Eerie Errol

Together with the signal box at Dunkeld that featured in my previous post, another of the many Scottish boxes to enjoy listed status is the one at Errol, mid-way between Perth and Dundee and site of a former station, which only closed in September 1985.

Like Dunkeld, it is not only the signal box that is listed at Errol, but also the station building, built in 1847 for the Dundee & Perth Railway, as well in this case as the skeleton of a cast iron footbridge linking the two remarkably intact station platforms.

170427 passes the former Errol station on 3 November 2020 with the 12.47 Aberdeen-Glasgow Queen Street (1T22)

But there is something of a sad feel to Errol today, with the footbridge looking badly neglected and the station building, which from 1990 to 2000 was home to the award winning Errol Station Trust museum, also in need of some TLC.

To cap it all, the fine collection of six semaphore signals that I had photographed on my previous visit in May 2017 has now been reduced to just four, following last year’s removal of down starter ER15 and up home ER9, the latter having been mounted on a short lattice post.  

Despite having been slated for closure in 2016, what does survive intact and fully working is the attractive signal box, an 1877-vintage Caledonian Railway Company Type 1 signal box housing a 20-lever locking frame dating from 1911.

In the citation for its listing, Errol Signal Box is described as “a rare and early example of the first standardised Caledonian Railway signal box. Located beside a level crossing, Errol is the best representative of the six Type 1 boxes remaining in the country (as of 2013).” 

170418 passing Errol on 16 May 2017 with the 13.38 Aberdeen-Glasgow Queen Street where it approaches the now-removed up home signal ER9

What is noticeable about Errol Signal Box is that its “full-width 4-bay timber glazing to upper stage” has not been ruined during refurbishment, when glazing was matched with the original, rather than its appearance wrecked by the installation of modern uPVC windows, as in so many historic signal boxes.  

The other lost Errol semaphore is down starter ER15, seen here on 16 May 2017 (on the right) as 170456 passes with the 13.41 Glasgow Queen Street-Aberdeen

After its closure in 1985 Errol station was bought by the Errol Station Trust, the buildings were carefully restored and opened as The Railway Heritage Centre on 26th May 1990, winning the Railway Preservation Societies/Ian Allan Premier Award for Best Preserved Station in Britain that year. 

43036/032 pass Errol Signal box and down home signal ER16 on 3 November 2020 with the 12.39 Glasgow Queen Street-Aberdeen (1A63)

Seven years after closure, on September 27 1992, the Trust’s success was celebrated when the station reopened for a day and crowds of passengers travelled on the six trains which called there that day. But by the year 2000 the Trust had folded, the museum closed and the station buildings became a domestic dwelling.

The four surviving semaphores at Errol comprise down home ER16 close to the signal box and down section signal ER14 some distance north of the station, while in the up direction home signal ER8 stands at the end of the former platform and section signal ER10 stands 300 yards south of the level crossing. 

43036/032 pass down section signal ER14 on 3 November 2020 with the 12.39 Glasgow Queen Street-Aberdeen (1A63) – seen also in bottom photo

There is a good vantage point to photograph passing trains from the level crossing as well as from a track running along the south side of the railway to a point well beyond the end of the former platforms and close to signal ER14.

One particular highlight of my afternoon visit to Errol (Tuesday, 3 November 2020) was the sight of DRS 68003 passing with a working from Grangemouth to Aberdeen Craiginches, which was apparently the first freight train to pass since the route at Carmont had re-opened the previous day, following the fatal derailment there on 12 August (photo above).  

A view of the signal box and level crossing on 16 May 2017 showing the now-removed up home signal ER9 on its short lattice post

Errol is the middle one of three surviving mechanical signal boxes along the 20¾ mile route from Perth to Dundee, along with Barnhill on the outskirts of Perth, where there are also four semaphore signals, and the box at Longforgan, towards Dundee, with just two surviving semaphores.