A trip to bracing Skegness

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.

While the basic hourly train service to and from Nottingham only requires the use of one platform, it is clear from the state of the surfaces that four platforms remain useable (platforms 2-5), with platform 6 clearly out of use and the condition of platform 7 indicating that it could not be used, although it remains signalled. 

A view from platform 5 shows most of the Skegness semaphores

At the far end of platforms 3 & 4 stands the Grade II-Listed box Great Northern Railway (GNR) signal box, dating from 1882 and extended in 1900, when its 80-lever frame was installed. Semaphores alongside the box comprise exit signals from platform 2/3/4/5/7 with shunting arms beneath those for platforms 2/4/5 and discs for platforms 3 and 7.

A pair of seagulls looks on as 156405 departs at 14.16 with 2S18 to Nottingham

Looking beyond the box there are down home and outer home signals, with an up section signal and a fixed down distant signal beyond it. A little-used carriage siding with run-round loop stands to the north of the line on the approach to the station, with a shunting arm controlling exit from it. 

156405 passes Skegness Signal Box with 2S18 to Nottingham

In the citation for its listing, Skegness Signal Box is described as “a rare example of a timber-framed Type 1 GNR box, and the largest of this type to survive…both external and internal detail survive well, including its lever frame.” From an historical perspective, the 1900 enlargement “illustrates the need to accommodate a longer frame as the amount of track at the station expanded in response to the increase of traffic.”

170420 passes the Skegness outer home signal with 2S17 from Nottingham (12.46)

As I discovered on my last visit here in January 2020, the best vantage point from which to see trains arriving and leaving, as well as passing the box and its semaphore signals, is from a foot crossing of the line a few hundred yards south of the station, behind a huge Tesco supermarket.

170420 arrives at Skegness with 2S17 from Nottingham

From here there is a chance to see incoming trains passing the two home signals, as they slow down to 10mph on approach to the signal box and station. All trains seem to use platform 4 under the current timetable, though on the day of my visit it was clear that platform 5 had also seen a train in the recent past. 

Standing on the concourse of Skegness station is this statue of the Jolly Fisherman, who was created by an artist named John Hassall for a Great Northern Railway advertising poster in 1908 and whose tagline “Skegness is SO bracing” made it one of the most famous holiday adverts of all time, and helped put the town firmly on tourist map.

170420 pulls out of Skegness with the 15.14 departure for Nottingham (2S20)

Skegness will at last be seeing more than one train at a time when summer Saturday specials return to the route later this year. From 23 July until 10 September 2022 EMR will be operating two Derby-Skegness round trips, using its Class 180 fleet, departing Derby at 07.58 and 09.23 and returning from Skegness at 11.42 and 13.44.

156916 passes the Skegness home signal with 2S21 from Nottingham (14.46)

Returning to Grantham aboard the 18.15 service to Nottingham following my day in Skegness on 28 April 2022 it was heartening and impressive to see that four of the five semaphore distant signals along the 36 route miles between Wainfleet and Ancaster had been pulled off – those at Wainfleet, Bellwater Junction, Hubbert’s Bridge and Ancaster, with only the one at Heckington remaining at caution. 

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