Less than two years before its loss to re-signalling it is time to pay another visit on Monday, 6 December 2021 to the Royal Duchy, and spend a few hours photographing the fine collection of semaphores that are controlled by Truro Signal Box.
Truro is one of three locations along the main line in Cornwall, along with Par and Lostwithiel, both of which I re-visited and featured earlier in the year, that is due to close in autumn 2023 when control is taken over by Exeter Power Signal Box.
This is Cornwall’s most important railhead and junction for the busy branch to Falmouth Docks, with the former Truro East box controlling a total of nine semaphore signals, most of which can be seen from the platform ends.
Truro is a Great Western Railway signal box dating from 1899, which boasts a 54-lever frame that came second-hand from a redundant signal box in Bristol and was installed exactly 50 years ago in 1971, the year that Truro West Signal Box was closed.
Looking east from the station, up home signal T6 stands immediately in front of a level crossing and the signal box, while down home T49, also with a sighting board behind it, stands at the western end of Carvedras Viaduct some distance beyond the box.
At the western end of the station four down home signals comprise T20 for exit from the Falmouth branch bay platform (1), down starter T47, the newest signal (T26), which was installed when frequencies on the Falmouth branch were increased to half-hourly and allows a train in the up platform (3) to cross onto the down line, and T25 controlling exit from sidings on the up side of the line.
Out of sight to the west is up outer home T4, which stands in a cutting close to the entrance to Highertown Tunnel and can be seen from a public footbridge just west of the station, while in the London direction and at the eastern end of Carvedras Viaduct stand up section signal T7 and down outer home T50.
As I discovered on my only previous visit to Truro, this latter pair can be seen by taking a ten-minute walk away from the station, passing under Carvedras Viaduct, bearing right and up a hill (Hendra Road), then turning right onto Carew Road and continuing into Hendra Lane.
By climbing onto a low wall here there is chance to glimpse trains passing both signals, while another noteworthy feature on this walk are the surviving (and listed) stone piers of Brunel’s original timber Carvedras Viaduct, alongside the present stone structure.
Daytime passenger services at Truro currently comprise the half-hourly Class 150-worked trains to Falmouth Docks, 5 and 9-car Class 80x IET units on through Penzance-Paddington trains and regional services Between Penzance and Bristol, Cardiff or Gloucester mostly formed of the ex-HST 2+4 Castle sets, with occasional appearance by a Class 158 unit.
Staff shortages led to an alarming number of trains (a total of 15) being cancelled on the day of my visit, including a number of Falmouth branch services, but that meant the rare chance to see 150248 departing from platform 3 at 15.45 while bay platform 1 was occupied by a crew-less 150221.
Under current re-signalling plans, the closure of Truro, Par and Lostwithiel signal boxes would leave 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.
No weekday rail trip to the Royal Duchy would be complete without taking another chance to sample GWR Pullman Dining, so returning from Truro to Reading at 16.54 meant an opportunity on departure from Plymouth at 18.15 to reacquaint myself with the smoked trout and beetroot starter, pan fried cod loin and then the British cheeseboard, washed down with some fine Spanish Sauvignon Blanc!
Having managed to sample Pullman Dining a number of times since its reintroduction in the summer, it is great to see how its popularity is growing rapidly and to hear from the Chief Steward of tentative plans to reintroduce a dining service from London to Bath and Bristol in March 2022.