Returning by train to Southern England after a two-night stay in Perth seemed like the perfect opportunity to pay an Eve-of-Lockdown Two (4 November) call at the one Tyne Valley signalling location I had not previously visited, Wetheral.
Wetheral station is six miles east of Carlisle and stands high above the River Eden and at the opposite end of the impressive five-span Wetheral Viaduct to the slightly curious looking Corby Gates Signal Box.
Together with the signal box at Dunkeld that featured in my previous post, another of the many Scottish boxes to enjoy listed status is the one at Errol, mid-way between Perth and Dundee and site of a former station, which only closed in September 1985.
Like Dunkeld, it is not only the signal box that is listed at Errol, but also the station building, built in 1847 for the Dundee & Perth Railway, as well in this case as the skeleton of a cast iron footbridge linking the two remarkably intact station platforms.
Take a 15½-mile journey north from Perth along the Highland Main Line and just as the A9 comes alongside the railway you will arrive at the first, and one of the remotest and most charming, stations along this magnificent route, Dunkeld & Birnam.
Despite noise from the nearby trunk road, this is a peaceful spot at which to spend a couple of hours on a sunny morning and to appreciate its fine listed station building, listed signal box and the handful of semaphore signals that are all in view from the station.
Dramatic scenery and numerous viaducts make Cornwall something of a dream for railway photography, with the added attraction of most local services now being formed of the ex-HST 2+4 “Castle” sets and semaphore signalling at five main-line stations within the Royal Duchy.
First up of this quintet is Liskeard, 264½ miles from Paddington (via Bristol) and home to a rare centre-pivot semaphore as well as being a junction for the scenic Looe Valley branch line, whose platform (3) stands as right-angles to the main line and is adorned with 1960s-style chocolate and cream signage.
Having spent time at Liskeard station in the past, I was keen to seek out the first of the six semaphore signals here, the down outer home (LD35) which westbound trains will pass on approaching the station before rounding a sharp left-hand curve that takes them onto Liskeard Viaduct and into the station.
Finding an attractive and remote rural location where there is a variety of freight and passenger traffic, a signal box controlling semaphore signals and heritage diesel action might sound too good to be true.
But that was what I was able to savour on Thursday (22 October 2020) at Earles Sidings, near the village of Hope in the Peak District, and a junction on the Hope Valley Line for a 1½-mile branch line to the country’s largest cement works.
News that the semaphore signals at Tram Inn, south of Hereford, have been replaced seems like a good excuse to publish a few shots I was able to get at this remote spot while on the way to spend a weekend in the B&B at nearby Pontrilas station on Friday, 10 February 2017.
What I remember most about my stop there was the help I got from an ex-railwayman (a fireman) who was running a large car dealership alongside the level crossing and kindly fetched me a step ladder to get the shot looking north!
A five-day blockade of the main line between Taunton and Exeter St. Davids from Monday (28 September 2020) meant the rare opportunity to see GWR Class 80x IETs at Yeovil Pen Mill, as services between London and Plymouth were diverted between Castle Cary and Exeter via Yeovil.
Yeovil Pen Mill is a rather delightful spot, 141¼ miles from Paddington, and the only place that these diverted GWR services will encounter semaphore signalling on their journey to Plymouth, with an unusual mixture of upper and lower quadrant arms controlled by Pen Mill signal box.
Regular readers will know I have a fascination for those elusive yellow and black distant signals that are increasingly hard to find on our national network, particularly after the loss of so many with completion of the Wherry Lines re-signalling in February.
Anyone who recalls part one of my Buxton and Hope Valley blogs (May 2020) might remember that it mentioned two working distant signals at charming Furness Vale and another at Middlewood, so on the final day of the recent heat-wave (22 September 2020) it seemed like time to seek them out.
Delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that a re-signalling project on Teesside due to be completed this month (September 2020) has slipped to early next year, granting a stay of execution to Britain’s oldest working signal box.
Re-signalling a 4½-mile stretch of the Durham Coast Line from north of Stockton-on-Tees to Billingham has been deferred until February 2021, according to information given to me by Network Rail, meaning another few months’ working life for the 1870-vintage box at Norton South.
Along with nearby Norton East, which is normally boarded up and switched out, this is the oldest working signal box on the national network, but only the East box currently enjoys Grade II listed status, ensuring its future preservation.
Among numerous surviving outposts of mechanical signalling in the North-East, one rather pleasant place I had not previously managed to visit is Nunthorpe, 4½ miles south of Middlesbrough on the 35-mile long Esk Valley Line to Whitby.
Here an attractive Grade II Listed signal box controls a level crossing, passing loop and four semaphore signals, as well as overseeing train movements towards Whitby and the junction at Battersby, where services to and from Whitby reverse.