After my first ever visit to Skegness, getting photos for my signalling book, I went on to write that it was our finest seaside terminus, with an impressive station building, a listed signal box and an intact six-platform layout, with semaphores and shunting signals controlling exit from each of those six platforms.
Since that March 2017 visit there has been a slight rationalisation of the layout, with removal of the exit signal and a section of rail from platform 6, yet much of the charm remains, along with all of the other semaphores I had photographed five years ago.
WORCESTER is like Shrewsbury in being one of our finest outposts of mechanical signalling, with a total of eight signal boxes controlling at least some semaphores along the 25 miles of route from Norton Junction, south of the city, Droitwich Spa to the north and Ledbury to the west.
Among the busiest and most interesting of this octet is Droitwich Spa, where a large Great Western Railway box dating from 1907 stands some 400 yards north of the station in the fork between the routes to Birmingham via Kidderminster on its left, or front side, and the line to Birmingham via Bromsgrove to the right, or rear of the box.
SHREWSBURY has long been the finest outpost of mechanical signalling in Britain, so after a pleasant day last summer at Sutton Bridge Junction, south of the town, it is time to take a look at another of the station’s four signal boxes.
Crewe Junction is a fine and listed London & North Western Railway box dating from 1903, standing at the north end of the station within sight of its better known sibling, the magnificent and newly-refurbished Severn Bridge Junction to the south of the station.
Rover and ranger tickets are a great way to cover a lot of track in a particular area, as I had discovered a few years ago when I travelled every one of the 268 miles of track in Cornwall in a 15-hour marathon from Saltash, using a £10.00 Ride Cornwall ticket.
Spending the night in Chester after a rain-affected visit to Peak Forest and Buxton, my thoughts turned to the Merseyrail network, which I had long hoped to complete, having only previously travelled the routes from Liverpool to Chester, Kirkby and New Brighton.
Discovering that a £5.60 Merseyrail Day Saver is cheaper than a day return to Liverpool from Chester, I set myself a target of travelling the entire 75-mile Merseyrail network in a day, beginning at Chester, where a service leaves at exactly the moment a Day Saver becomes valid (09.30) and hopefully reaching Liverpool Lime Street by about 18.00.
Platform 4 at Helsby station in North Cheshire is not somewhere you battle the crowds in order to board your train. It briefly comes to life just once a day, when a Northern Rail Class 156 unit prepares to set off on its 10-minute, 5¼ mile, journey to Ellesmere Port.
Coming to life is probably a bit of an exaggeration, as there are few takers for a “Parliamentary” service that is run at times seemingly designed to be as useless as possible to anyone contemplating a journey.
Having a weakness for anything narrow gauge, the offer of some cheap as chips Ryanair flights to and from the Bulgarian capital tempts me to pay a springtime return visit to that country’s remarkable state-run and sole-surviving narrow gauge railway, the 125km (78-mile) route from Septemvri, south-east of Sofia, into the Rhodope Mountains close to the Greek border.
When the 2,800-mile round trip from Stansted to Sofia had cost less than £28.00 it means my four-day mini-break came in at a remarkably modest total of just £195.65, including flights, all rail travel, accommodation in Sofia (one night) and Velingrad (two nights), as well all my restaurant food and drink.
HUGE CHANGES have taken place at Reedham Junction since I spent a wonderful day there exactly five years ago (on 17 March 2017), with a protracted project to re-signal the Wherry Lines finally completed in February 2020, bringing an end to this marvellous outpost of semaphore signalling.
Five years ago Reedham Junction Signal Box controlled the double track Norwich-Lowestoft route and a junction with the single line to Great Yarmouth via Berney Arms. This was shut for almost two years when the signal box here was closed on 22 March 2019 and connection to the Berney Arms route was temporarily severed.
THREE YEARS after my previous visit (blog: 17 January 2019) it is time to make a return to Tondu and attempt to get some shots north and south of the station featuring a trio of the numerous lower quadrant semaphores that survive here.
My challenge on 8 March 2022 was to see the hourly services to and from Maesteg passing the three signals I had not photographed before – down outer home signal TU64 from the platform end at Sarn, along with down section signal TU57 and up outer home TU2 from a bridge north of Tondu station.
Significant signalling changes have taken place at Leuchars, railhead for the important university town of St. Andrew’s and one of two remaining outposts of semaphore signalling on the route between Edinburgh and Dundee, along with Cupar, which I featured on 4 September 2021.
While the century-old (1920) North British Railway signal box remains for the time being, a £4m upgrade programme, undertaken during two weekends in February, has seen both down (LE20) and up (LE30) home signals replaced by colour lights, as track was renewed near the box and a cross-over re-sited.
A few days spent north of the border, in Edinburgh, and some remarkably cheap LNER advance purchase tickets gives me the chance to head up the East Coast once again and pay a visit to one of the last outposts of semaphore signalling between Edinburgh and Aberdeen I have yet to photograph.
After an enjoyable day at Stonehaven last year (blog: 2 September 2021) my destination this time (2 March 2022) is Carmont Signal Box, which stands 5½ miles south-west of Stonehaven in a remote and picturesque setting, where I am hoping to get some of the panoramic views of trains and semaphores I have seen posted elsewhere.