A trio of Cornwall’s finest remaining outposts of mechanical signalling have just another year of life left, before a major re-signalling scheme in the Royal Duchy will see the loss of the semaphores that currently signal the main line at Truro, Par and Lostwithiel.
Paying a return visit (22 September 2022) almost exactly a year after last visiting the area, I was keen to capture the scene one more time at charming Lostwithiel, before the sight of its impressive array of semaphores disappears following the re-signalling in autumn 2023.
Both the boxes at Par and Lostwithiel Crossing enjoy Grade II listed status, so their future as structures is secure and with both directly accessible from station platforms there must be reasonable hope that they can find new use as museums, or as community facilities, once they have signalled their last trains.
As I wrote following my September 2021 visit, Lostwithiel boasts more semaphore arms (14) than any of the other mechanically-signalled locations in Cornwall, with the majority visible from the station platforms, although down home LL58 is annoyingly obscured by a sighting board (top photo).
Having previously failed to find anywhere to get shots of the most southerly of the Lostwithiel semaphores – up outer home LL2 and LL4 protecting exit from the Fowey branch, I ventured north to a bridge carrying the A390 town by-pass over the line.
Looking north from the road bridge there is a good view of up section signal LL8 alongside a smaller semaphore (LL49) controlling exit from the up goods loop, with a shunting disc signalling exit from the down loop.
There is also a good view looking south towards the station and level crossing, with a view of southbound trains passing LL58 and of northbound (up) trains as they pass starter signal LL6, which stands on a modern-looking bracket alongside LL7 controlling entry to the up goods loop.
An interesting feature at Lostwithiel that does not seem to have been widely adopted elsewhere is the white painting of the sides of track and points, as seen in some of these photos, and a simple way of reflecting the sun at times when overheating of rails can cause delays.
With no freight activity at all on 22 September, passing traffic during a visit to Lostwithiel and Par comprised Castle Class HST sets on most local working between Penzance and Plymouth/Cardiff and Class 80x IET units on main-line Penzance-Paddington workings.
One interesting substitution was the use of 5-car IET 802012 in place of a Class 150/158 unit on one of the local services, 2C23 from Plymouth (12.19) to Penzance, as seen above.
For those unfamiliar with this charming location, Lostwithiel Crossing Signal Box (lever frame pictured above) stands at the eastern end of the down platform (2) and gained its Grade II Listing in 2013 for being one of the best-preserved and earliest known examples of a GWR Type 5 signal box, once a standard box on the GWR during the late nineteenth century. It dates from 1893 and its 63-lever frame from 1923.
Besides its signal box and semaphores, one other interesting survival at the western end of the down platform, and visible in the photo above, is a chocolate and cream enamel “9 car” stop sign, which must date from the advent of DMU working in Cornwall during the early 1960s.