Two notable Marches Line signal boxes

Among 14 signal boxes controlling the busy Marches Line between Shrewsbury and Newport, two of the finest and most historic survivors are identical LNWR/GW joint designs at Leominster and at nearby Woofferton Junction (seen above) both believed to date from 1875.

The Marches Line remains a charming outpost of mechanical signalling, and despite last year’s loss of semaphores at Tram Inn no less than ten of the route’s boxes control some semaphore signalling, including the neighbouring boxes at Leominster and Woofferton.

In the case of Leominster, mechanical signalling is confined to home and section signals in the down (southbound) direction, but there is more to see at Woofferton, with a total of eight semaphore arms, three in each direction on the main line and one each controlling entry and exit to a loop on the up (northbound) side of the line.

TfW 175113 passes Leominster Signal Box with 1V38 from Manchester Piccadilly (09.31) to Carmarthen. Photo below shows DB 66124 with one of the few remaining freight workings on the Marches Line – a service from Dee Marsh to Margam.

Leominster Signal Box stands some distance south of the town and station and boasts a 30-lever frame. Its two semaphores are down home LE28 and down section signal LE27, both of which can be seen from the bridge carrying a road towards the town that leads from a roundabout on the A49 trunk road. 

TfW 153329 is the rear of two Class 153 units forming 1W54 from Milford Haven (07.06) to Manchester Piccadilly – a service normally operated by Class 158/175 units

Approaching Leominster along the A49 from the south there is also a convenient and safe pull-in off the main road just south of LE27 (pictured below), from where it is possible to get shots of southbound trains.

TfW 175113 approaches LE27 with 1V38 from Manchester Piccadilly to Carmarthen.

Heading seven miles north to Woofferton, the best view of the signal box and most of its signals is from another road leading west off the north-south A49, in this case a bridge carrying the B4632, from which there is a view looking south of down section signal W36 (photo below featuring 158826).

TfW 175112 is still in its former Arriva Trains Wales livery as it passes Woofferton with 1W56 from Carmarthen (08.59) to Manchester Piccadilly

Looking north towards the former station site there is a good view of the box and four of its semaphores, up home W3 being closest with a bracket holding up starter W7 and up junction (loop line) arm W8 almost opposite the box and down home W37 beyond the abutments of a former bridge over the line.

TfW 158826 passes the site of Woofferton Junction station with 1V39 from Manchester Piccadilly (10.32) to Swansea

2021 is a notable year in the history of Woofferton Junction, being 60 years since the station and line from here to Tenbury Wells were closed on 31 July 1961. Services from Tenbury Wells to Bewdley, now on the preserved Severn Valley Railway, lasted one more year, before withdrawal on 1 August 1962. 

TfW 175009 passes signal W37 and approaches Woofferton Junction Signal Box with 1V40 from Manchester Piccadilly (11.32) to Carmarthen

For a second vantage point at Woofferton it is worth heading to an over-bridge north of the village on a road called Park Lane that also leads off the A49. This is roughly at the mid-point of the little-used up loop and gives a chance to see southbound trains passing down home W37 (picture above) and those heading towards Shrewsbury passing up section signal W9 and the north end of the loop (pictured below and featuring TfW 175111). 

My book “Britain’s last mechanical signalling” (published in July 2019) is still available from publishers Pen & Sword and from many online retailers.

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