A busy early shift in 1972

by Alan Colquhoun

Nafferton is a wayside station just north of Driffield on the Hull to Scarborough line. It unfortunately lost its signal box a few years ago when control of a number of level crossings was transferred to Wansford Road (Driffield) and Bridlington South. This also became the block section, with other boxes closing at Lowthorpe, Burton Agnes and Carnaby.

Nafferton signal box
Nafferton signal box in 1983
Photo by John Hinson

Anyway, during my visits back in the early 1970s Nafferton was one of the least "naff" boxes on the branch as it was one of the few which actually controlled some points, in addition to the ubiquitous level crossings. All the other wayside stations were "plain line" since goods yards had closed in the 1960s, and their signal boxes controlled only the level crossings. Nafferton had a trailing connection to a down siding, serving Thirsk's mill, and a trailing connection to an up siding which had a goods shed still used for domestic coal traffic. There was also a trailing crossover with a single slip to the up siding, which could therefore also be accessed from the down main as well as the up. The layout was controlled from a 27 lever McKenzie and Holland frame which I think had only one spare lever. There was also an electric release lever for the ground frame at nearby Nether Lane crossing. Such quaint names! I believe the lever frame was numbered to 28, but no.1 was actually the level crossing wheel.

Apart from summer Saturdays, this line was not really known for busy shifts but a Wednesday morning in the summer of 1972 proved to be an exception. The daily trip freight from Hull was on its way to Bridlington and had traffic to detach in both sidings at Nafferton, plus an empty to collect from the up siding. It arrived at Nafferton at about 1000 and set about shunting back to the down siding, and afterwards via the crossover and slip to detach in the up siding (It would attach the empty in the up siding later, on its way back to Hull). As an up passenger was signaled to pass, the two maneuvers took some time and the signalman at Wansford Road became agitated with the goods still "on the block" after some twenty minutes. He had a following down passenger approaching, and there were two excursions from Leeds following it. Finally, he felt it necessary to send the 1-5-5 "shunt train for following train to pass" bell signal which I think must have been a first for Nafferton!

With the up passenger out of the way, the goods was shunted to the up main with the 2-4 blocking back bell signal being sent to Burton Agnes (Lowthorpe was switched out as usual, but manned as a "listening" box to operate the level crossing). After the three down passengers had passed, the goods continued on its way to Bridlington and 2-1 was sent to Burton Agnes. About an hour and a half later its stop to attach the empty in the up siding was rather uneventful by comparison!

Track layout and signalling at Nafferton, 1912

So, that Wednesday morning was an enjoyable coincidence for me, and possibly the only time I have witnessed every working lever being used at any box in the space of two hours! A later visit to Nafferton provided some excitement when a special freight of rock salt for Bridlington developed a hot axle box and Wansford Road sent 7 bells to Nafferton. The "heater" was detached in the down siding. The train had caused some excitement along the branch as it was belled as a 1-2-2 which was an unusual bell signal for these parts!

Nafferton box closed on 26th November 1989, and the level crossing converted to automatic half-barriers.

Comments about this article should be addressed to Alan Colquhoun
who can be contacted via John Hinson