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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the frequency and variety of passing passenger and freight traffic, stunning scenery and a handful of semaphore signals, it is hard to beat Edale as a photographic location on the busy and scenic Hope Valley Line.
Edale station is remarkably isolated from any significant settlement, but its station is a hugely popular alighting point for walkers setting out to tackle Kinder Scout, the 2.088ft peak overlooking the remote station, or join the nearby Pennine Way.
Completion of a project to re-signal 50 miles of the North Wales Main Line in Spring 2018 means that anyone travelling along the coast by rail towards Holyhead will now wait until reaching the Isle of Anglesey before encountering any semaphore signalling.
Once on the island, though, there are four fascinating outposts of mechanical signalling along the final 19 miles of the route, including one of our oldest working signal boxes and one of only two working semaphore distant signals to survive in Wales.
Along with the splendid Furness and Cumbrian Coast Lines, one other Lake District location to retain semaphore signalling is Burneside, the second of three intermediate stations on the ten-mile branch line from Oxenholme to Windermere.
While the single-track branch has no passing loops and operates on a “one engine in steam” basis, Burneside Higher Level Crossing, south-east of Burneside station, is protected by a pair of home signals controlled from a small frame across the road from the crossing keeper’s Portacabin accommodation.