Great Northern Railway


Opened: 1921

Closed: ——

Location code: E8/20

Spalding No1 signal boxSpalding No1 was one of two large boxes opened in 1921 to replace a number of small cabins controlling the area. No1 box was at the south end of the station, controlling an important level crossing and the complex pointwork necessary for the connections to the Wisbech, March and Bourne routes.

The box is an all-timber cabin of the same 1907 design seen at Bellwater Junction, although like many of the late examples it has plain bargeboards. Its appearance has been spoilt by a thick layer of bricks being applied around the lower storey. This feature was added during the second world war as protection against bomb blasts - this was applied to most all-timber boxes at locations deemed to be of strategic importance. The alignment of the original timber structure can be identified by the deeply inset locking-room windows.

Inside Spalding No1 boxThe box contained a frame of a type that had been adopted as standard by the Great Northern in later years, although these were not used universally in new boxes as good use was made of second-hand equipment. This is a Tyer & Co Duplex Tappet frame. Tyer only produced mechanical signalling equipment after taking over Tweedy & Co in 1898, and their frames were not widely distributed, but the Great Northern must have been one of their significant customers.

One of the significant identifying features of these frames was the slightly curved catch-handle - similar to Dutton frames (see Welshpool) although the rake of the levers was rather more conventional.

By the date of this photograph, the Midland & Great Northern route had closed, so apart from the main line from Peterborough, only the GN & GE joint line towards March can be seen on the signalman's diagram.

At the far end of the box is some interesting equipment controlling the level crossing.

Gate equipment in Spalding No1 boxThe massive gates on the level crossing, which once had eight gates spanning four running lines, were electrically operated by means of the two pairs of miniature levers visible to the right of this view. With the flexing of the gates and the delayed response of the electric motors these gates could be quite frightening to operate - there was a general fear of sweeping away any pedestrians that tried to cross at the last minute, and there were many near-misses (and probably a few non-misses) with motorists that thought they could nip through as the gates closed.

On the left us a conventional gate wheel (or Gate Crab as the Great Northern called them) which could be brought into use if the electric mechanisms failed. Originally, there would have been a second wheel alongside for the Cuckoo Junction lines, but these were abolished some years before this view.

GN block instruments at Spalding No1Having been erected as late as 1921, Spalding No1 had the very latest in Great Northern block instruments. Astonishingly, these were probably the most primitive instruments the Great Northern ever used, and was certainly a sign of the company's perilous financial position at the time.

These two instruments signal trains through the station on the four running lines. The conventional needle is the non-pegging indicator for Down trains towards No2 box, controlled by that signalman. There is no needle for trains accepted on the Up lines, just a mechanical pointer mechanically connected to the commutator handle, which was clunky and heavy to work. Unlike conventional, fully electric instruments, there was no proving of the receipt of the correct needle indication at the adjacent box. Additionally, electrical interlocking with signals and track circuits was not catered for.

The instrument was completed by the provision of a bell tapper to the right of the commutator and a clumsily mounted bell unit at the top. It is unlikely that any instruments of this type are still in use.

Spalding No2 box closed in 1984, when a small panel replaced the frame here to control the entire station area. Although further rationalisation has taken place (the once busy Joint line is now but a memory) the box remains in use.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated