Having spent much of last year touring the length and breadth of Great Britain in search of surviving semaphore signals to feature in my forthcoming book, I can confidently say that the finest stretch of mechanical signalling in Britain is the 94½ mile stretch of Cumbrian Coast from Arnside, north of Lancaster, along the Furness Line to Barrow-in-Furness, and then on up the Cumbrian Coast Line to Wigton, south-west of Carlisle.
This fascinating and scenic route, boasts no less than 17 signal boxes and two gate boxes controlling semaphore signals, most of which are at stations, and so easily accessible to the rail-borne traveller. Getting around is relatively straightforward (strikes permitting, of course) with Northern Rail services along the routes being roughly hourly from Carlisle to Barrow, with a slightly higher frequency between Barrow and Lancaster.
There are numerous wonderful photo-spots – the photo at the top of my home page, for example, is of DRS 37218/609 on a Sellafield–Heysham Power Station nuclear flasks working at Foxfield – and other particularly delightful and rural spots include Bootle, St. Bees, Silecroft and Askam
Among the route’s larger stations, Barrow-in-Furness and Workington stand out, along with Ulverston, the subject of a previous photo-spots feature. But another equally charming spot on the Furness Line is the genteel and Victorian seaside resort of Grange-over-Sands.
Getting to Grange-over-Sands from the West Coast Main Line at Lancaster takes you past Carnforth and its vast collection of heritage rolling stock, then on to Arnside, where a Grade II-Listed Furness Railway signal box from 1897 stands just beyond the western end of the up platform.
The line then crosses the River Kent estuary on the 50-span Arnside Viaduct before sweeping west to the edge of Morecambe Bay.
Five minutes after crossing the viaduct a long section of straight track close to the estuary shore brings you to the first mechanical signals at Grange-over-Sands, where a down home and up advanced starter stand some 400 yards east of the town’s delightful and Grade II-listed station.
The line then curves to the right before passing the 25-lever 1956 British Rail (London Midland Region) signal box, which stands just west of the station on the seaward side, between the railway and the Cumbrian Coastal Way footpath.
An up starter stands opposite the box, while beyond there is a down starter some distance further on, but easily seen and photographed from a public park running alongside the railway. This is a delightful spot to view trains and signals, with the first of two fine vantage points being a footbridge east of the station and easily reached along the coastal path.
For a good view of the down starter and the up home beyond it, go into the park on the town side of the railway and stand close to or on the fifth bench along, where a helpfully low fence gives a fine view of the two signals as the line curves round to the left.
Featured here (all on 6 April 2017) are DRS 37401 on a Preston-Barrow service, 156472 on the 10.44 to Lancaster, 156455/469 on the 11.47 to Preston, and 185134 departing for Barrow