THE SIGNAL BOX

BRANCH LINES

 

THE WEST SOMERSET RAILWAY

A Description of the Signalling
by Kevin Weston

Williton

Williton BoxThe first recorded signalling on the line is dated 22nd February 1875, with the inspection of the signal box at Williton by the Railway Inspectorate. It is of a B&E design constructed in brick and is only one of two still surviving. The other, at Weston-Super-Mare, dates from 1866 and has been disused for many years. Williton was an original crossing loop, although the actual signalling is uncertain, it is possible that GWR style “Disc and Crossbar” signals were used. The first recorded lever frame used here was a GWR pattern of 16 levers with Stud locking. This would not be the original, as Stud frames date from 1892. The original frame was probably made by Saxby and Farmer, who manufactured most of the signalling for the B&E. The Stud frame was replaced in June 1937 with the current 5-bar vertical tappet frame of 25 levers.

Most of the layout in use today dates from 1937, and consists of a crossing loop and the old goods yard at the Minehead end of the station. This yard is now the base for several groups, including the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group, who operate mainline diesels over the WSR. The only major alteration was in March 1968 when British Rail shortened the loop at the Taunton end by 50 yards to rebuild a river bridge. The semaphore signals are British Rail Western Region (BRWR) pattern installed in the 1950s to replace the GWR signals that had wooden posts and signal arms. The WSR added a number of new shunting signals during the 1980s and some of the signals have had their oil lamps replaced with electric lights, an idea that is used on several private railways as well as Railtrack. We use 24 volt, 36-watt lamps, fed at 12 volts which produces a low light that matches the old oil lamps. Where necessary, relays are wired in the circuit in to detect that a lamp is alight. All new semaphore signals on the railway have electric lights and as time permits, all the older ones will also be fitted. The level crossing is protected by gates, which are worked by hand, although there is an interlocking lever to release the signals when the gates are locked across the road. Age has taken its toll on the signal box, as proved when the floor of the locking room collapsed during the summer of 1998. Work to rebuild the floor started in November with the aim of completion in time for the Christmas services. This had not proved easy as a water pipe, which predates the signal box, was discovered under the floor. A new foundation had to be built to support the floor timbers; the originals were resting on built up ground and the water pipe, which, according to a structural engineer, is no longer strong enough to take any weight. The winter of 1998/99 will also saw some alterations to the layout. A connection to the Minehead end of the repair shed and two shunting signals were added.

Williton Ground Frame