Mixed signals at Gobowen

My successful August visit to photograph trains and signals at Sutton Bridge Junction in Shrewsbury prompted me to pay a return on Friday, 1 October 2021 to another of the locations on our national railway network where semaphore signals go both up and down. 

Gobowen is a very pleasant spot on the GWR route from Chester to Shrewsbury and a junction with the former Cambrian route south to Welshpool that awaits eventual re-opening as far south as Oswestry, to which rails remain in situ and a bay platform awaits a return to use.

Its surviving 1884-vintage signal box, Gobowen North, stands close to the station where its 16-lever frame controls a total of four semaphore signals, with motor-worked down (northbound) home signal GN4 and section signal GN5 being upper quadrant, while up signals GN13 (outer home) and GN14 (home) remain GW lower quadrants.

58821/820 await departure with 1D12 from Birmingham International (09.06) to Holyhead

Piecemeal replacement of lower quadrant signals by upper quadrants to leave a mixture of signalling types is a pretty rare feature on the network, with the only other places I am aware of being those controlled by the four boxes at Shrewsbury, at Dorrington (south of Shrewsbury) and at Yeovil Pen Mill.

175109 approaches Gobowen with 1B94 from Holyhead (08.05) to Cardiff Central

All four of the Gobowen semaphores can be seen from the station platforms, but for a chance to get some better photos, I ventured to a footbridge that is an easy four-minute walk north of the station along Old Chirk Road, and which conveniently stands between the two semaphores in each direction.

66120 was running 55 minutes late with the regular Dee Marsh-Margam freight

Regular passing services here comprise roughly hourly Class 175/158/150-worked services to and from Holyhead (reversing at Chester) that alternately run to or from Birmingham International or Cardiff Central, with certain Cardiff services running further west to or from places like Maesteg and Llanelli.

175104 passes Gobowen North Signal Box with 1V95 from Holyhead (10.41) to Llanelli

Bringing a bit of variety to the local rail scene, a number of these TfW services are now being worked by Class 67 locos pulling or pushing four Mk1V coaches and a Driving Van Trailer (DVT), including 1W93 from Cardiff Central to Holyhead and return working 1V96, which are scheduled to stop at Gobowen within minutes of each other (at 13.47 and 13.51).

158834 passes signal GN5 with 1W92 from Cardiff Central (09.22) to Holyhead

My luck was in on Friday when the northbound working, formed of 67015 and DVT 82225, ran three minutes late, so providing an opportunity to photograph it passing the southbound service, which comprised DVT 82216 with 67008 powering it at the rear.

One signal up and one down as DVTs 82225 (left) and 82216 pass with trains 1W93 and 1V96

From the limited amount I have seen so far of these welcome loco-worked services, the normal pattern seems to be loco at the front heading north from Cardiff to Chester, then loco at the rear along the North Wales coast after reversal at Chester.

67008 powers 1V96 into Gobowen on its working from Holyhead (11.33) to Cardiff Central

A trio of non-passenger workings were shown as passing Gobowen on Friday morning, according to Realtime Trains but, as is so often the case, they were all cancelled, so the only freight working to pass during my time there was the regular Dee Marsh-Margam service, which I have previously captured at Leominster and Sutton Bridge Junction, and was fortunately running almost an hour late. 

153982/150255 depart Gobowen with 1D13 from Birmingham International (11.06) to Holyhead

There are some fine preserved station buildings to appreciate at Gobowen, now in community ownership, with the up platform home to a fine café and the Severn Dee Travel Agency, a privately-run booking office. The only black mark on my visit was the absence of real ale in the Cross Foxes pub outside the station, which earned it a boycott from me.