Semaphores on the Windermere branch

Along with the splendid Furness and Cumbrian Coast Lines, one other Lake District location to retain semaphore signalling is Burneside, the second of three intermediate stations on the ten-mile branch line from Oxenholme to Windermere.

While the single-track branch has no passing loops and operates on a “one engine in steam” basis, Burneside Higher Level Crossing, south-east of Burneside station, is protected by a pair of home signals controlled from a small frame across the road from the crossing keeper’s Portacabin accommodation. 

Burneside is a rather pleasant village, just four miles from the West Coast Main Line at Oxenholme, that is probably best known as the home of paper manufacturer James Cropper PLC, whose large and historic Burneside Mill produces the special red paper used to make Remembrance Day poppies.

Looking south from the remaining platform the crossing’s up home signal can be seen beyond the remains of the station’s former down platform – the platforms were staggered here – as seen above.

195105 approaches the level crossing with 1U94 from Windermere (09.14) to Manchester Airport

Getting to Burneside (it is pronounced Berneyside) Higher Level Crossing is an easy six-minute walk along the main road through the village then up a right turn called Hollins Lane opposite the (sadly closed) Jolly Anglers pub.

The Windermere branch has enjoyed varied fortunes since opening in 1847, with freight services ceasing in 1972 and the line singled the following year, the same time that West Coast Main Line electrification was completed. 

Electrification of the branch was promised in August 2013, as part of a package of new electrification schemes across the north-west, and was due to have been carried out during the current Network Rail Control Period 6 (2019-24). But in July 2017 this was cancelled, along with plans to electrify the Midland Main Line and the Great Western Main Line from Cardiff to Swansea.

195133 passes the level crossing with 1C70 from Manchester Airport (08.27) to Windermere

At the time of my 6 May 2021 visit services on the line were limited to two-hourly Class 195-operated workings between Windermere and Manchester Piccadilly, but the 16 May timetable change promises to see branch services restored to an approximately hourly frequency.

Photographing trains at Burneside is relatively straightforward, with a reasonable  vantage point from the crossing looking north towards the up home signal and station beyond, with another view looking south towards open country and the crossing’s down home signal.  

But for a better view of Windermere-bound services it is worth taking a short walk along a track next to the line and into a field beyond, where there is a good and reasonably unrestricted view back towards the crossing and signals.