Class 37-haulage may finally be at an end on the Wherry Lines, but there are still a few months left to appreciate another charming aspect of these routes from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
What operator Abellio describes in its timetable leaflet as a “Victorian era signalling system” was due to have been replaced in the Spring, but the usual delays in any railway infrastructure project means the semaphore signals will now survive until a three-week shut-down in February 2020.
As I have written before, one notable feature of the Wherry Lines’ signalling is the remarkable number of working distant signals. So, having managed to photograph two that I had previously missed on a visit last Friday, here is a look at the network’s operational distants.
I had rather been hoping to see more action involving the new Stadler FLIRT Class 755 bi-mode trains, but during my 27 September 2019 visit services continued to be predominantly in the hands of Class 153/6/170 units, with just one solitary appearance by a new unit (755422).
Beginning our tour by heading east towards Great Yarmouth, first up is BL35, Brundall’s Acle line up distant signal. It is seen above from “Church Lane No. 4 Footpath” shortly after 170206 has passed on 27 September with the 11.17 Great Yarmouth-Norwich and approaches up outer home BL34 (with sighting board behind).
Looking in the opposite direction from this foot crossing reveals the Chapel Road Level Crossing down distant CR1 beyond a disused over-bridge and its bagged replacement. Here 153306 approaches with the 11.36 Norwich-Great Yarmouth.
Next up and just beyond a second over-bridge carrying Hemblington Road is Lingwood Level Crossing’s down distant LR3, seen above on 6 May 2019 as the short-set approaches in the hands of 37423 Spirit of the Lakes and 37716
Continuing eastwards beyond Lingwood station and another foot crossing of the line offers a view of the crossing box’s up distant L1, again seen on 6 May 2019 as the short set and 37716/423 approaches with the 11.17 Great Yarmouth-Norwich.
Last of the Acle line distants is A1, the up distant, which can be seen across a field from the A47 trunk road and, in this view, from a foot crossing on the Weaver’s Way long distance path. On 27 September 755422 approaches A1, which is partially obscured by its replacement, with the 15.17 Great Yarmouth-Norwich.
Moving onto the Lowestoft route, where a number of distants have already been lost with the closure of Reedham Junction Signal Box, first up is BL32, the only one to be on a bracket. It is seen above from Strumpshaw Level Crossing on 27 September as 153309 approaches with the 11.48 Lowestoft-Norwich.
Continuing in a south-easterly direction, the next sighting of yellow and black is Cantley down distant C22, which is seen here on 6 May 2019 as it is passed by 37423/716 with a shortened short set (two coaches not three) forming the 14.55 Norwich-Lowestoft.
Heading beyond Cantley station and the huge sugar refinery, another foot crossing of the line gives you the chance for a rear view of up distant C1. This is a very new signal that replaced one which famously collapsed due to rust a few years ago! Here 37716/423 approach on 6 May 2019 with the 15.48 Lowestoft-Norwich.
One final working example on the Lowestoft line is Oulton Broad North’s down distant OB3. It is seen above from Borrow Road over-bridge as 153335 passes with 14.55 from Norwich on 20 June 2019, shortly after this working had ceased to be operated by the short set.
My new book “Britain’s last mechanical signalling” is out now, and is available from publishers Pen & Sword, from good transport bookshops and many online retailers.