Thursday, 21 July 2016

Signalling Stainmore - By Ben Yates

 Signalling can be a challenge for any route, and it is important operationally, as well as being key to the feel of the route. A further challenge for Stainmore is the mix of railway companies and regions, and some fairly rare signalling situations that we wanted to capture.

The signalling also changed over time – particularly the rather cynical approach by British Railways in the late 1950s to carry out unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure to provide a justification for closure. Certainly the photographs demonstrate a change from NER lower quadrant signals to BR upper quadrant signals prior to closure in 1962 – yet on the West Coast line, many LNWR lower quadrants survived until electrification.

The North Eastern Railway had (it becomes apparent from photos) various designs – decorative lattice signals, slotted post signals, and simpler wooden square posts. They also didn’t take a simple approach to signalling, the adage being why use one signal when you can use three. There was also an early operational practice for passenger services to run through stations and reverse into a bay platform – the layout at Barnard Castle certainly lends itself to that, and does nothing to simplify the signalling.

The default TS16 signals, aside from being inadequate to signal parts of the route, certainly don't look anything like the signalling on the route. We are pleased to announce that Anthony Brailsford has agreed that we can use his excellent LNWR signals for the route. These are perfect for the Grayrigg to Penrith sections, and definitely look the part on the Stainmore and EVR sections.

On the West Coast mainline, the LNWR favoured tall co-acting home signals visible from long distances – certainly handy descending Shap at high speed or with a heavy train. The most well-known example was the up signal at Scout Green, which I estimate to be around 55 feet tall – other examples featured at Penrith and Tebay. There was a rationalisation of signalling by the LMS, with a number of boxes taken out and replaced with intermediate block signals – colour lights controlled by neighbouring boxes.

One of the aforementioned tall signals, this one at the south end of Tebay station
Another of the very tall signals at Scout Green
The Eden Valley line was single track, with token working split into sections. Intermediate stations at Temple Sowerby and Musgrave had cabins on the platform operating signals, though it is unclear what function these had without swapping tokens and I would surmise from the timetable, they were permanently switched out. Signals protected crossings at Cliburn, Waitby and (I think) Kelleth, worked from a ground frame.

Later in the line’s history, the Stainmore section west of the Summit was divided into sections, providing virtual single line working over viaducts at Merrygill, Belah, Aitygill and Mousegill, though both running lines remained in situ, and token exchange platforms were provided. Only 1 train was permitted on Belah at a time, and this approach was also taken on Aitygill for structural reasons. The others are not documented, but the Merrygill  signal diagram on closure certainly  reflect this operation. Following are a selection of images showing the new signals in place in and around Kirkby Stephen East station.

East of the station. The bracket is controlling entry to the Stainmore and EVR platforms, as well as sidings
Looking west, from the station. All these signals control passage to Tebay and Penrith.
Signal box can be seen in the background which controls all the signals at the west-end of the station and it's approaches.
Looking back east, an impressive gantry carries the signals for arrivals from the west.
On the left is the outer home on the approach to KSE, from Penrith. The bracket signal on the right controls approaches from Tebay.
A departure signal for trains heading to the summit
As previously blogged, the Tebay line was rationalised in 1924 following the downturn of mineral traffic leaving a long single line block from Kirkby Stephen to Ravenstonedale. Still no answer whether the Smardale Box moved to Merrygill in 1924!

Signalling on the route is pretty much complete aside from the colour light sections on the WCML to do.

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