The Branch Line Society


Malton Line Signal Box Visits
Saturday 2nd April 2016

Report by Nick Jones; all photos © Nick Jones 2016

Eleven members convened at Malton station then moved to its signal box for a short welcome and briefing from Jeremy Jackson the Local Operations Manager (LOM). In three subgroups Malton, Kirkham Abbey and Barton Hill signal boxes were rotated between. The beautiful (and rightfully Grade II listed) North Eastern Railway Kirkham Abbey box is set in an idyllic valley, giving fantastic views over the river and ruined abbey as well as the trains.


Kirkham Abbey signal box.

Kirkham Abbey was one of 13 stations CP 22 Sep 1930 between York and Seamer to speed up services, leaving just Malton open. The 21 miles to York then became the longest distance between adjacent passenger stations on the same line in the British Isles. The signalling is very simple, with just eight working levers. Indeed, in the Down direction there is only one stop signal (as opposed to separate Home and Starting signals). The highlight was the level crossing gate wheel, an increasingly rare site these days. The signaller was rightly very proud of his historic workplace, which won a National Railway Heritage award in 2011. There are house martin nests ('real' and man-made nesting boxes) under the eaves.

Malton: The 1966 station panel is on the left;
on the right is the 1993 panel when the Heslerton/Rillington
area was taken over, with many crossings as can be seen
Next was Malton (formerly Malton East box), there is no longer a lever frame here and the 1966 Panel is showing its age, having faded over the years and been subject to multiple alterations. At first sight, this looks like an NX (Entrance/Exit) panel, with the typical clear-plastic buttons along the route diagram. Appearances can be deceptive, however; it is in fact an Individual Function Switch (IFS) panel. The signaller has to set every individual set of points using the panel switches below the diagram. He can then clear signals by pressing the clear-plastic buttons along the route. Malton station is unusual in now only having one platform despite being on a double-track railway. Until 1966 there was an island platform but one of its faces served the other side of the track to the residual platform. Instead of a footbridge or barrow crossing the North Eastern Railway installed a removable section of level platform, in the form of a wheeled trolley running on rails set at rightangles to the (single) running line. When a train had to use this track, the trolley was wheeled back under the up (York) platform; the trolley was interlocked, with the signals giving access to the platform. There was also an east-facing bay for Whitby and Driffield trains.

All passenger trains now stop at Malton (at similar times each hour both ways!). Up trains cross to the Down Line to serve the station, and then cross back. This makes Malton quite a bottleneck, which may worsen when the additional hourly service (committed by the new Northern Franchise) begins.

Barton Hill[Right]was a real step back in time. Although the box itself dates from the LNER era (1936), the signaller told us that the block shelf and instruments[Below]are much older, originating from a previous box at about the same location. Even the beautifully varnished lectern (on which the Train Register sits)[Bottom]is a piece of history. The signallers are rightfully very proud of this box and all the brass work had been freshly polished in advance of our visit. Another unusual (possibly unique?) feature of this box is the wheel-operated lifting barriers - maybe the only example on NR?

Barton Hill frame, and on the left the wheel that most unusually works the lifting barriers.

The final stop was Seamer (formerly Seamer East). This spacious 1910 box now houses a modern NX panel dating from 2010 when Falsgrave box (near Scarborough station) closed. The signaller here controls the main (York) line from a point just west of Seamer West Jn to Scarborough, including the station area, and fringes to Bridlington on the Hull Line. Despite the modern equipment, the signaller must still note train movements manually in a traditional Train Register Book. Although the road level crossing at Seamer was replaced by a bridge several years ago, a foot crossing remains which is the passengers' only access to the island platform. The signaller locks and unlocks these gates using new controls mounted on the old level-crossing control pedestal. It had been intended to place these controls on the panel itself but in the end it was decided that the pedestal location gave better views of the crossing.

The Bridlington line and Seamer station section of Seamer panel was installed in 2000 when the box (previously Seamer East)
was refurbished and most of the front windows boarded over. Seamer West signal box used to be next to it!

The Scarborough station end which was commissioned 1 Nov 2010 when Falsgrave signal box closed and the layout was altered.

The Island platform at Seamer and signal box from the north (Scarborough) end, looking south, the pedestrian access
is the gate (released from the box) beneath the 'Way Out' sign involving crossing the Down main line.

In summary, this line retains a fascinating mix of old and new signalling. Many thanks to LOM Jeremy Jackson, the staff who are clearly very proud of their railway and made us so welcome, and to our Nick Garnham. Donations of £260 were shared between charities nominated by the signallers.

Back to top