Nos. 8 - p184-186





    Of all the ironstone quarries, Pilton is one visited less frequently than most, and there are probably two reasons for this. It is relatively isolated -there is not much else to see in the vicinity except for Ketton Cement Works - and the locomotive stock has not changed in twenty years apart from the two occasions when STAVELEY (Bagnall 2629 of 1941) was loaned to other quarries. It is nonetheless an interesting and compact little system, with its stiff bank curving up from the B.R. line at about 1 in 25 to a reversing junction beyond the road bridge. Its narrow gauge associations are still quite vividly recollected by the older members of the staff who will readily show the visitor where PIXIE (Bagnall 2090 of 1919) used to work, removing spoil from the cuttings.

    The locomotive stock, as stated above, is unchanged; one engine is used daily, with a second spare. STAVELEY, the latest (wartime) acquisition, has never been as popular as the two older Avonsides and in June 1962 was relegated to a siding (a former loop) on the way to the quarries, and was thus easily missed by anyone visiting the shed only. In April 1963 she was taken down to the shed for examination, but pronounced beyond economical repair. PILTON (Avonside 1832 of 1919) appears to be the preferred engine, but at the time of writing is being retubed and STAMFORD (Avonside 1972 of 1927) does its daily quota of four-or-so trips between quarry and reception sidings. She and PILTON carry a plain livery of light green, but STAVELEY retains its original Bagnall style.

    The quarry has altered little also and the only working pit - Ancaster - has been extended in a southerly direction. The line to Wing arid Scotts pits is still intact as far as the junction by Pilton village and is in a cutting all the way from where the Ancaster branch diverges. No traffic has passed this way since about 1957 and the rails are rusty, the banks bushy and the railbed carpeted with soft grass. The scene at Pilton is very reminiscent of a B.R. country junction, with the two lines running off into their cuttings, and is exceedingly beautiful - or so it seemed to me. There has been some afforestation of the quarry areas at these two pits. The line to Wing pit runs through an orchard and over an occupation crossing behind a farm, beyond which the rails are nearly buried; this line has been disused a long time. Scotts pit was in use later and the track is still in place.

    The quarry machinery in Ancaster pit is now all electric, but was steam worked quite late, the Ruston excavator being scrapped about 1960 and the Transporter (Stothert & Pitt of about 1940) about a year later. Kept on in case it were needed, the latter is believed to have been the last of its kind in the country. Standard iron-ore tipplers are used throughout and the old M.S.C.-type wagons all appear to have gone now.

    Quarry working during the 1962—3 winter was a hard business; at Pilton, for example, they had to blast to slew the track, and when the thaw finally came derailments were caused as the track subsided.

    Almost the same distance in the opposite direction from Luffenham station lie the still very noticeable remains of the Luffenham quarries, and I paid a visit here to have a look around generally and to try to clear up a rather curious point that had arisen concerning the solitary locomotive that worked here. The site has altered hardly at all, though the nice level crossing gates have gone; the loco shed still stands, pot and ail, despite its conversion to agricultural use. Beyond the crossing there are traces of a concrete road, which presumably confirms the story that locomotive operation ceased with the end of ironstone quarrying, as the subsequent asphalt manufacture depended on lorry transport of material from the quarry, plus slag from Corby. The tarmac plant on the south side of the L.M.S. line has been dismantled and the site is overgrown. A bungalow has been built by the former ironstone reception siding.

    The locomotive (Manning Wardle 1286 of 1894) has always been referred to by those who knew the line as CARRINGTON, and she was known by this name when at Kettering. Mr. F. Jones has recently come across an early photograph of this engine in its contracting days (? with Holme & King) with a typical Manning Wardle nameplate CARINGTON[1], with one R only. Just a simple aural error, you might think, would explain the discrepancy; in recollection she would almost certainly be referred to phonetically with a short "a", which would be translated as a double "r". But it isn‘t as simple as that, not by a long chalk, The Engine Repair Records of the Kettering Iron & Coal Co.Ltd. were extracted by Mr. K.P. Plant and under No. 9 for 25/11/1915 is the note "two new nameplates on tank". This immediately suggests that CARRINGTON plates were cast - but, the instructions could have been given orally, with the phonetic misinterpretation quoted.

    On my visit I tried to get some confirmation of this theory and the foreman at Luffenham station gave me the useful lead that Eddie Stafford, a former navvy driver, now worked as a locomotive driver at Ketton Cement Works. A letter to this gentleman produced information (but not confirmation) adequately clinched by a photograph which shows the locomotive with a new plate alright - THE LUFFENHAM IRON CO. LTD. As this company was not formed until 1918, these plates could not be the ones cast in 1915, and indeed CARRINGTON did not leave Kettering for Luffenhan until 1919. What were the latter then? We go back to the old theory, that they were indeed CARR1NGTON, unless such plates had already been fitted earlier; the locomotive may well have worked at, and been named after, the Carrington near Manchester, (Carrington Moss became a housing estate about the turn of the century, as I recall in some writings by the late T.A. Coward, the ornithologist.) In any event, Mr. Stafford insists that she was named CARRINGTON when she came to Luffenham, and THE LUFFENHAM IRON CO. LTD. plates were fitted at Luffenham; the old CARRINGTON plates then reposed in the shed. There is nothing of them to be seen now, and I made a careful search. No doubt they went for scrap, but it is an intriguing thought that maybe they are still there, buried perhaps. Would anyone like to take part in an archaeological "dig" with a railway flavour?

1   Manning Wardle records confirm this spelling (one "r")
The photograph referred to is reproduced on page 171.