WORCESTER is like Shrewsbury in being one of our finest outposts of mechanical signalling, with a total of eight signal boxes controlling at least some semaphores along the 25 miles of route from Norton Junction, south of the city, Droitwich Spa to the north and Ledbury to the west.
Among the busiest and most interesting of this octet is Droitwich Spa, where a large Great Western Railway box dating from 1907 stands some 400 yards north of the station in the fork between the routes to Birmingham via Kidderminster on its left, or front side, and the line to Birmingham via Bromsgrove to the right, or rear of the box.
Paying a first return visit to Droitwich Spa for five years on 26 April 2022 I was keen to check out a couple of potentially interesting photographic locations that I had not discovered on my 2017 visit, when most of my shots were from a bridge immediately north of the station.
Droitwich Spa Signal Box (sadly still lacking a nameplate) controls a total of 15 semaphores, of which 11 are in regular use and the others control entry and exit from two little-used goods loops. Up (southbound) trains from Kidderminster will pass no less than five semaphore arms, with northbound Kidderminster services passing four.
Finest of the Droitwich Spa semaphores is a pair of centre pivot signals (DS8 + DS10) at the north end of the down platform and seen in the top photo. Other surviving examples of this type are those at Worcester Shrub Hill, Shrewsbury and Liskeard, while there is another pair nearby, at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway.
Daytime services currently passing Droitwich Spa, all formed of West Midlands Trains Class 172 units, comprise hourly workings between Birmingham New Street and Hereford via Bromsgrove and half-hourly services to and from Worcester Foregate Street operating via Kidderminster and Birmingham Snow Hill to Dorridge or Whitlocks End.
There seem to be very few WMT services to Worcester Shrub Hill, with just one train from and to Whitlocks End every two hours during the current weekday timetable beginning or ending its journey at the city’s once principal station.
Services are operated in a variety of formations, with single 3-car (1723xx) units, pairs of 1722xx units making a 4-car train and 5-car services comprising a 1723xx and 1722xx unit. They are all in the attractive WMT gold and purple livery, though many units did not seem to have been through a washer for some time and looked very dirty.
Freight traffic passing Droitwich Spa is distinctly limited, but arriving fairly early in the day I was able to see DB 66172 passing through shortly after 10.00 with the regular working from Round Oak to Margam, and a second southbound freight, from Burton-on-Trent to Cardiff Tidal Sidings, passed Droitwich Spa at 15.07 in the hands of DB Maritime Intermodal 66051 in its attractive blue livery.
While the best view of signals and signal box is from the narrow road bridge and the north end of the station, a 15-minute walk from the station brings you to a bridge called Berry Hill Farm over-bridge on the busy A38, where there is a good view looking back towards the signal box with a number of its semaphores in sight.
Returning to the station and this time heading south along Ombersley Way to the west of the railway line, you will eventually reach a footbridge over the line, opposite St. Joseph’s School, from where there is a good view back towards the station, with up section signal DS70 in view as well as the single light of down outer home DS7.
Droitwich Spa station is a charming place to visit, with its gardens well-tended by a team of station adopters who were hard at work while I was there. The station sees an endless flow of passengers throughout the day and, with six trains in every off-peak hour, there is no shortage of signalling activity.