Day return to Chapel-en-le-Frith

After my success in photographing the two working semaphore distant signals at Hubbert’s Bridge, it is time to pay a return visit to the delightful Peak District and seek out another of those yellow and black fishtailed arms at a location with a tragic place in British railway history.

Chapel-en-le-Frith station is a delightfully quiet and remote station, formerly known as Chapel-en-le-Frith South, where it is now rather hard to imagine the horror that unfolded exactly 65 years ago, on 9 February 1957, when two railwaymen lost their lives and a signal box was destroyed.

The original London & North Western Railway signal box here was lost when a northbound freight train, hauled by 8F locomotive 48188, suffered a brake failure and crashed into the rear of another freight train, killing both driver of the 8F, John Axon, and John Creamer, guard on the second freight train. 

156402/150115 depart with 2B08 from Manchester Piccadilly (09.24) to Buxton

Axon was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery in remaining in the cab of the doomed train as he attempted to avert greater loss of life, and the events of that terrible day are commemorated in this plaque (below) on the up platform station building. 

A new BR London Midland Region type 15 box was opened in March 1957 and remains in use today, with a total of four semaphores under the control of its 20-lever frame. Three of this quartet can be seen from the station platforms – down home (CH5) just beyond the box, section signal CH6 north of the down platform and up home CH18 opposite the box. 

My challenge on 8 February 2022 was to see if it was possible to get shots of up (southbound) distant signal CH20, which stands around half a mile west of the station, and with a muddy path running along the north side of the line this proved fairly straightforward, with an even better view from a path to the south side of the line (top photo featuring 156402/150115).

156425/401 pass up distant CH20 with 2B10 from Manchester Piccadilly (10.08) to Buxton

Having found the semaphore distant (down distant CH4 is a 2-aspect colour light) I was then keen to try my luck at photographing stone traffic travelling to or from the quarries at Peak Forest along the double track stub of the former Midland Railway main line, which crosses beneath the Buxton line very close to Chapel-en-le-Frith station.

A view from above the station shows 156401/425 approaching the signal box

My luck was in when I positioned myself above the short tunnel taking the Midland Railway route beneath the Buxton line within yards of Chapel-en-le-Frith station and DB 66164 made an appearance hauling empty stone-carrying wagons from Toton North Yard to Dowlow Briggs Sidings.

66164 is about to pass under the Buxton line with its train from Toton to Dowlow Briggs Sidings

 For those unfamiliar with the area, Chapel-end-le-Frith station stands some way south of the town it serves, just over 20 miles south-east of Manchester Piccadilly and five miles north of Buxton. A basic hourly service pattern, supplemented by additional trains during peak periods, is currently worked by pairs of Class 150/156 units.

150115/156402 depart with 2B19 from Buxton (10.58) to Manchester Piccadilly

Better situated than the current station was Chapel-en-le-Frith Central, which was on the Midland Railway route from Manchester to London. It closed in March 1967 when passenger services north of Matlock were withdrawn, but the section of line south from its triangular junction at Chinley on the Hope Valley Line to nearby Peak Forest remains open and busy with quarry traffic.

150119/226 approach the station with 2B27 from Buxton (12.58) to Manchester Piccadilly

The up distant signal at Chapel-en-le-Frith is one of four surviving semaphore distant signals on the Buxton line, with the others being a pair controlled by the signal box at Furness Vale and a down distant just south of Middlewood station, which is controlled by Norbury Crossing – this trio all being featured in my blog of 23 September 2020.

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