Great Northern & Great Eastern Joint Railway


Opened: 1882

Closed: ——

Location code: E60/03

Blotoft signal boxIn the early 1880s, the Great Eastern and Great Northern Railways put aside their bitter rivalry and, perhaps resigned to the fact that they would have to co-exist, embarked on a massive joint venture to build a joint railway extending from Cambridge to Doncaster. This was primarily a freight route, and this predominance survived until the partial closure of the route in the 1980s.

Blotoft Siding, was a wayside cabin on the section between Spalding and Sleaford. Boxes to the south of Lincoln were built to the Great Eastern's first standard design, which had been introduced around 1877. These boxes usually incorporated a large overhang at each end of the roof - see Great Chesterford and it is possible that the roof in this example has been renewed at some time, perhaps after fire damage.

Inside Blotoft boxInside the cabin is found the sixteen-lever frame, which was built by Stevens & Sons who were awarded the contract for this particular section of the massive project. By 1978, when these photographs were taken, the one siding and crossover had been eliminated and their levers painted white. Apart from a home and distant signal in each direction, the only other functional levers control the hand-operated level crossing gates and the pedestrian wicket gates. Since this view, a new crossover has been provided, to facilitate single-line working during engineering work or emergencies.

Adjacent to the red levers (controlling the home signals) can be seen two pull-up stirrups which operate detonator placers for emergency use. Control of these by such stirrups rather than from one of the levers was a London & North Eastern Railway idea.

Notice the home signal levers do not have a white band painted on the lever, suggesting that the now ubiquitous "Line Clear One Pull" electrical interlocking with the signalling instruments had not yet been provided here.

The instrument shelf contains a smart set of Great Northern Railway block instruments (illustrated below) but if you look carefully a pair of new BR block instruments stand behind them awaiting commissioning.

Signalling instruments at BlotoftA close up view of a pair of Great Northern Railway signalling instruments shows the design to date back to early telegraph instruments, and it is likely that the pegging block (on the left) was directly converted from one of these. The right-hand instrument is the non-pegger, controlled by the box at the other end of the section, which would have been manufactured in complimentary style to the pegger. Each has a large brass plate mounted on it identifying the line to which it applies.

Between them sits the block bell, fully enclosed in GN fashion by it's wooden case. Above the ringing tapper, a modern ivorine plate identifies it as working to Helpringham (help ring 'em?) box.

Blotoft signal box diagramAt the time of these photographs, even the signalman's diagram dated back to the opening of the box in 1882 - note that it still carried the GN & GE Joint Line heading. Removal of the one siding and crossover are evident by the patches where the layout has been painted out.

Blotoft Up Distant signalThe Up Distant signal would not have dated back to the line's opening, but was of the Great Northern's somersault pattern. This style was introduced after a serious accident at Abbots Ripton where a signal arm failed to return to danger in severe wintery conditions. This was overcome by pivoting the arm centrally rather than at one end, and the casting to provide this pivot may just be seen in this view.

The main post of the signal is made of concrete, a feature that allowed the signal to survive for as long as it did.

Signals like this, the diagram and block instruments may be gone, but the box soldiers on with a paltry service to what it once had. But it is still there.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated