Surviving semaphores on the Robin Hood Line

Finding new locations with semaphore signalling is proving increasingly difficult, so when I saw a picture posted online of a distant signal controlled by Norwood Level Crossing on the Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire it seemed like a good opportunity to pay a visit.

Armed with some remarkably cheap advance purchase tickets from King’s Cross via Retford and Worksop, I travelled first to Creswell, the station north of Norwood Crossing, where there are numerous semaphores, all semi-permanently “pulled off” and controlled by the mothballed Elmton & Creswell Junction Signal Box.

Once I had explored the photographic opportunities around Creswell station, my plan was to walk to Norwood Crossing and then on to the next Robin Hood Line station at Langwith-Whaley Thorns, attempting to see and photograph the crossing’s signals along the way. 

Consulting my OS Explorer Map (270) it looked like there were a number of paths and lanes crossing the 3¼-miles of railway between Creswell and Langwith – as seen in the extracts of the map below – that could provide some opportunity to see up signals controlled by the crossing.   

158865 departs Creswell with 2W13 from Nottingham (12.25) to Worksop

My day out on Wednesday, 16 June 2021, nearly came unstuck before it had begun, when I got to King’s Cross to find my booked 09.06 train had been cancelled. But after some polite persistence in the ticket office I was informed that the 09.30 to Edinburgh would make a special stop for me to alight at Retford, so full marks for that to LNER!

The boarded-up Elmton & Creswell Junction Signal Box (closed to regular use since September 2013) stands some distance north of the station platforms at Creswell, with suggestions that it might be formally abolished later this year.

It is an LMS Type 11c design dating from 1946 that houses a 48-lever frame and once controlled the junction of a line known as the Clowne branch heading north-west towards Barrow Hill and Chesterfield, part of which has now become the Clowne Greenway. 

Arriving from Worksop, trains pass a home and distant signal some way north of the station and largely obscured from the platform by vegetation. A down home signal stands at the platform end, with its Clowne branch junction arm removed, while south of the station a post has up home and distant signals. 

Creswell station looking south

Creswell and Langwith-Whaley Thorns stations were on the final section of the 31½-mile long Robin Hood Line to have re-opened, when passenger services on the 13-mile section of line from Mansfield Woodhouse to Worksop began on 25 May 1998. Today the route’s hourly services are in the hands of Class 158/170 units, with the 25½-mile journey from Creswell to Nottingham taking 50 minutes.    

Services along the EMR-operated route seem poor and unreliable – my planned 11.39 departure from Worksop was suddenly cancelled when 158854 developed a fault so, with no apology, I and fellow passengers to told to get off and wait an hour for the next service. Punctuality also seems dismal, and talking to fellow passengers it seems that delays and cancellations are a regular occurrence. 

56081 approaches Creswell with 5Q46 from Derby Litchurch Lane to Worksop Down Yard

After some decent shots from the up platform at Creswell, where the highlight was 56081 and 47749 top-and-tailing new SWR unit 701003 on a move from Derby to storage at Worksop, the other good vantage point for the station is from a footpath over-bridge south of the station, reached by taking a five-minute walk along Welbeck Street from the foot of the station approach.

47749 at the rear of the working to take new SWR unit 701003 to storage at Worksop

From this bridge my hot and dusty walk to Langwith took me south to another over-bridge, then west to Frithwood Farm, beyond which a left turn onto a path called the Archaeological Way took me down to the road that leads east to Norwood Crossing, where I was able to get this photo of the signalling panel.

Had I continued my walk south by continuing along the Archaeological Way to the west of the railway line, I might have been able to get a shot of the crossing’s modern motor-worked down home signal NX2, but having missed that opportunity I instead walked along a path on the east side of the line, passing Norwood Farm (map below).

Having finally reached Langwith on a scorching hot day, my attempts to find a vantage point to photograph Norwood Crossing’s down distant NX1 sadly ended in failure, although it can just be seen in this shot from a footbridge south of the station, where it stands close to Shirebrook Junction’s up distant SJ34. 

Returning to Workshop on another delayed train from Langwith (16.13 train 22 minutes late) one final calling point on an otherwise fraught day was the delightful and multi award-winning Mallard pub on platform 1 at Worksop station, where a couple of pints of Bateman’s XXXB went down rather well!

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