Great Northern Railway


Opened: 1890

Closed: 1982

Location code: E9/11

High Ferry signal boxHigh Ferry signal box was not at all high - it was about as low as they come, with the operating floor at ground level. In fact it was quite an intimidating place for a signalman to work, for it stood in the shallow angle of a skew level crossing where the fast and busy A16 trunk route crosses the Boston to Skegness line.

It was a typical of the boxes erected by the Great Northern erected on the East Lincolnshire lines, and is in fact a miniaturised version of the nearby box at East Ville. Here, though, the window sections are smaller as there was no need to provide glazing down to floor level.

High Ferry box diagram Above the 10-lever McKenzie & Holland frame hung the original GN diagram of the box, although it had suffered some staining from dampness. This had survived through there being no pointwork to be rationalised - the layout was this simple when the box opened! The only alteration that is likely to have been made in its lifetime is the correction of the red-coloured distant arms to yellow when these were changed in the 1920s.

High Ferry has an inner and outer distant below Sibsey box's home and starter, while not very far in the other direction was the quaintly named Maud Foster box. The block sections were that short even in the early 1980s, when the line carried no more than a handful of trains per day. Such excess could not be tolerated, and the box was reduced to crossing keeper status in 1981.

Tyer's block instruments at High FerryThe box had no block shelf - instead the block instruments were mounted on top of a cupboard on the back wall of the box. This is a late example of 1860's Great Northern practice, but the instruments themselves are a late model by Tyer & Co. These are known (unofficially) as the Tyer's Black Box instrument. They were used by the London & North Eastern Railway, but the painted wood cases are a far fling from the 19th century varnished masterpieces more common on this line.

To the left of the instruments is the train register desk, which was always sloping to give the signalman a good angle to write at. Above it are a range of omnibus telephones.

Between the two instruments is the closing switch, which was latterly rarely used. It is a standard GN switch, but a crude plywood case has been built to protect the contacts. These were common, and are said to have been provided after a wrong-side failure was caused by the buttons on a signalman's coat once hung by a switch.

Quite a few boxes at level crossings have been provided with closing switches at one time or another. They may have originally been provided to allow boxes to be worked as "crossing keepers" at light traffic times, but with the later additions of Line Clear releases on signals this would no longer be possible without modifications to the wiring circuits.

The line was singled in 1981, and the box was reduced to the status of crossing-keeper. It was fully dispensed with in 1982, when the crossing was automated.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated