After my return last month to Britain’s most southerly semaphores at St Erth in Cornwall, it was time for what will probably be my final visit to our most easterly semaphores, namely those at Lowestoft Central.
The end of a 23½ -mile long Wherry Lines route from Norwich is signalled until next February (2020) by an attractive 1885-vintage Great Eastern Railway box with a 61-lever frame, which is thankfully arousing interest in its preservation from local people.
Lowestoft Signal Box has a total of six semaphore arms in regular use, as well as a number of shunting discs and a bracket holding two shunting arms (L10/11 – pictured) which have somehow survived a relaying of redundant sidings just outside the station.
A quick visual tour of its semaphores begins with one that is no longer working, distant signal L59, which can be seen from a footbridge just east of Oulton Broad Junction, and stands close to the Oulton Broad North up outer home signal (pictured above).
For a chance to see outer home signal L58 you will need to take a 10-minute walk from the station along Commercial Road, which runs parallel to and south of the railway, and is a principal access route to the Port of Lowestoft.
After a left hand curve trains approaching Lowestoft Central will then pass home signal L57 shortly before they reach the signal box (pictured above) and enter one of the station’s three remaining platforms, all of which remain in regular use.
A trio of up home signals protect departure from the station, with L3 on a bracket at the end of platform 2 that would once have held a signal protecting long removed platform 1, while a bracket holding L4 and L5 stands at the end of platforms 3&4.
One final semaphore controlled by Lowestoft is up section signal L6, which is mounted above the now-fixed Oulton Broad North up distant signal and, like L58, can best be viewed and photographed from near the end of Commercial Road.
Despite loss of its roof, Lowestoft Central station has been sympathetically restored with some original signage and well worth a visit before the loss of its signalling in February.
For a break between trains, I can recommend Wetherspoons’ Joseph Conrad, across the road from the station, and named after the renowned Polish author and seafarer, who landed at Lowestoft in June 1878 without a word of English.
What was once again noticeable on my 8 October 2019 visit was the absence of new Class 755 bi-mode FLIRT units on either Wherry Line or East Suffolk (Ipswich-Lowestoft) services.
I passed one 755 on my journey to Lowestoft from Norwich but, in spite of their promised arrival (see sign above) every other service remained in the hands of class 153/6/170 units.
When the semaphores at Lowestoft are finally decommissioned next February, the honour of being our most easterly semaphores will move to Deal.
This is a remarkable outpost of mechanical signalling in east Kent, where our fastest domestic trains, the Class 395 Javelins, are briefly controlled by a “Victorian era signalling system” (Greater Anglia Timetable 8). On 12 November 2016 395005 departs Deal with the 12.00 service to Whitstable.
My recent post on the Wherry Lines’ working distant signals is here https://railwayworld.net/2019/10/01/nine-wherry-distants-signalling-the-line/#more-3184 and last month’s visit to Britain’s most southerly semaphores at St. Erth is here https://railwayworld.net/2019/09/14/all-change-at-st-erth/#more-3132
Britain’s last mechanical signalling is out now, and available from publishers Pen & Sword, from good transport bookshops, and from many online retailers.