Fantastic Foxfield

Time seems to stand still in signalling terms along the delightful Cumbrian Coast Line, a route that is our finest remaining outpost of semaphore signalling, but change is taking place at Foxfield, a location featured in my December 2020 post on working distant signals around Millom.

Paying a return visit to seek out a couple of photographic locations that I was unable to get to in December, I learn that the two Foxfield distant signals are being motorised, ending the heroic pulls signallers have had to make from the station’s 1879-vintage wooden signal box.

 After a shoulder injury sustained by one luckless Foxfield signaller, up distant FD1, featured in the top photo and standing well over a mile from the signal box, was finally motorised over the weekend of 1/2 May 2021, as denoted by the new short yellow lever seen below.

Next up is down distant FD51, also around a mile away from the box, which is being converted to motor operation over the weekend of 8/9 May 2021. To mark these changes a new diagram has been installed in the signal box, the words “motor operated” alongside FD51 being covered up on the date of my visit just days before the change, as seen below.

My photographic challenge during a visit on 5 May 2021 was to get shots of trains passing the two Foxfield distant signals, so for the close up shot of up distant FD1 I travelled from my base at Millom to the request stop at Green Road, mid-way between Millom and Foxfield, then walked the mile or so north to Lady Hall Crossing.  

While it is just possible to see FD1 from Foxfield station and the steps of its splendid Furness Railway signal box, there is a fine view of the newly-motorised distant from this foot crossing, which you reach be taking a delightful 25 minute walk from Green Road station, along a track signed to Low Shaw Farm then onto a path that follows a slight embankment round a left hand curve to the crossing.

156483 crosses Duddon Sands with 2C42 from Carlisle (07.10) to Barrow-in-Furness

After getting the shot I was after I walked back to Green Road and flagged down the next Barrow-bound service to travel to another request stop, Kirkby-in-Furness, from where I planned to walk the two miles back to Foxfield.

As can be seen from this extract of OS map 96, a path runs parallel to the railway as far as a place called Angerton Hall, where a User Worked Crossing (UWC) of the line gives you a distant view looking north along the dead straight section of line to FD51, around a mile south of Foxfield.  

156483 heads towards FD51 with 2C49 from Barrow (10.22) to Carlisle

Having secured the shot I was looking for at Angerton Hall UWC, I continued north along the narrow lane seen in the map and part of the Cumbrian Coastal Path, passing the Duddon Mosses National Nature Reserve on my right before reaching another level crossing, known as Angerton Hall No. 2 UWC.

Note the signal wire as 156475 passes FD51 with 2C57 from Barrow (14.17) to Carlisle

I had reached here on foot from Foxfield in December and was keen to get shots in better weather of a Carlisle-bound train passing FD51, and then, looking north, the Foxfield down outer home signal FD50. 

156475 approaches down outer home signal FD50 with 2C57 from Barrow (14.17) to Carlisle

For those who may have missed my previous post, Foxfield’s 52-lever frame controls a total of seven semaphore arms, comprising the three mentioned above along with an up starter (FD5) at the south end of the station’s island platform, as seen below.

156469 passes FD5 and approaches Skelly Crag Level Crossing with 2C50 from Carlisle to Barrow

Looking north from the station platform there are three stop signals – these being a down home (FD49) close to the signal box and seen below then, as the line sweeps round to the left to cross the estuary, up home (FD3) and down section signal FD48 beyond it.

Foxfield station as seen from Skelly Crag Level Crossing, with FD5 behind a sighting board

Given the small size of surviving adjacent boxes at Askam and Millom, it is interesting to wonder why a remote spot like Foxfield was equipped with such a large box and 52-lever frame, of which only seven, plus three gate locking levers, remain in use today, with no crossovers, sidings or shunting discs whatsoever.

156469 passes up home FD3 with 2C50 from Carlisle (11.07) to Barrow

But Foxfield once had extensive sidings on both sides of the line and dealt with a considerable amount of freight traffic, as well as being junction for a branch line to Coniston via Broughton-in-Furness, which lost its passenger service as long ago as October 1958 and closed completely in 1962.

Foxfield’s attractive wooden signal box along with water tower and down home FD49

The box’s survival is in no small measure due to its close proximity to the manned Skelly Crag level crossing, just south of the station, whose gate keeper must telephone the Foxfield signaller for permission to open the crossing gates to vehicular traffic. 

156444 passes down section signal FD48 with 2C59 from Barrow (14.49) to Carlisle

Being immediately adjacent to the main road would make automation of this crossing very difficult, as there is no space for any cars wishing to use the crossing to pull off the main road if they are held waiting to cross by a passing train. 

No more shoulder strain as FD51 is motorised and this lever gets a shorter replacement!

Foxfield is a really delightful place to visit and photograph trains passing its semaphores and travelling around the picturesque Duddon Sands estuary, and should be an even more attractive spot when the Prince of Wales pub, across the road from the station, finally re-opens.

My sincere thanks to signaller Richard Wilson at Foxfield for his time, wisdom and kind hospitality

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