A new look at Leuchars

Significant signalling changes have taken place at Leuchars, railhead for the important university town of St. Andrew’s and one of two remaining outposts of semaphore signalling on the route between Edinburgh and Dundee, along with Cupar, which I featured on 4 September 2021.

While the century-old (1920) North British Railway signal box remains for the time being, a £4m upgrade programme, undertaken during two weekends in February, has seen both down (LE20) and up (LE30) home signals replaced by colour lights, as track was renewed near the box and a cross-over re-sited.

Paying my first visit to the former junction station in five years on 4 March 2022, I had been hoping to get shots of the two doomed semaphores before their final removal, as well as the other pair of semaphores here, up section signal LE29 just south of the station and down section signal LE21 which stands north of the station around a left had curve in the line. Alas I was too late and lights had already replaced LE20 and LE30

The way it looked at Leuchars in December 2016 (above) and the present view (below)
New colour lights LE20 (left) and LE12 (right) with up home LE30 beyond

Apart from good views from the station footbridge, there is a great vantage point from a road over-bridge just south of the station’s island platform. My OS map also suggested that there was another over-bridge giving access to a cemetery north of the station that might offer a place to see trains approaching signal LE21, but the best vantage point was from a field just before this bridge.

LNER 800103 passes signal LE21 with 1W02 from Leeds (07.08) to Aberdeen

Day-time traffic serving Leuchars comprises hourly Class 170-worked stopping services between Edinburgh Waverley and Arbroath, Scotrail Inter7City HST workings between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, LNER Class 80x Azuma services between London King’s Cross/Leeds and Aberdeen and occasional XC services between Aberdeen/Dundee and South-West England.

170406 departs Leuchars with 1L52 from Arbroath (12.10) to Edinburgh Waverley

Leuchars’ 1920 signal box (formerly Leuchars North) stands on the east side of the line just north of the station, at what would once have been junction for the branch line to Tayport, which closed to passengers in January 1956 but remained open to freight traffic until September 1967.

43147/028 approach new up home signal LE30 with 1B28 from Aberdeen (12.07) to Edinburgh

Services on this branch would have left from a bay platform at the north end of the station that has now been filled in, while those for St. Andrew’s (closed in 1969) and the coastal route onwards to Thornton Junction would have left from a bay platform at the south end of the station (now also filled in).

170406 departs Leuchars with 1L59 from Edinburgh Waverley (10.01) to Arbroath

Full re-signalling is due here, though not for another three years. Under current plans the signal boxes at Leuchars, Cupar and at Tay Bridge South (no semaphores) are scheduled to close in 2025, when control of the route will pass to the East Scotland Regional Operations Centre in Edinburgh.

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