THE SIGNAL BOX
THE SIGNALMAN HAS ALWAYS TO BE ON THE ALERT
by John Hinson
Persistent complaints from the signalmen at Dalston Road box, on the Carlisle Goods lines, resulted in the National Union of Railwaymen writing to the Board of Trade requesting action. The BoT would not normally be involved in any way with the signalling on Goods lines; however they courteously forwarded the correspondence to the railway company responsible and in doing so resolved an issue with ease that the staff and the union had been unsuccessful with.
Perhaps the correspondence from the signalmen and their union to the railway company were written as badly as this letter. The first paragraph attempts to set the scene, whilst the remaining three are outright demands for revised methods of working. Apart from some strange grammar, there are several inaccuracies that suggest the writer does not really know what he is talking about! But beware of too many condemnations, as some railway terminology has altered over the years.
22-OCT-1915 - Letter from NUR to BOT
12-NOV-1915 - The latter three paragraphs were put to the NE for consideration
18-APR-1916 - The NE replied to BoT
28-APR-1916 BoT passed details to the NUR
And that, as they say, was that. There is no further correspondence on file, so one must assume that all parties were happy with the result.
Modern parlance would describe this as a "Warning" signal. The signal was worked in accordance with NE practice of the period, where calling-on signals were cleared prior to the clearing of the main arm. The NE had an ingenious economical way to achieve this - the two signals were worked by one lever which would be pulled to half-way to clear the calling on signal, and right over in the frame to clear both.
This would have made this a cheap alteration to make, because no locking alterations were necessary when the new signal was provided.
But why, when it was stated by the union that trains entering that section sometimes never leave it, and the NB said that trains sometimes enter it out of sight of the Canal signalman, were bells in use at all? To enhance them with direction codes is just a bodge. Whilst the BoT had no power to interfere, one can't help but wonder why they didn't suggest the removal of the bells and introduce distinct whistle codes to be given by the drivers.
That being said, there was one factor that was never raised at any point in the correspondence. There was a small intermediate cabin in the section at the south end of the NB yards by the name of Cauldcots. It was only worked as a ground frame, being manned only when needed to shunt traffic. No doubt the railway companies did not want to mention it for fear of its being required to be manned properly as a signal box, with all the associated costs, but the proper way to signal the line would surely to have been to do so.
Given the lack of mention of that box, the suggestion of replacement of the bells by proper permissive block working had not been thought out by the NUR, and the railway company was remarkably polite in the way it told them so.
However, the remaining suggestions were adopted and the staff and the union should both have been pleased with the result.
And for the rest of the life of the box, the signalmen were able to not always be on the alert, and instead put their feet up and read the paper.
Kew PRO Reference MT6 2435/16
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