The Mablethorpe Loop Line
The line from Louth to Mablethorpe opened in October 1877, to help with the transport of agricultural produce, but mostly for the summer traffic to Mablethorpe. Although the line was single, a large station was built at Mablethorpe with two through lines, and two bay platforms facing Louth to the north. The Sutton and Willoughby Railway was primarily intended to serve a large fish and coal docks at Sutton on Sea. The line from Willoughby to Sutton was opened in 1886, and after this an Act of Parliament was granted to join up the railway to the Mablethorpe Station - thereby creating a complete loop. This history explains why the line was mileposted calculated from Louth to Mablethorpe, and from Willoughby to Sutton on Sea.
The docks, which were also intended to be built by a second railway - the Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway were never built, so the line relied mostly on the holiday trade.
Mablethorpe Station, like many others, had various track “makeovers” over the years. The one in the route is an amalgam of various eras, so although it is basically the 1960s, various items have been retained from previous times - such as the engine shed (closed in the 1920s), the water pump, and the retention of the capability to run into the bay platforms from the north.
Unfortunately, the bays at Mablethorpe Station faced north, but most holiday specials came from the south! And once larger engines began pulling the specials, the turntable at Mablethorpe was too small, so the locos would be coupled up, and sent to turn at Firsby triangle.
Although the countryside was quite flat, this is the “marsh” rather than the “fens.” Whilst the fens would typically have straight roads crossing the lines there, and few hedgerows, in the marsh the roads wove through a countryside of pasture, trees and hedges, with the fen-like countryside closer to the coast.
You can see a 1960s video of the Willoughby - Mablethorpe section here (and judge whether the Train Simulator version accurately reflects the actual line!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zztkpCfZWTQ Please note that in the video it is claimed that the Louth to Mablethorpe section closed in 1951. This is incorrect, though I have also read it elsewhere! The line actually closed on December 3rd 1960, with the final dmu being driven by Frank Skeath of Louth, the guard being Mr Bert Fidler, also of Louth, and meeting a B1 Peterborough to Grimsby steam train at Mablethorpe, thus becoming the final train (bar the one removing the track).
Mumby Road Station has been extensively changed from versions 10b onwards, to reflect the actual working practices there. The “summer loop” in the station was signalled and solely used for down trains (i.e. Willoughby to Sutton-on-Sea), and is therefore restricted to that direction. The layout of the line through platform 1 has been realigned at the western end where it had a turnout of its own onto the main line (not one that was also used by sidings as previously configured). The “summer loop” turns towards the platform 1 line close to the bridge, and the main line gradually drifts in to what might have been assumed to be a straight line.
Mumby Road could have been a great junction! The LD&ECR Railway was intended to be built through the wolds from Lincoln, and join the Mablethorpe Loop Line at Mumby Road, so allowing access to the docks at Sutton on Sea!
Much of the detail of the line has been supplied by Dave Barton.
Essential Line Knowledge
The line between Mablethorpe and Louth had not been designed for large locos, and so over many of the small streams, a notice required large locos to reduce speed to 10 mph, as many of the bridges were of wooden construction! The latest regulations for the bridges was that DMUs were allowed to do 30 mph over the bridges, but any train with short wheelbase wagons was required to do 10 mph. In the route therefore, there IS a 30 mph limit, but if you drive a goods train over the bridge, then it is necessary to reduce speed to 10 mph. NB This is the only instance on the entire North Lincs Simulation where there is a dual speed limit. All other parts of the trackwork conform to the steam era standard of just one speed limit for all trains. 12 months before the closure of the line, £50,000 was reputedly spent replacing the weak bridges ................
Approaching Mablethorpe from the north in the section with four parallel lines, there is a signal on the extreme left. This signal refers to the second line in, the one approaching platform 2 NOT the siding/approach to platform 1.
Grimoldby Station served the local RAF Manby.
Saltfleetby Station was sited at the start of a sharp curve, and the lower speed limit of 25mph started half way along the platform.
Theddlethorpe is the next station along the line, before we reach Mablethorpe Station with its four platforms. Because this was the terminus originally, the four platforms faced Louth. However, once the line from Willoughby via Sutton on Sea was built, the bulk of the holiday traffic came from the south, so platforms 1 and 4 were frequently used as carriage sidings.
Between Mablethorpe and Sutton, you’ll notice a WWII concrete “pillbox” and that one of the signal boxes is called “Tramway Crossing.” For a very short period in the 1880s, a steam tramway existed between Alford and Sutton on Sea, and the signal box retained the name.
Sutton on Sea could have been a major port if the LD&ECR plans had come to fruition, but as they didn’t, it was promoted as a seaside resort, with the railway company changing its original name from “Sutton in the Marsh!”
Mumby Road you would think should have been called Thurlby after the nearby village. However, there was a Thurlby Station elsewhere in Lincolnshire, and hence the name Mumby Road (as used in the Flanders and Swann song). There are a total of three Thurlbys in Lincolnshire by the way.
When DMUs were first used in Lincolnshire, the Mablethorpe Loop was the major training line for converting steam era drivers to DMU drivers, due to its quiet existence.
On summer Saturdays, the Cleethorpes-London KX train diverted along the loop for the convenience of holiday makers.
Summer holiday specials could fill Mablethorpe Station with trains mainly from the Midlands, arriving via Lincoln, the New Line and the East Lincs main line.