Bye-bye Bridlington

Almost three years after my final visit to see the wonderful collection of semaphores on Humberside between Gilberdyke and Ferriby it is time to pay a return to East Yorkshire on Saturday, 17 July 2021 and to another place that is poised to lose its mechanical signalling. 

The seaside resort of Bridlington is one of just two remaining outposts of semaphores along the Hull-Scarborough Yorkshire Coast Line, but time is almost up for the handful of signals controlled by the magnificent Bridlington South Signal Box, with re-signalling due in October 2021.

Unlike the Humberside re-signalling project, finally completed in November 2018, the work in Bridlington will thankfully not see closure of the signal box. It will simply lose its 65-lever frame and have a new signalling panel installed to control the semaphore-signalled section of route south of the station. 

155347 passes the signal box 25 minutes late with 2R13 from York (11.45) to Bridlington

Bridlington station has been dramatically rationalised over the years, as the loss of its once huge excursion traffic in the 1960s has seen what was once eight platforms reduced to just three, with Sheffield-Scarborough services using through platforms 4 and 5, and platform 6 used by terminating services.

The resort town is known as the Lobster Capital of Europe for its prodigious landing of crustaceans, and stands 31 rail miles and around 45 minutes from Hull. Its basic pattern of rail services comprises hourly Sheffield-Scarborough workings and hourly services from York, which will wait around 15 minutes in platform 6 before their return. 

155347 departs Bridlington 21 minutes late with 2R14 (14.00) to York

On the hot summer day of my visit (Saturday, 17 July) trains on the Yorkshire Coast Line were very busy and also delayed, due to speed restrictions caused by heat on the rails between Beverley and Bridlington. Scarborough services were formed of 3-car Class 170 units, with 2-car Class 155 units on the Bridlington-York workings. 

170460 departs 7 minutes late with 1J49 from Scarborough (14.00) to Sheffield

As its name suggests, the resort town’s surviving signal box stands some way south-west of the station, with all but two of its surviving nine semaphores visible from a road over-bridge at the western end of the station. 

The five semaphores controlling up departures from Bridlington station

These are a trio of up home signals protecting exit from the three surviving platforms, two other redundant signals controlling exit from former excursion platforms 7 and 8 – now being transformed into a new Lidl supermarket – along with up and down home signals close to the box, with a shunting arm beneath the down. 

From a second over-bridge close to the signal box another disused home signal can be seen on the right protecting access to two lengthy and disused carriage sidings south of this bridge, while the final semaphore controlled by Bridlington South is an up section signal, which can be seen in the distance from this bridge. 

170460 departs Bridlington with 1J49 from Scarborough (14.00) to Sheffield

There is also a great view of the signal box, and a chance to photograph trains arriving and leaving the station, from behind a B&Q store opposite the box. 

155347 arrives 25 minutes late with 2R13 from York (11.45) to Bridlington

Besides its fine signal box, Bridlington station is also a remarkable structure that gained a Grade II Listing in April 2003, by virtue of being a fine example of Edwardian railway architecture with carefully detailed interior fixtures and fittings, designed by the notable railway architect, William Bell.

A wonderful floral display in the station but the famous buffet is sadly closed

The station is also a good example of the North Eastern Railway seaside stations built for the greatly increased excursion traffic in the early twentieth century. One notable feature (sadly now closed), is the station’s refreshment rooms, one of a very few such establishments nationally which retained its original internal arrangement, in addition to good quality fixtures and fittings.

155342 arrives 30 minutes late at Bridlington with 2R17 from York (13.43)

Once Bridlington’s semaphores are lost, the only survivors along this route will be the four controlled by the NER 1874-vintage gate box in the village of Gristhorpe, just north of Filey. Gristhorpe Crossing also retains hand operated wooden gates and its box stands the opposite side of a quiet country from a well-preserved former station (closed February 1959).