THE SIGNAL BOX
by Chris Osment
This was one of the simplest signalling installations on the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. It was located at a minor road crossing between Wimborne and Corfe Mullen on the original Dorset Central Railway section and consisted of two semaphore arms, mounted on the same post to face in opposite directions and worked from a single ground-level lever. There was no interlocking with the crossing gates.
Details have been taken from a SDJR diagram copy dated 16-June-1930, although the date of the original negative was 27-Sep-1911, which raises the question of what change may have taken place at that earlier date to warrant the production of a new diagram. It is assumed that the lever pulled both arms 'off' simultaneously, rather than working them alternately in some 'push-pull' fashion, as it would be necessary only to indicate that it was safe to proceed without bothering about the actual direction in which the train was travelling.
Exactly when any signalling was provided here first is difficult to say, as there is no specific mention of this location in early WTT Appendices. By the time of the March 1886 issue there were entries detailing the bell-codes sent by the Bailey Gate signalman to the Bailey Gate Crossing and Corfe Mullen Crossing gate-keepers to warn of approaching trains, but it was not until the 1905 edition that similar details appear of bell-codes sent to Lake Crossing by the signalman at the Wimborne S&D Junction signal-box. The full entry reads as follows:
A similar instruction appears in the 1914 issue, except that by then the code for 'Down Train left Bailey Gate' had to be sent "...immediately Corfe Mullen Junction draws the Tablet", and an April 1914 notice also includes a reference to the existence of "telephonic communication" between Lake Crossing and Wimborne S&D Junction signal-box.
Passenger traffic between Corfe Mullen Junction and Wimborne Junction ceased on 11-July-1920. According to records the gate-keeper was withdrawn from Lake Crossing with effect from 1-June-1925 and thereafter the gates were kept locked across the railway, the keys being kept at Corfe Mullen Junction and Wimborne Junction signal-boxes. Freight trains continued to use the line and the gates were opened and closed by the guard (or fireman in the case of a light engine), who also had to operate the signal.
On 18-June-1933 the line was closed completely between Lake Crossing and Wimborne Junction and the level-crossing was abolished. The relevant S&DJR Signal Instruction also refers specifically to the abolition of the signals and ground-frame, although it is curious that these had been retained once the gates had been reduced to operation by the traincrew.
Can anyone produce a photograph of this installation?
© C J L Osment 1998
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