Five years after my only previous visit (June 2017) it is time to take a return trip to charmingly quiet Rainford Junction, mid-way along the Northern Trains route heading south-west from Wigan Wallgate to its end-on connection with Merseyrail at Kirkby.
This one-time junction for routes north and south towards Ormskirk and St. Helens is a pleasant spot, where a well-fortified Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway signal box dating from 1874 has four semaphores and will give drivers coming off the double track route from Wigan a token for the single line leading to the buffer stops at Kirkby.
Discovering a route where there is almost as much freight action as passenger traffic, as well as one with some mechanical signalling interest and one I had not previously travelled, has at last taken me on 8 June 2022 to the fascinating Mid-Cheshire Line.
Standing roughly mid-way along the 38¾-mile Stockport to Chester route is Plumley West Signal Box, where two semaphore signals are the only ones on this line and, along with Beeston Castle, Ellesmere Port and Helsby, one of just four Cheshire locations to retain any mechanical signalling.
RE-OPENING of signal boxes is something of a rarityin a world where closures are far more commonplace, so another mini-break in the Scottish capital meant a chance for a couple of rail and bus trips to see and photograph two boxes north of the border that are now back in daily use.
Most recent of the re-openings is Greenloaning, a remote village just off the A9 north of Dunblane, which had been routinely switched out for years until daily re-opening last month, while re-opened to coincide with the launch of Montrose-Inverurie local services is another remote box at Craigo, mid-way between Montrose and Laurencekirk.
Returning to Parbold last month (feature 17 May and photo above) was a reminder that this is one of only a handful of locations in England where working examples remain of combined home (or stop) and distant semaphore signals – there are none in Scotland or Wales.
What was once a commonplace feature on main line railways has been dramatically reduced by two recent re-signalling projects to the point where I believe that there are now just a dozen remaining examples of working stop and distant signals on the same post.