Surviving semaphores at a Shropshire junction

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.

Not an East German border post but Craven Arms Crossing Signal Box

What has changed since my 2016 visit is re-siting of a crossover for trains accessing the Heart of Wales Line to Llanelli from a point north of the station between its platforms and the signal box to a position south of the station, close to the actual junction.

Now you see it: 150284 passes CA23 with a Heart of Wales Line service on 24 September 2016
Now you don’t: 153320 approaches Craven Arms with 2V08 from Shrewsbury (10.09) to Swansea

As this pair of “before and after” photos show, that has meant replacement of a junction bracket (CA23) north of the station with a new junction colour light to the south (also numbered CA23), leading to loss not only of the two junction arms, but also down section signal CA17 and the disappearance too of up outer home semaphore CA1.

Now you see it: Signals CA17 (left) and CA1 beyond on 24 September 2016
Now you don’t: 153320 passes replacement signal CA23 but the two semaphores have gone

Despite these losses, three semaphores remain in the up (northbound) direction, with home (CA2) and starter (CA3) both visible from the station and section signal CA4 from a level crossing adjacent to the signal box, as the line curves to the right.

GBRf 66732 approaches Craven Arms and signal CA26 with 6V75 from Dee Marsh to Margam

In the southbound or down direction a goods loop to the north of the signal box and crossing is accessed by a two-arm bracket (CA27) with exit from the goods loop controlled by CA24, standing close to down home signal CA26 north of the level crossing and signal box.

175104 passes CA27 with 1V39 from Manchester Piccadilly (10.31) to Milford Haven

With the majority (five) of Craven Arms’ seven surviving semaphores standing north of the level crossing and signalling interest from the station rather reduced, I was keen to check out two potential vantage points I had spotted on my OS map – one a foot crossing of the line mid-way along the length of the down goods loop and one an over-bridge a little further to the north. 

DB 67010 passes CA4 with 1W93 from Cardiff Central (11.22) to Holyhead

Alas, the foot crossing is closed until early in 2023 pending the installation of safety features, but road over-bridge to the north, on a lane off the A49 signed to a place called Cheney Longville (3/4 mile), gives a great view looking south of tall junction signal CA27, with up section signal CA4 in view beyond as the line curves round to the left.

153353 accelerates away from Craven Arms with 2M08 from Swansea (09.28) to Shrewsbury

Sparse freight traffic along the Marches Line means its numerous goods loops see relatively little use, but I had hoped to see some action in the Craven Arms down goods loop during my 12 May 2022 visit when new CAF unit 195010 arrived on a test working from Crewe. Instead of entering the loop, however, it went past the signal box before crossing to the up line via a crossover north of the box and then returning to Crewe.

150285 approaches signal CA4 with 1W58 from Milford Haven (09.08) to Manchester Piccadilly

As at Bromfield last week, the one freight working I was able to see during a few hours at Craven Arms was the regular 6V75 working from Dee Marsh to Margam. Interestingly the operator of this service is no longer DB, and it passed on schedule behind GBRf 66732

195010 is held at signal CA4 before its return test run to Crewe

Apart from 6V75, the only locomotive-hauled action was also the working I had seen at Bromfield, with DB 67010 appearing on 1W93 from Cardiff Central to Holyhead. Annoyingly, the southbound service that is scheduled for loco haulage (1V96) seems to be worked by a unit every time I visit the Marches Line!

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