A few days spent north of the border, in Edinburgh, and some remarkably cheap LNER advance purchase tickets gives me the chance to head up the East Coast once again and pay a visit to one of the last outposts of semaphore signalling between Edinburgh and Aberdeen I have yet to photograph.
After an enjoyable day at Stonehaven last year (blog: 2 September 2021) my destination this time (2 March 2022) is Carmont Signal Box, which stands 5½ miles south-west of Stonehaven in a remote and picturesque setting, where I am hoping to get some of the panoramic views of trains and semaphores I have seen posted elsewhere.
Getting to the signal box requires a 15 minute taxi ride from Stonehaven station (£16.50) which takes you out of town and down a country lane, passing near the site of the August 2020 tragedy, towards the small settlement of Newmill, after which the level crossing adjacent to the box is named.
The Caledonian Railway signal box here dates from 1876 and its 18-lever frame controls a total of four semaphores, comprising up home (CM8) and section (CM9) signals, along with a down home (CM14) and down section signal CM13.
While all the signals can be seen from the level crossing, my interest in this location had been aroused by the fine panoramic views of the box, crossing and the line sweeping round to the right which I had been seen and were taken looking in a north-easterly direction from a hill south-west of the crossing.
Alas, a line of conifers close to the signal box has now limited the panoramic potential of this view, as seen above, but there are other fine views of the signal box and level crossing to be had from fields just to the north of the crossing.
Nothing remains today of Carmont station, which served passengers for just over a century, having opened in September 1855, when it was called New Mill Offset. It became Carmont in 1912, closing to passenges in June 1956 and to freight traffic on 23 May 1964. Amazingly, though, local road signs still point you towards Carmont station.
Passenger services passing Carmont comprise Edinburgh/Glasgow-Aberdeen workings, mainly formed of the Scotrail Inter7City 2+4 HST units, but with some Class 170s as well, Class 158-worked local services between Inverurie/Aberdeen and Montrose and LNER Class 80x Azuma services between King’s Cross/Leeds and Aberdeen.
There is also a limited amount of freight traffic to and from Aberdeen that passes Carmont. On the day of my visit I was able to see Colas Rail 70807 heading a train load of tanks south from Aberdeen Waterloo to Carlisle.
Carmont Signal Box received unwanted recognition on the occasion of the fatal derailment of a Scotrail Inter7City HST on 12 August 2020, when the signaller at Carmont halted the 06.38 Aberdeen-Glasgow Queen Street service to advise the driver of a landslip further south, between Carmont and Laurencekirk.
After being held for more than two hours the HST crossed over to the down (northbound) line in order to return to Aberdeen. Despite the onset of fine weather another landslip had occurred in that time just 1.4 miles north-east of Carmont, which the HST ran into while travelling at 72.8mph, leading to the fatal derailment which killed three of those on board, and injured the remaining six people aboard the train.