THE SIGNAL BOX

BLOCK SYSTEM

BRITISH RAILWAY SIGNALLING INSTRUMENTS

Cheshire Lines Committee signalling instruments

The constituents of the committee were the Great Central, Great Northern and Midland. But oddly, the company seemed to be fiercely independent on signalling matters and rarely used its constituent's equipment for signal boxes, signals, lever frames or block instruments. A considerable amount of their equipment was manufactured in-house at their workshops in Warrington although not, it seems, the block instruments.

The oldest type of instruments traced to have been used by the CLC were pegging instruments very similar to those illustrated at West Hampstead, the significant difference being that the trigger mechanism was apparently spring-loaded. This variation is thought to have originated on the London & North Western Railway before they adoped their standardised design. The dials of these instruments were also quite different to the Midland type. Some of these have been identified as having been used at Mouldsworth Junction.

Bredbury JunctionThere were also Midland-type instruments in places like Bredbury Junction (right). These however were true Midland instruments for working the GC & Midland Joint line that met with the CLC line here so probably do not have a significant place in the history of Cheshire Lines Committe signalling..

Photo: 22/11/55 by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Dam Lane JunctionThe CLC's Midland-style instruments did appear to be in extensive use for train describing, though, this is a view of the shelf at Dam Lane Junction.

Towards the right-hand end of the shelf, a pegging instrument can be seen which has the ability of indicating two route options. At the left end is the non-pegging equivalent, consisting of the top portion only. This one shows indications for Wigan or Glazebrook. Apparently these instruments were only used for freight trains; the passenger service was, we presume, predictable and un-varied enough to run by timetable.

Two examples of another type of route describing instrument can be seen alongside the pegging type - these are two-directional or "combined" instruments and the one on the left shows Warrington or St Line for Down Trains on the non-pegging portion and Manchester or Stockport for the Up.

Photo Dr J W F Scrimgeour 3/9/56

Skelton JunctionBy far the commonest kind of block instrument to be found on the Cheshire Lines were of the L&NW type. Here is a view of the block shelf at Skelton Junction. Four such instruments can be seen here.

Given that the L&NWR was not one of the constituents of the CLC, it is reasonable to assume (or is it?) that these were provided in LMS days (the LMS adopted the LNW instrument as standard) or into early BR(LMR) days (when they were still the standard fayre). This has always led me to assume there was a mass replacement for primitive, probably one-wire, two-position, instruments but I cannot substantiate that theory.

Photo Dr J W F Scrimgeour 27/11/55

Bredbury JunctionThe only other type of block instrument I have come across on the CLC lines is really curious. This example is one of a pair at Bredbury Junction but we know they existed at Brinnington Junction too. These are, without doubt, standard Southern Railway three-position blocks! Quite how these came to be installed so far off the SR's territory is a question that may never be answered - it has certainly intrigued me for many years.

In this picture, the block is accompanied by a train describing instrument of the combined type mentioned above.

Photo:Dr J W F Scrimgeour 22/11/55

Brinnington Junction
Two Southern Railway instruments can also be seen here at Brinnington Junction (right), along with train describers and more true Midland Railway instruments in use on the branch.

Theories have been put forward that they were bought from the Southern's surplus stocks at some point, but the Southern should never have had any suplus as instruments made obsolete from resignalling schemes were re-cycled onto branch lines to eliminate one-wire blocks right through to the 1970s.

Photo Dr J W F Scrimgeour 11/55