SHREWSBURY has long been the finest outpost of mechanical signalling in Britain, so after a pleasant day last summer at Sutton Bridge Junction, south of the town, it is time to take a look at another of the station’s four signal boxes.
Crewe Junction is a fine and listed London & North Western Railway box dating from 1903, standing at the north end of the station within sight of its better known sibling, the magnificent and newly-refurbished Severn Bridge Junction to the south of the station.
As its name suggests, Crewe Junction controls divergence of the routes towards Chester via Wrexham and the line towards Crewe via Nantwich, with the box’s 120-lever frame having a total of 15 mainly lower quadrant semaphore arms, including one of two three-arm brackets (CJ9) at either end of the station.
Another interesting feature close to the box is a unique signal gantry housing a down home semaphore protecting exit from platform 3 (CJ119) alongside colour lights for the centre track (CJ106) and exit from platform 4 (CJ97).
Shrewsbury station has five platform faces, with a limited number of Holyhead-bound services and occasional Heart of Wales services to Swansea serving un-gated platform 3 on the town side and everything else using through platforms 4 and 7 and two south- facing bay platforms (5 & 6).
Daytime passenger traffic currently comprises Transport for Wales Class 153/8/175 units on workings between North Wales, Manchester and Crewe to Birmingham International, Cardiff Central or West Wales, Class 158–worked services to and from the Cambrian Coast and Class 153 workings on the Heart of Wales line.
Stopping services to Birmingham New Street are formed of West Midlands Trains Class 172 units, although most of these seemed to have been cancelled on the day of my visit (19 April 2022) due to staff shortage.
Two exceptions to the predominantly lower quadrant signals at Crewe Junction are up outer home signal CJ1 as seen above where 175006 approaches with a working from Chester, and down home signal CJ53 at the north end of platform 7, seen below as 153353 departs for Crewe.
Loco-haulage is something of a rarity at Shrewsbury, although I was lucky enough to see the regular Class 66-worked Dee Marsh-Margam freight, along with only one of the scheduled TfW Class 67-worked services between Cardiff and Holyhead – southbound train 1V96 being formed of a Class 158 unit.
Most of Crewe Junction’s semaphores can be seen, or at least glimpsed, from the station platforms, but there is also a great vantage point from the Ellesmere Road (A528) over-bridge north of the station, and a splendid panoramic view from the roof of Shrewsbury Castle.
For anyone tempted by the fine castle and signal box views looking south from the Ellesmere Road over-bridge, I can highly recommend the nearby Royal Oak as a place to pass the time between trains. In particular I would single out the delicious Black Country Ales’ “Pig on the Wall” mild (4.3% and £3.55 a pint).
Inspired by photos from many years ago on Adrian Putley’s marvellously authoritative Roscalen website, I visited the Castle and, after making a suitable donation, was given privileged access to the roof, from where there are great views of the Crewe Junction semaphores.
I would like to sincerely thank the two members of the Shropshire Museums staff who kindly arranged my access to the Castle roof for the panoramic shots of Crewe Junction semaphores.