Rowland Winn knew that if he was to maximise the exploitation of his iron-ore mines the necessitation of a railway was needed. In 1860 George Dawes had laid a line from the iron-ore site to the top of the escarpment where it was transferred to horse & cart to the bottom of the hill and then back to rail for the remainder of the journey to the trent. The line Winn contemplated would bring coal from Yorkshire and carry iron east & west. This would be an undertaking that Winn could not finance himself, he also required an Act of Parliament so he put it in the hands of his solicitors, Nicholson, Hett & Freer of Brigg. The South Yorkshire Railway Company (SY) had a line which stopped at the River Trent at Keadby, whilst the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company (MSL) had a line which ran through Gainsborough to Barnetby and onto Grimsby. Winn wanted a link to be made from Keadby through to Barnetby, some fourteen mile stretch. In 1860, John Hett the leading member of the firm of solicitors began consulting with John Roseby, Winns mining agent, as to the layout of the proposed railway. He also made sure that there where no objections from Lord Yarborough and T.G. Corbett, squire of Elsham.
William Cook Atkinson, an engineer from Brigg surveyed and plotted the route whilst the lawyers dealt with the legal aspects including the application for the Act of Parliament for which also required details of land ownership and the nature of the land to be crossed. John Hett was in constant touch with the London firm of lawyers in order to get the Bill through Parliament.
Many journeys had to be taken locally to find out who were the owners and occupiers of the land likely to be affected by the railway and to ascertain how much cutting, banking and tunnelling was going to be necessary. A 902 yard long tunnel had been planned to run from part way up Brumby Hill, parallel with Brumby Wood Lane to roughly the rear of where the Royal Mail Office stands today. Tunnelling was a dangerous and an expensive affair so it was replaced by a cutting, this meant a good deal of work was needed to change the gradient of the line including extending the viaduct to an 85 arched, 1 in 92 foot gradient structure. This decision seems to have been made before the end of 1860 but the plans submitted to parliament show a tunnel.
Rowland Winn and John Hett were called to London from time to time to discuss difficult points with the London solicitors of Dyson & Co. Winn had hoped to avoid problems but the South Yorkshire Railway Company (SY) to a somewhat jaundice view of the proposed railway which would bar their way into Lincolnshire . The Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company (MSL) never to scorn a fight with its neighbours made things difficult for Winn. So in order to keep the project on coarse Winn himself stepped into the negotiations.
George Dawes had been unable to help financially as he was bound to when he accepted the lease for mining from Winn even though the line would be beneficial to his mining activity. This left Winn needing the support of the railway companies more than ever, to this end Winn had to give concessions to the rail companies in agreeing to carry their goods at a lower price than he desired.
On 22 July 1861 the Queens assent was received for the Trent, Ancholme & Grimsby Railway Bill, though by this time much of the line had been constructed. The South Yorkshire Railway Company was to extend its line from Keadby building a bridge over the River Trent and a line one mile to the east. The problem with the River Trent was that it was a navigable river serving the town of Gainsborough which had seen a decline in river trade in the 1840s, the Gainsborough townsfolk feared a bridge over the River Trent At Keadby would accelerate the decline further. Also the river traders opposed the bridge as it was feared the piers needed to support the bridge would be a constant hazard to shipping traffic. Indeed their were accidents with quite a number of vessels striking the piers. The Admiralty of the Board of Trade were called to make enquires to help save ‘lives and property’. The railway put it down to poor navigation.
The major engineering problems for Chief Engineer Charles Bartholomew were the Frodingham viaduct, the Frodingham cutting & embankments bridging the River Ancholme and embankments at Santon and Wrawby.
The line also required the construction of either road bridges or level crossings, with bridges being more expensive the Board of Trade appointed Colonel Yolland to examine where and where-not to construct road bridges. He concluded that a bridge should be built where todays station stands (Howdens Hill) and one near to where the first station was built, where Brigg Rd meets High Street East, (not to be confused with the current bridge over the line on Brigg Rd). In the end neither bridge were built but level crossings instead.
It wasn’t until some sixty years later when the third station was built that the bridges were constructed with Howdens Hill bridge opening on Sunday 17th July 1927,the current station opened on Sunday 11th March 1928, the original bridge over the line on Brigg Rd opened on Thursday 28th June 1928 and the original Frodingham foot bridge opened on 30th July 1928. The first station was built on the east side of the old stretch of Brigg Rd (this stretch of Brigg Rd today runs along the front of Corus’s large glass office complex). A licence for passenger trains to run the whole fourteen mile stretch of line was issued on 1st October 1866. The first station was however slated fo its sparseness and having no gas lights, in 1887 the second station opened to the west side of the old stretch of Brigg Rd, (the platform is still partially visible looking east from the current Brigg Rd road bridge). In 1888 the Station Hotel was built behind.
The first bridge over the River Trent (pictured left) was constructed by the South Yorkshire Railway Company. It was designed by Charles Bartholomew and was 484ft long by 25ft wide with a single track, the swing section was 160ft long. The first engine across the bridge was driven by Thomas Woodruff Woodley in May 1864. The bridge was strengthened before the first passenger train which was driven by Joshua Slowan.
After fifty service the bridge was deemed to be unsafe and dangerous and was replaced by the current bridge. The King George V Bridge was opened in 1916 some 200ft downstream of the original bridge, named after the then King who reigned from 1910-36. The bridge is more commonly known locally as Keadby Bridge. This is a road/rail bridge and is to the Scherzer ‘rolling lift’ design, pivoted with a counter-weight one end. The first train to cross the bridge left Althorpe station on 21st May 1916 at 10:35am with Joshua Slowan, driver of the first passenger train over the first bridge, on the footplate at the age of 76. Ten years after the bridge opened it was upgraded with the footpath being moved to the outer side of the structure to allow the road to be widened. Over the years many vessles have either struck or become stuck on the bridge and in hot weather expansion of the metal would cause lifting difficulties. As of 1st April 1956 the bridge’s lifting span, in the face of opposition from Gainsborough Urban District Council and other shipping concerns, by Act of Parliament has remained in the down position.