The signalling arrangements of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways were conventional for the time, using semaphore signals.
There were signal boxes at all principal stations: Dinas, Tryfan Junction, Waunfawr, Bettws Garmon, Snowdon Ranger, Rhyd Ddu, Rhostryfan and Bryngwyn. Not all these stations were passing places. The line was equipped with semaphore signals by McKenzie & Holland who provided a single spectacle variety similar to those used on the upper reaches of the FR. Distant home and starting signals were provided (except at Waunfawr, which had no starters). The line was operated using the Staff and Ticket system, later using Wise's Patent train staff which had metal tickets as part of the staff. Later the Railway Signal Company of Liverpool provided block instruments and the stations and quarries were also connected by telephone.
The signalling gradually fell out of use once NWNGR received a Light Railway Order on 6th June 1905 and because the expanded WHR operation had a Light Railway Order from the start, its new line from Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog was never equipped with much signalling infrastructure. The most significant installation on the new section of the WHR (actually on the incorporated Croesor Tramway route) was the signal box and arrangements for passing trains at the Cambrian Crossing at Porthmadog (now known as Cae Pawb).
Not very far away, however, the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway included among its various misfortunes a collision in mid section between an excursion train and a wagon. This occurred near Nantmill, under the most reprehensible circumstances. The line was being worked on the Staff and Ticket system. As usual with this method, Block Telegraph instruments were provided to ensure that a train running on Ticket had cleared before the following train (carrying the Staff) was allowed to enter the section. On 31st July 1906, however, while a mixed train was still in section, Waunfawr offered to South Snowdon an up excursion train, which South Snowdon accepted! Unfortunately for all concerned, on this occasion the rear goods wagon of the leading train broke away, and ran back down the gradients, colliding violently with the excursion. Ten people were injured, and there was severe damage to the engine, which appears to have been Snowdon Ranger or Moel Tryfan. It is clear from Lt.-Col. E. Druitt's Report that the general standard of operating had deteriorated to the extent that the block system was regarded as more of a nuisance than anything else. At many stations, the "Train out of Section" bell signal was no longer in use, and the general standard of working seems to have been very casual. Add to all this the fact that the Guard of the mixed train had missed his errant wagon, and was bringing his train back to look for it, and we have the hair-raising picture of a railway being run by a management and staff who alike did not appreciate the essential need for working in a regular and methodical manner, and who apparently were unaware of the possible appalling results.
- See Day Log/1906-07-31 for further details from Lt. Col. Druitt's report.
- http://www.welshhighlandheritage.co.uk/gallery/signalboxes.html - Pictures of signal boxes on the NWNGR and WHR