Signal boxes

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Over the years there have been a number of Signal Boxes on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. At most stations there are and were no signal boxes and originally signal controls (often capstans) were operated in the open air. These days most signalling is automatic or so simple as not to require a box. This makes those signal boxes that do/did exist all the more interesting.

At some places such as at the entrance to Minffordd yard shelters were provided for pointsmen or as at Tunnel South for signalmen who worked block instruments.

The following sections give details of the various signal boxes that existed on the Ffestiniog railway in order of there location, starting at Porthmadog.

Porthmadog Harbour Station[edit]

For more details of the 2014 resignalling of Harbour Station, please see Harbour Station remodelling and resignalling (2007-2014)

According to the diagram on Page 392 of Boyd 1975, there was a signal box in 1881 on the seaward side of the main line to the platform. He may have been looking at signalling proposals which were not implemented. For details of the proposals see Signalling Schemes. Instead from about 1872 there was a signalman's bothy with a frame outside. It is not known when it was removed, but it was before the closure. In 2009 a replica was built and installed beside the ground frame during Kids' Week. This was removed in 2013 in preparation for the resignalling. It was taken to Minffordd and in 2015 installed beside the junction points for Minffordd Yard, where there had once been a similar structure, see Bobby's Box.

A new signal box was opened in March 2014 to control the revised Harbour Station layout with the new WHR platform etc. using a refurbished Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company (WBS) style K miniature lever frame. A cross-section drawing of the similar L style frame is shown as SG-25 in S&T reference folder 1969.

The box controls all signals on the Cob including the Trident Signal, the starter signals on both platforms, the eastern points and signals controlling the WHR platform and loop and the points and signals to the FR yard. However, the signals and points on the western side are controlled by a groundframe by Spooners (see below).

Pen Cob Halt[edit]

This signal box closed October 1923. Picture below: Pen Cob, c. 1922. The signalman is probably Owen Owens or possibly David Morgan Photo Tom Davies

Rhiw Goch[edit]

See also the following articles for interior shots:

Tan y Bwlch[edit]

This was erected in 1971 and was intended to have a lever frame for a mechanical signalling installation, but it was never installed. It now houses the signalling relays.

Dduallt[edit]

According to the diagram on page 394 of Boyd 1975, a signal box was opened at Dduallt in 1884 to replace Tunnel South. This was presumably a block post without a lever frame.

The second signal box appeared for the reopening in 1968 when old No. 1 Van was placed on blocks at the bottom end cutting and at first housed the telephone and the staff instrument. These soon got moved to the Bunny Hutch.

A third signal box at Dduallt operated from 1976 to 1988. It was constructed by the North Staffordshire Group and was similar in appearance to the first signal box built at Rhiw Goch and opened in 1975. These signal boxes were built on a low budget but served their purpose through critical years. Signalling equipment went out of use at Dduallt in 1988 and was gradually removed over the following years.

Tanygrisiau[edit]

The old Tanygrisau station did not have a signal box. The post Deviation station was intended to have full mechanical signaling and a box was built in 1993 for a lever frame but this was never operational. (Mitchell & Smith, 1994) It now houses the staff instruments.

Blaenau Ffestiniog[edit]

The signalling history of the Duffws Branch (later the Main) is very complex, and to tell the story fully requires a slight broadening of the term 'Signal Box' to include locations where block instruments were situated. The three conventional signal boxes in Blaenau Ffestiniog were built between late 1878 and 1881 and all had similar features - built of timber, clad with horizontal shiplap with sliding windows, slated roof and access by porch from a stairway. They had lockers and stoves. In geographical order west to east the locations where the trains were block signalled on the branch were {Old Dinas Junction points}, No 3 signal box (the first), {1899 Dinas Junction}, {1881 Dinas Loop Line Junction points}, Glanypwll Level Crossing, No 3 signal box (the second), {Festiniog and Blaenau Junction points}, No 2 signalbox (all iterations), No 1 signalbox. There were many more connections into the branch line for sidings and goods yards.

Blaenau No 3. box (the first) Old Dinas Junction[edit]

See Boyd 1975 page 156. This was situated in the Eastern angle of the triangle junction of the line to Duffws and the original route to Dinas. It had 12 levers, one spare. This (old) No. 3 box was replaced when the 1899 deviation of the Dinas branch opened.

Glan y Pwll Level Crossing[edit]

Block instruments were provided in the crossing keeper's house (now part of Glanypwll Hostel) until the second No 3 box opened.

Blaenau No 3 box (the second) Dinas Junction[edit]

Built during 1899 by a box on the clock side of the line between Glan y Pwll level crossing and the footbridge to the school. This location had views towards Station Fein and back down the line across the level crossing. This signal box had 19 levers with one spare. According to Boyd, this box closed in September 1924. There is a cryptic set of correspondence contained within XD97/19495 that indicates this signalbox was still open in September 1925.

This signal box has gone by the time a photograph was taken here in 1949/51. The space where it stood was still enclosed by a wall.

Blaenau No 2 box (the first)[edit]

Called Duffws Junction in 1879 signalling arrangement diagrams [1]; controlled what Boyd himself named 'Dolgarreg-ddu Junction' (the junction between the Festiniog proper and the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway). Dolgarreg-ddu was the name given to the general area of Newborough lands that became the site of Duffws station proper.

Blaenau No 2 box (the second) FR/GWR joint box[edit]

Rebuilt from the original box on approximately the same site with the change of gauge in 1883 and then two frames were installed - one for the FR and one for the GWR. This was at the end of the island platform at the GWR interchange station. It controlled narrow gauge points and signals and also the standard gauge. It was manned by an FR employee and the GWR contributed towards wages and upkeep of the box. The FR-side signals were dismantled during 1925. The GWR removed their frame in January 1929 and the FR theirs in April 1929. The box was dismantled by late April 1929. The GWR moved the control of their standard gauge signalling to a new central signal box which came into use in September 1926.

Blaenau No. 1 box Duffws[edit]

This was in a recess in a retaining wall opposite the GWR Exchange platform and close to the Queens Road Bridge. It had 14 levers. Levers disconnected from the signalling apparatus w.e.f. 10am, Wednesday 29th August 1923 and new catch point opposite the former signalbox put in.[2] Final recovery of equipment decommissioned since 1923 took place during the first half of 1929.

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ MT6 drawings at Kew
  2. ^ XD97/19485, bundle of correspondence with note from Tyrwhitt to Rowland Williams, Griffith Lewis Griffith, Piercy, No 2 and No 3 boxes and Blaenau GW station. Contained within bundle is note from Griffith Lewis Griffith, to Rees of the Traffic Department citing a date of Monday 27th August 1923. There is also a note within the bundle (from the General Manager's office to Signalman Richards at Duffws, although Richards was at No 2 box) giving a date of action as the 27th August for the installation of the catch point. In all cases the new catch point was to be locked by a key on the Staff (with the rather surprising rider that the Top Shunting engine was also to be issued with a key). This Staff key was to be added to the Staff in use between No 2 and No 3 boxes. This note from Tyrwhitt expresses the hope that the new catchpoint will be added to the spare lever in No 2 box. First note within the bundle is dated 17/8/23 and is from Signalman Richards to Tyrwhitt commenting: 'Catch point and facing point now leading from the yard to Passenger Line is now work [sic] by hand'.
  • Boyd J.I.C. (1975) The Festiniog Railway Volumes 1 and 2.