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Saltfleet - Chris Dales

It's 1973 and the Lincolnshire branch line from Louth to Mablethorpe is open for freight trains, its passenger service long since consigned to history. The only regular freight traffic is the small quantity of fuels such as Gas Oil and Kerosene to the local merchant at Saltfleet. Due to the poor condition of the trackwork all trains run straight from Louth to Mablethorpe where the only useable run round loop is located. Shunting is carried out on the return trip to Louth. A speed restriction of 25mph and the crew operated level crossings mean the trip takes around 1½ hours and this alone seems to spell the end for what is a charming operation. At its busiest the train runs twice a week and for a short while brings life to the quiet disused station area. Regular motive power is Class 31 31165 which has only recently gained its TOPS Code. The ESSO tanks still proudly show the company logos - all these are likely to be removed on the next works visit. Once in a while a vanwide is dropped off in the old cattle dock, and cattle feed is off loaded.

All is not lost however and rumours of a north sea gas terminal at nearby Theddlethorpre bring hope of new traffic in construction materials and maintainence spares. This new traffic is likely to bring additonal motive power in the shape of class 37s. This is for the future and could well see the branch into the 1980s. For now the branch line and the people who work on it or are connected with it in any way are content to amble along at this comfortable pace. Profit before people is along way off although the local coal merchant who also manages the fuel depot has cast a glance at the increased use of oil fired central heating by his more well to do clients. The signal protecting the level crossing is out of use as the branch is controlled by token block. The token is issued by the signalman in Louth signal box who also holds the keys to unlock the crossing gates along the line.

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