Above and below Par

CORNWALL has long been one of the country’s most remarkable outposts of lower quadrant semaphore signalling, but time is fast running out for much of its marvellous mechanical infrastructure, with a major re-signalling project due to be completed in autumn 2023.

After an enjoyable visit to see and photograph the signalling at Liskeard in October (2020) it was time to make an overdue return (on Monday, 2 August 2021) to what is arguably finest of the five remaining junctions to retain semaphores along the 56-miles of route between Liskeard and St. Erth.

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GWR lunch back on the line

Restaurant car services on our national rail network were all but killed off by privatisation in the mid-1990s (GNER being an honourable exception) and the move towards airline-style at-seat service to first class passengers, so it was good to learn that GWR had restored one Plymouth-Paddington dining service.

While it is not the full Pullman Dining experience which was provided on three daily round trips to the South-West until halted by the pandemic, my lifetime’s enjoyment of dining on the move meant I just had to sample the current limited offering, now being extended to two other services. 

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Bye-bye Bridlington

Almost three years after my final visit to see the wonderful collection of semaphores on Humberside between Gilberdyke and Ferriby it is time to pay a return to East Yorkshire on Saturday, 17 July 2021 and to another place that is poised to lose its mechanical signalling. 

The seaside resort of Bridlington is one of just two remaining outposts of semaphores along the Hull-Scarborough Yorkshire Coast Line, but time is almost up for the handful of signals controlled by the magnificent Bridlington South Signal Box, with re-signalling due in October 2021.

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Favourite photo-spots: Ferryside

Following my springtime visit to Pembrey & Burry Port I felt inspired to pay a summer Saturday (10 July 2021) return to the other doomed outpost of semaphore signalling on the South Wales Main Line.

Ferryside is one of two request stops between Pembrey and Carmarthen and a delightfully picturesque spot on estuary of the River Towy (Afon Tywi) at which to spend a couple of hours watching trains passing the five semaphores controlled by Ferryside Signal Box.

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Angles on Ancaster

Last month’s highly enjoyable day-out to Heckington inspired me to re-visit another quiet spot along the delightful Grantham-Skegness Poacher Line, and another one that can boast two working semaphore distant signals.

Ancaster is described on my OS map as a Roman town and stands roughly midway between Grantham and Sleaford, one of two stations on this stretch of the route, along with Rauceby, that are only served by a handful of the hourly Poacher Line services each day.

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Railway ramble to Ribblehead

Spending a few days with my wife and friends in the delightful village of Dent meant the chance to match a love of walking with another passion for railway photography on a challenging 10-mile walk from England’s highest station to equally remote Ribblehead.

While those at Wimbledon and in much of the south endured cold and rain, it was a case of warm sunshine in the Yorkshire Dales that made for near perfect walking conditions on Wednesday, 30 June 2021, and the chance for some  panoramic photography of scenery and passing trains.

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Hello Heckington

Any village that can boast Grade I Listings for both its parish church and a unique windmill is well worth a visit, particularly when it is also one that contains a Grade II-Listed signal box, wooden level crossing gates and semaphore signals. 

As if that was not enough justification for a day trip, the village of Heckington in Lincolnshire is also one of those increasingly rare places on our national rail network to boast two working semaphore distant signals.

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Surviving semaphores on the Robin Hood Line

Finding new locations with semaphore signalling is proving increasingly difficult, so when I saw a picture posted online of a distant signal controlled by Norwood Level Crossing on the Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire it seemed like a good opportunity to pay a visit.

Armed with some remarkably cheap advance purchase tickets from King’s Cross via Retford and Worksop, I travelled first to Creswell, the station north of Norwood Crossing, where there are numerous semaphores, all semi-permanently “pulled off” and controlled by the mothballed Elmton & Creswell Junction Signal Box.

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Interlude at Inverkeilor

Among ten remaining outposts of mechanical signalling along the scenic East Coast Main Line in Scotland, one fine spot that I had not previously managed to visit is Inverkeilor, a quiet village just off the A92 trunk road mid-way between Arbroath and Montrose.

While retaining its 1881-vintage North British Railway signal box, Inverkeilor lost its station almost a century ago (22 September 1930) so getting there, as I did on 8 June 2021, requires a ten-minute £2.50 journey from Arbroath on the hourly Stagecoach X7 bus.

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Bonny Blair Atholl

Spending a weekend at Pitlochry meant the chance for a Saturday (5 June 2021) visit to delightful Blair Atholl, one of the remotest stations on the Highland Main Line, and one of the route’s remaining outposts of mechanical signalling.

Blair Atholl’s attractive 1890-vintage McKenzie & Holland signal box stands just south of the station and level crossing and controls the end of a single track section of line from Pitlochry that becomes double track northwards to Dalwhinnie. 

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