The Branch Line Society


North Lincolnshire Signal Box Visits
Saturday 4th October 2014

After assembling at a very wet Barnetby station, the party of 21 visited Barnetby East in groups. It is very unusual to see Block Working on multiple lines now, but Barnetby East works Absolute Block to Wrawby on five separate lines; using a variety of different types and ages of Block Instrument! The box gives an interesting view of this busy location through which some 5M tonnes of railfreight pass each week (there were quite a few trains during the visit).

Moving to Wrawby, participants stopped en route to photograph the three impressive 3-arm bracket semaphores all due to go by January 2016 with resignalling in progress. The 1916 Wrawby Junction box is huge with 137 levers (the first five labelled A to E, the rest more conventionally from 1 to 132). Apart from a trailing crossover on the Brigg line (which is actually the 'main' line in Great Central Railway terms), all points are now motorised. Wrawby still has a large collection of attractive traditional semaphore signals. Many levers are now OOU and the box is normally single-manned, although it had to be double-manned during the Hatfield landslip diversions in 2013.

From one extreme to the other, our next stop was tiny Brigg box. Very notable here were the brand new aluminium level crossing gates, designed to look (very convincingly!) like traditional wooden ones. The station has three (SO) passenger trains a week in each direction and a sign on the footbridge stating that the maximum number of people on the structure at once is not to exceed 10. It was wondered if there ever are 10 passengers here at the same time!

At first glance, the Grade II listed Elsham looks like a very traditional wooden-framed signal box but inside there is a very modern (2004) miniature panel. It had temporarily been installed in a portable cabin while the box’s lever frame was removed. The station here (with very low platforms) CP as late as 3 October 1993; unusually the staggered platforms were both on the Barnetby side of the level crossing.

Appleby (Lincs) is also a modern mini-panel housed in a traditional wooden box. Here the impressive gate wheel apparatus survives, sadly no longer in use. Some participants took the interesting public road through the steel works (where a Class 20 was seen giving AFRPS brakevan trips) to the remarkably large Scunthorpe Power Box which houses a 1973 NX panel. The signallers here are kept very busy controlling frequent freight movements, including the various accesses to the very familiar Steelworks and Foreign Ore Branch (which has up to 18 paths daily). The Roxby line is NRU now, although domestic waste from Brentford is unloaded at the former Scunthorpe Goods Depot (opposite the box) and taken the short journey by road to Crosby Mines for tipping. There is plenty of passenger traffic too; including empty shunts for those terminating at Scunthorpe.

Our only gatebox of the day was Keadby Canal Junction (no longer a junction of course!). It is somewhat difficult to find, being set in a rural location beside the Stainforth & Keadby Canal behind the power station. It controls the sliding rail bridge over the canal (which has a public footpath) and a road crossing. In the summer months, a regular procession of canal boats keeps the signaller busy but otherwise the bridge is only opened occasionally.

We rounded off the interesting and enjoyable day with a ‘bonus’ visit to Doncaster PSB. This 1979 NX panel controls the ECML from Stoke (south of Grantham) through Doncaster and 10 miles beyond, as well as numerous branches, sidings and yards. The sheer size of the panel was amazing (even to those of us who had visited Wembley Main Line SC earlier in the year) and we were treated to a highly informative ‘guided tour’ by senior signalman Martin Crompton. The latest addition was Doncaster North Chord, which looked rather peculiar having to be fitted into the existing lines in a non-geographical way. All the signal boxes visited (except Brigg) were involved in our Chord & Quay railtour of 11 October which the signalling staff were looking forward to.