Among the numerous outposts of mechanical signalling along the East Coast Main Line north of Edinburgh, the finest signal box/cabin must surely be the unique 1911-vintage North British Railway box at Arbroath, a listed building which stands some distance north of the railway station and controls a total of seven semaphores, as well as a number of shunting disc signals.
Paying a first return to the town (8 November 2022) since my last visit in June 2021, I was keen to check out a couple of photo-spots to the south of the station and particularly an over-bridge that is close to down outer home signal AH48 and from where there is a panoramic view of the coast looking south and the location, until its closure two years ago, of Scotland’s oldest miniature railway.
170411/158711 depart with 1A79 from Edinburgh Waverley (09.30) to Aberdeen
From south to north, the seven semaphores controlled by Arbroath North comprise motor-worked down outer home signal AH48, up starter AH16 at the south end of platform 1, down home signal AH47 (also motor-worked) at the north end of platform 2 and down section signal AH45 beyond a road over-bridge, alongside up home signal AH15 and a bracket housing AH15 for accessing a facing crossover near the signal cabin.
170451 passes AH14 with 1T28 from Aberdeen (08.44) to Glasgow Queen Street
What makes Arbroath North so special is both its height – having been designed to offer a good view of approaching rail traffic – and its having an oversailing signal cabin that is supported on metal brackets and projects forward towards the running lines. The box is surrounded on three sides by a metal walkway, though sadly it has long-since lost its wooden flooring.
LNER 800111 passes AH15 with 1E15 from Aberdeen (09.52) to King’s Cross
One of the great things about photographing trains and signals in Arbroath is the ease of finding good vantage points. Apart from the platform ends at the station, there is a footbridge alongside the signal box giving a good view back towards the station, a nearby road bridge from where there is a view looking north of down starter AH45 and the tall up home signal AH15 (as seen above), while from the white footbridge to the north up outer home AH14 is once again partially visible, having been totally obscured by vegetation on my previous summer-time visit.
43031/129 pass AH16 with 1B78 from Aberdeen (11.01) to Edinburgh Waverley
To the south of the station I not only found the footbridge close to signal AH48 – which is very close to Arbroath Infirmary – but also an over-bridge in Colville Place from whether there was a great view (above) of the listed station building and of the track below as southbound services left the station and passed starter signal AH16, one of two lattice posts along with AH45.
43028/148 approach AH48 with 1A39 from Glasgow QS (10.41) to Aberdeen
Waiting with me to see a train on the southern footbridge (above) were a class of nursery-age children along with their carers, and apart from being able to tell them when the next train was due, it was rather delightful when one little boy remarked to me that a train would be coming when the signal went up – there can’t be that many four-year olds these days who would know that!
Colas Rail 70809 storms past AH45 as 158707 waits to form 2L54 to Dundee
Given that the day of my visit (8 November) was between what had been two planned strike days, there was sadly no sign of any freight action apart from the lunch-time sighting of Colas Rail 70809 heading light engine from Grangemouth to Aberdeen. What was noticeable was how many of the Glasgow/Edinburgh – Aberdeen express services that were diagrammed for Inter7City HST units were worked by 2/3/5 car formations of Class 158/170 units.
43148/028 approach Arbroath with 1T42 from Aberdeen (13.50) to Glasgow QS
My journey to Arbroath from Edinburgh Waverley at 08.30 was thankfully formed of the scheduled HST set, complete with some welcome on-board catering, but travelling back to the Scottish capital at 14.52 was a big disappointment when the booked Inter7City set was replaced by a solitary two-car Class 158 unit.
170451 departs with 1A43 from Glasgow QS (12.40) to Aberdeen
For a spot of refreshment after a day spent photographing trains and signals in rather dismal November weather, I can highly recommend the Wetherspoon-owned Corn Exchange, just a five minute walk from Arbroath station, where draught beers such as the Pentland IPA I sampled cost just £2.29 a pint, which is less than half the price of draught beers at most pubs in the Scottish capital.