THREE YEARS after they last ran, it is good to see more evidence of passengers being attracted back onto the rail network following the COVID-19 hiatus, with the return this week (15 May 2022) of seasonal through services from London Paddington to Newquay.
While the Cornish resort has lost its summer Cross-Country (XC) services from the north, until 9 September there is a 09.04 Paddington-Newquay on weekdays, with direct services from Newquay to the capital departing at 11.18 and 14.55, the former even offering a restaurant service from Plymouth.
Paying an overdue return to charming Parbold, mid-way along the West Lancashire Line between Wigan and Southport, it was interesting see a significant change in rolling stock since my previous visit five years ago.
As services along the route run extensively under the wires on journeys between Southport and Stalybridge or Alderley Edge via Manchester, many are now formed of the bi-mode Class 769 units that have been created by adding a diesel engine to former Class 319 units.
Last week’s trip to Bromfield prompts me to take advantage of some bargain-priced “Great British Rail Sale” tickets and pay a return visit to the hideous-looking signal box at Craven Arms, just six miles to the north, where significant signalling changes have taken place since my previous visit in September 2016.
Craven Arms Crossing Signal Box was re-built in 2000, when a steel structure was constructed around a life-expired GWR box dating from 1947, with the latter being subsequently removed, while the signalling equipment including a 30-lever frame remained to control a fine array of lower quadrant semaphore signals.
Many of our oldest surviving signal boxes are on the Marches Line south of Shrewsbury and, after featuring Leominster and Woofferton Junction last year (both 1875), it is time to pay a return visit to an even older box at Bromfield, which dates from 1873 and stands next to Ludlow Racecourse.
Bromfield station closed as long ago as 1958, but the signal box lives on, with a total of five semaphore signals controlled from its 29-lever frame and the box signalling a section of route between the boxes at Onibury to the north and Woofferton Junction to the south.
After my first ever visit to Skegness, getting photos for my signalling book, I went on to write that it was our finest seaside terminus, with an impressive station building, a listed signal box and an intact six-platform layout, with semaphores and shunting signals controlling exit from each of those six platforms.
Since that March 2017 visit there has been a slight rationalisation of the layout, with removal of the exit signal and a section of rail from platform 6, yet much of the charm remains, along with all of the other semaphores I had photographed five years ago.