  used in more recent times by AEI (or whatever they called themselves in various rebrandings).

‘Newsums’’ were originally timber merchants, established in November 1856, with works in Broadgate, Lincoln. A family business, it prospered, opening a new plant in Pelham Street after the the original works were destroyed by fire in 1879. Expansion included the opening of new works in Gainsborough, Hull & Manchester. Closure dates for these last two are not available, but Gainsborough closed c1962. Lincoln  closed c2/1956. (The closure was due to financial difficulties).

At the end of the First World War it was felt that the existing site was too small and an extensive freehold site was bought between Carholme Road and the Fosse Dyke Canal (National Grid SK 961716) the new works opening in 1920. Although on the north bank of the Fosse the plant was rail served with a long siding (with storage loop) curving away westwards through undergrowth behind West Holmes signal box. For a general scheme of the area please visit  and also.  (The agreement with the GNR is dated 12th June 1919).

Access to the works across the (narrower than nowadays) Fosse Dyke was by drawbridge, with the ‘plant’ on the northside. A well-known photograph from the ‘R&H’ archives shows the canal narrowed by ‘dolphins’ on both banks. Due to the narrowness of the site shunting must have been difficult. (It would be interesting to know the swl of the bridge, and whether or not the Newsums’ locomotive collected the wagons from the loop on the South side of the canal).

I have a recollection of a point actually on the canal bank, whilst the photograph mentioned above shows a train sat on the bridge, blocking both canal and towpath whilst a crane unloads timber (being a manufacturers photograph it may be posed, of course). Two of the wagons in the photograph bear ‘SR’ and ‘LMS’ brandings; a third possibly carries a ‘Private Owner’ branding.

Two  locomotives worked the line. The second, shown in the photograph below was a Ruston class 44/48HP (RH182148/1937 – locomotive ex works 11th January 1937). The locomotive was the first of its class and it is possible that the photograph is a posed photograph for the RH sales brochure.(This locomotive was  sold on closure to Arthur J Turner of  Gunness Wharf and was still there in 1969. The locomotive was sold in 1969 to Atterby Engineering Services, Scunthorpe and was scrapped [on site?] c.1971). The first locomotive on the site was an unidentified 0-4-0ST (believed to be either by Manning Wardle or Andrew Barclay), which had been sold or scrapped by 1939.

My father worked at Newsums and I have recollections of walking down to the canalside although I have no memory of the site working: the line closed with the works in the mid-1950s. One memory is that the track into the works actually split whilst on the tow path.

The Start of it All for me: Ruston class 44/48HP (RH182148/1937 in the lifting bridge over the Fosse Dyke: an ‘official’ Ruston ‘works photo’
Ruston class 44/48HP (RH182148/1937) in the works: an ‘official’ Ruston ‘works photo’

One thing that Newsums’ produced post 1945 were pre-fabricated houses for the ‘New Town’ of Ajax, Ontario, in the 1950s. (The town was named after the cruiser HMS Ajax). There are a number of historic images of Ajax. The works were visited by a British Pathe film team in 1952. Film shot there is available via the British Pathe website and Youtube

Some 200 yards to the east, and still on the north bank, was the factory site of ‘Lindsey & Kesteven Fertilisers’ (Fisons). Until the early 1970s an imposing drawbridge structure stood on the north bank, carrying a lifting bridge with a standard gauge line into the factory. Personal recollection from that time is of a yard, separated from the towpath by a chain link fence, with a number of sidings in it: there was a derelict (?) open wagon there in the late 60s/early 70s. My 1960s vintage ‘Industrial Locomotives’ makes no mention of locomotives here: possibly haulage was by tractor or horse. (Not so – details to follow. TJH).

When the site was last used, I know not, except that there is an entry for the siding in the 1957 ‘Handbook of Stations’. Neither this line (nor ‘Newsums’) merits an entry in the 1947 LNER ‘Sectional Appendix’.

On the south side of the Fosse the siding trailed into the siding that served ‘Newsums’. (The undergrowth through which ‘Newsums’ siding curved was very thick. You could see nothing of it from the north).

Of possibly more interest to us is a straight stretch of 18in. gauge track that ran to the canalside from the Fison’s works compound. Where it went to inside I don’t know, nor do I know its use, but it is probably sufficient to say that Humber ‘keels’ were working into Lincoln on a commercial basis until the early 1950s. The existence of this track was probably something to do with loading canal craft. (In connection with this site it is interesting to note that Fisons had a siding at their plant near Saxilby: Kesteven Siding, which remained in situ until comparatively recently).