Somersault survivors on NI Railways


When Castlerock Signal Box closed in November 2016 it brought an end to regular use of mechanical signalling on Northern Ireland Railways, but did not completely spell the end of its distinctive somersault signals.

IMG_8082Pay a visit to Portrush, at the end of a short branch line from Coleraine, on the Belfast to Londonderry main line, and you are in for a signalling treat.

Although having long since ceased to see daily use, the signal box remains, together with five of the distinctive wooden-posted somersault signals. Continue reading “Somersault survivors on NI Railways”

Eleventh hour dawns for Wales’ finest working signal box


In only one month’s time – over the weekend of 24/25 March – a key stage in Network Rail’s £50m North Wales Railway Upgrade will see closure of five mechanical signal boxes, including the finest working box in Wales, at Rhyl.

Rhyl No 1 Box is one of a pair of Grade II listed boxes London & North Western Railway boxes that flank the station. Its larger cousin is the disused Rhyl no 2 Box at the western end of the station, which closed in 1990 and boasts a 126 lever frame that makes it comparable in size to Severn Bridge Junction Box at Shrewsbury. Continue reading “Eleventh hour dawns for Wales’ finest working signal box”

A railway museum for Edinburgh?


Edinburgh has pretty much anything a tourist could be looking for, with its castle, Royal Mile, Holyrood and a plethora of fine buildings and open spaces. What it does lack, though, is a railway museum, with the nearest being some way out of the city at Bo’ness, home to the Scottish Railway Museum.

IMG_7443While it is good to see that a pair of junction signals from Stirling (SN18/SN11) have pride of place in the National Museum of Scotland, there is scope for much more, so it seems high time to consider a magnificent and listed building that stands in an ideal location, within a stone’s throw of Princes Street.

Waverley West Signal Box was built by the London & North Eastern Railway in 1936 to control early colour light signals on the western side of Waverley station. It lasted just 40 years before being decommissioned in November 1976, so has now stood empty and unloved for longer than it was actually in service. Continue reading “A railway museum for Edinburgh?”

The great HS2 fares conundrum


On Friday (16 February) I made what must be one of the world’s cheapest inter-city train journeys, when I travelled the 111 miles from London to Birmingham for a fare of just £5.50 (without using any railcard). Later that day I returned from Birmingham, again in the comfort of a spacious Mark III carriage and a loco-hauled train, for just £5.50.

IMG_1737.jpgLondon to Birmingham is by far the cheapest long-distance rail journey in the UK because it is pretty much the only one on the franchised railway where there is genuine on-rail competition between operators.

After more than 20 years of privatised railway, the only other significant point-to-point journeys where passengers have benefited from competition are on the East Coast Main Line, where presence of the two “Open Access” operators – Grand Central and Hull Trains – has led to fares competition from York and Doncaster to London. Continue reading “The great HS2 fares conundrum”

Semaphores and NER signal boxes on the Blyth & Tyne

IMG_1733For a route that has seen only freight traffic since its closure to passengers in 1964, the line heading north east from Newcastle to Bedlington and Ashington has done remarkably well to retain its traditional infrastructure.

Much of the route is double-track and there is a fine group of six North Eastern Railway signal boxes still in use and controlling a large array of semaphore signals, as well as level crossings at each of six locations. Continue reading “Semaphores and NER signal boxes on the Blyth & Tyne”

Wooden gates and semaphores in North East Lincolnshire

Re-signalling in the Barnetby area at the end of 2015 may have removed some of the finest remaining semaphore signals on the national network, but it did not completely spell the end of mechanical signalling in North Lincolnshire.

Besides the three recently-renewed semaphores at Gainsborough Central (featured in my previous post: Back to Brigg), and one semaphore protecting the Brigg Line at nearby Gainsborough Trent Junction, another surviving outpost is on the fascinating Barton-on-Humber branch line. Continue reading “Wooden gates and semaphores in North East Lincolnshire”

Back to Brigg

Monday, 1 October 2018 will mark a significant and unwelcome anniversary in the history of the 21-mile long rail link from Trent Junction near Gainsborough to Barnetby via Brigg in Lincolnshire. It will be a quarter of a century to the day since the axing of daily passenger trains on this direct route from Sheffield to Grimsby and Cleethorpes in 1993, and their replacement with a token “Parliamentary” Saturdays-only service.

IMG_7238.jpgPaying a long overdue return visit to a route I had not travelled since withdrawal of daily services, I was keen to see at first hand the Brigg Line Group’s success at building passenger numbers along the line. So, after an early morning bus ride from Barton-on-Humber to Brigg town centre, I made my way to the station for a trip on the first departure of the day, the 09.26 service to Cleethorpes. Continue reading “Back to Brigg”