All change in the Royal Duchy

In less than a year’s time the railway scene at Par will look very different from what it is today, with re-signalling set to have swept away its fine array of lower quadrant semaphores and the absurdly short-lived existence of GWR’s Castle Class 2+4 HST sets ending prematurely by December 2023.

Taking advantage of another fine winter’s day (Friday, 9 December 2022), it seemed like a good moment to pay a return visit to this attractive Cornish junction and capture more views of its doomed signals and the the 40+ year old HSTs that will all have disappeared in 12 months’ time.

43010/187 approach Par with 2C67 from Cardiff Central (08.00) to Penzance

As I have written in the past, Par is one of two currently-operational Cornish signal boxes, along with Lostwithiel, that enjoys a Grade II Listing. In its case, Par is one of only two examples of a Great Wester Railway-designed Type 2 box to survive in its original location – at the western end of platforms 2 and 3 on the station.

43005/097 pass PR51 with 2P13 from Penzance (11.50) to Plymouth

For those who may have missed my previous feature on Par in August 2021, there are a total of 13 sempahores controlled by a 57-lever frame in the 1879-vintage signal box. Visible looking west from the station platforms are down starter PR4 and a bracket with up home signals PR50 (for platform 3) and PR55 (for platform 2). 

158956 with 2P16 from Penzance (13.15) as 150244 waits with the Newquay branch train

Mounted on another bracket immediately in front of the signal box are down home PR5 (access to the main line), PR8 (Newquay branch + shunting disc for Chapel siding) with the branch section signal PR9 round the right hand curve towards St. Blazey and mounted above St. Blazey’s fixed distant signal.

43092/187 depart Par with 2P12 from Penzance (11.15) to Plymouth

At the London end of the station PR54 is the starter signal from the main platform (2) alongside PR52, which controls exit from Newquay branch platform (3). East of a road over-bridge there is a bracket on the west side of the line holding down home signal PR5 (main line) and a junction arm (PR7) for services going into platform 3. 

802112 passes PR51 with 1A88 from Penzance (12.15) to London Paddington

Closer to that bridge, but obscured by vegetation, stands signal PR30, controlling exit from a little-used down goods loop, while out of sight beyond the right hand curve stand up section signal PR51 and beyond it a bracket housing down outer home signal PR2 alongside another arm controlling entry to the goods loop. 

43005/097 power away from Par with 2P13 from Penzance (11.50) to Plymouth

Besides the Castle Class sets working between Penzance, Bristol, Cardiff and Gloucester, day-time passenger traffic at at Par currently comprises Class 80x IET units on Paddington-Penzance services and two-car Class 150 units operating Newquay services, with the occasional main line appearance by Class 150/158 units.

43187/092 at Par with 2C26 from Plymouth (13.43) to Penzance

Freight traffic passing through Par is pretty sparse, and comprises occasional china clay workings from Goonbarrow Junction on the Newquay branch and from the terminals at Parkandillack and Burngullow west of St. Austell, which run via Lostwithiel (reversing there) to Carne Point terminal on the freight-only former Fowey branch line.

158956 departs Par with 2P16 from Penzance (13.15) to Plymouth

Under the Cornish re-signalling scheme, the boxes as Par, Lostwithiel and Truro will close, with control of that section of route being taken over by Exeter Power Signal Box. This will leave isolated outposts of mechanical signalling at Liskeard and St Erth on the main line, along with St Blazey and Goonbarrow Junction on the Newquay branch.

150244 approaches Middleway Level Crossing at St. Blazey with 2N07 from Newquay (13.10)

Ambitious plans for a “Cornish metro” service linking Newquay and Falmouth would, however, spell an eventual end to mechanical signalling at Goonbarrow Junction, which would gain a new panel and colour light signalling, as well as control of a new passing loop to the west and a re-opened second platform at Newquay.

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