THE SIGNAL BOX
The longest pull
by John Hinson
What is the biggest . . .?
A popular question, inside and outside the railway enthusiast world. Very often it is impossible to give a definitive answer, through lack of historical documentation, and any answer has to include the rider "unless you know better.
Over the months, two questions have been asked in the quiz section of these web pages about the longest pull.
The furthest distance (July 1998)
The furthest distance of a mechanical signal from a signal box was, to my knowledge, the Hertford North Up Distant, which was the far end of Molewood Tunnel - some 2,367 yards from the box. The signal wasn't used very much as through traffic was not frequent. However, it is said that the signal did not give many problems as might be expected as the dampness in the tunnel ensured ample lubrication! A diagram of Hertford box can be viewed here.
It was suggested that the next question should be about the shortest pull, but that would be more difficult to define. For instance, at Broad Street No.2 there was a signal right outside the window, but one would have to take into account the height of the box, and the fact that the wire ran down to the ground and up again. A signal further away, worked from a ground level box could well actually have a shorter wire run. So we'll skirt round that question.
The longest badge (May 1998)
The other interpretation of the question might be the longest list of "pulls" on a lever badge. The leading contender for this award is Trehafod Junction, on the former Taff Vale lines in South Wales.
The contents of the badge concerned is shown on the left - please note this is a representation only, being based on notes written on a scrap of paper...
I have never been able to establish quite where all these routes actually ran to.
The box was opened by the Great Western in 1927, being fitted with a standard GW 5-bar Vertical Tappet frame of the period. I cannot help but wonder if only the GW's obsession with detail would have produced such a list of pulls. I suspect most companies would have settled for "Pull 28 or 41" and left the remaining permutations to be read from those badges.
The signal read as follows:
The working of the warehouse normally involved the detaching of 7 or 8 wagons from the Down Treherbert and Down Ferndale goods trips, traffic being picked up by the Barry trip.
View a track diagram of the box, showing some but not all of the routes that once existed.
I've since found the lever descriptions for Southend Victoria - a couple of these are displayed on the right.
Additional notes by Guy Bradley, Ian Hughes and Roy Wilkes. Roy was a Relief Signalman working at Trehafod Junction
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to John Hinson