After an enjoyable visit last month (2 August 2021) to Par and St. Blazey, it is time to pay a return visit to another of the doomed trio of Cornish signal boxes and spend a few hours photographing trains and semaphores at Lostwithiel.
Like the box at nearby Par, Lostwithiel Crossing Signal Box enjoys a Grade II Listing and, until its planned closure in autumn 2023, controls more semaphore signals (14) than any of the other mechanical signalling outposts in the Royal Duchy.
Most of its 14 semaphores can be seen from the station platforms, but for my return visit on Thursday, 9 September 2021 I was also keen to get shots from a bridge north of the station carrying the A390 and, if possible, another one further north at the end of the two goods loops.
The A390 over-bridge is a ten minute walk from the station, heading east then turning left up a narrow lane called Mill Hill until you reach the main road. From the bridge there is a good view looking south as the line curves right towards the station (as seen below) and north towards up section signal LL8, with LL49 alongside it.
Looking towards the signal box and station, the four semaphores you can see comprise a bracket holding up junction signals LL6 and LL7 (loop), down home LL58, with a sighting board behind, and LL40, closest to the signal box and controlling exit from the down loop.
Having spotted it as a great vantage point, I had hoped to get to another over-bridge at the north end of the goods loops, which my map showed me as being part of the Lostwithiel Golf and Country Club. Alas, though, it has closed down and it was clear from talking to a resident that it would not be possible to access the bridge.
Back on the station and looking west from the down platform you will see a bracket holding down starter LL57 alongside Fowey branch starter LL54, with up home LL3 around 200 yards beyond on a left-hand curve in the line.
Out of sight, and seemingly impossible to photograph, are two further signals, up outer home LL2 and LL4 controlling exit from the Fowey branch.
One interesting survival at the western end of the down platform is a chocolate and cream enamel “9 car” stop sign, which must date from the advent of DMU working in Cornwall during the early 1960s.
Lostwithiel Crossing Signal Box stands at the eastern end of the down platform and gained its Grade II Listing in 2013 for being one of the best-preserved and earliest known examples of a GWR Type 5 signal box, once a standard box on the GWR during the late nineteenth century. It dates from 1893 and its 63-lever frame from 1923.
Under the re-signalling proposals, due to be implemented in two years’ time (autumn 2023), the signal boxes at Lostwithiel, Par and Truro would close, with control of that section of route being taken over by Exeter Power Signal Box.
This would leave isolated outposts of mechanical signalling at Liskeard and St Erth on the main line, along with the Newquay branch, where the boxes at St Blazey and Goonbarrow Junction would also remain.
Returning to Reading from my rather wet day at Lostwithiel meant another chance to sample the wonderful GWR Pullman Dining service, as offered from Plymouth in 1A96, the 16.15 from Penzance to Paddington, which was formed of a 9-car Class 80x IET unit.
Since my July lunch trip from Newton Abbot (blog post 21 July 2021) I’m delighted to say that patronage of the restaurant service seems to have picked up considerably, with nine of us in coach L of a 9-car IET and two more dining in coach K.
Being offered the chance to share a table for four, rather than take one of the less desirable rear-facing single seats, I was joined for a delightful and sociable dinner by a lady called Caroline, who was returning from a day trip to Truro in her capacity as Chief Adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and who had been delighted and amazed to discover that a restaurant service was available.
For those who clamoured for its return, the good news is that steak has just returned to the menu (at a £10 supplement), but I stuck to the £30 three-course offering and opted this time for terrine of confit duck & chicken, followed by pan fired cod loin and then the cheese board, washed down with some very acceptable Chilean merlot.
Once again both service and food were excellent and, as an experience on our national railway network that also means a free first class upgrade all the way from Plymouth to Reading, it is an unbeatable deal that anyone who likes train travel, as well as good food and wine, simply must savour!