THE SIGNAL BOX

PHOTO GALLERY

London, Midland & Scottish Railway

FORDERS SIDINGS

Opened: 1930

Closed: 2004

Location code: LM10/29

Forders Sidings signal box
Photograph by John Hinson, c1973

Opened in 1930, Forders Sidings is an all-timber version of the design shown at Madeley. It is an unusually large box for the Bletchley - Bedford branch which is, in the main, signalled by very basic arrangements as seen at Millbrook. The reason for this is that the siding arrangements here were expanded and modernised during the 1930's, necessitating the erection of a new 40-lever box to replace two earlier structures.

Interior of Forders Sidings box
Photograph by Graham Floyd, 2002

The lever frame was of the design standardised upon by the LMS - the REC type, named after the Railway Executive Committee who recommended its adoption nationwide. It was in fact a development of the Midland Railway's tappet-locking design (see Napsbury for an example) but with the levers more closely spaced (at four inches) to make the size more compact. Only the LMS adopted these frames - hardly surprising as the Midland was one of their largest constituents.

In this recent view, it will be noted that few levers are spare. The various sidings here once served numerous industries, but the main function was brick making - initially Forder & Co but latterly the London Brick Company. More recently, the pits where the clay was quarried have been used for landfill, so the sidings have not become defunct.

Many of the levers (including those nearest the camera) retain their original steel badges, which were an adaption of the Midland Railway's type which had always been in brass. These steel ones were generally disliked by signalmen because they could not be polished! The LMS used this type on their frames through to the Second World War, when a new type of plastic badge was introduced - see Caverswall for the reasons behind the change. The large white plates seen on some levers here are a BR development of that type, and would have been fitted at a time when the signalling here was altered.

Maker's plate on frame at Forder's Sidings
Photograph by Graham Floyd, 2002

The only brass plate on the frame is in fact a maker's plate on the end of the frame. The provision of such a plate is rare - I have not seen any others on REC-pattern frames.

Derby was the signal works of the former Midland Railway, but the building of these frames was later carried out at the former LNWR works at Crewe.

Diagram of Forders Sidings box
Photograph by Graham Floyd, 2002
Click on the image for a detailed view

The diagram in the box allows closer study of the layout, which really is quite comprehensive for a box not at a station on what is merely a branch line. Most of the layout is on the Down side. The sidings shown as Shanks & McEwan are the former London Brick Company brickworks.

Signal at Forders Sidings
Photograph by Janet Cottrell, 25/4/90

This signal governed movements from Randall's Siding. Randall's brickworks was the first at this site but had closed in 1901. The signal was worked by lever 10 in Forders Sidings box.

The sturdy wooden post is of London & North Western Railway parentage, suggesting that it pre-dated the box. The balance weight, mounted high on the post for clearance reasons, is LNWR, too. However, the arm, which looks a little dwarfed by the post, is of LMS origin. Notice how the glass for the "on" indication is of a small size to complement the use of a miniature arm for a siding.

Forder & Sons had become established here around 1897, and they later formed London Brick Company & Forders Ltd before becoming the London Brick Company in 1936. In 1926, the nearby village of Stewartby was built to house the brick workers, named after the first chairman of LBC&F, Halley Stewart.

Multiple-disc shunt signal
Photograph by Graham Floyd, 2002

A shunt signal with four "arms" was provided in the sidings around 1972. This allows drivers to have a specific indication to indicate which route they are taking. The arms read from the top downwards, from left to right. Unfortunately, when they were first commissioned, it was discovered that a design error had resulted in their reading from right to left! This had to be swiftly corrected.

The routes (after correction) are as follows:

Lever From To
31 LOOP UP REFUGE
33 LOOP UP MAIN
18 LOOP LOOP
18 LOOP SIDINGS

Notice that the two lower discs are worked from the same lever. These are called selected signals. Although both are worked by one lever, only one signal will actually clear at a time. The appropriate one clears according to the lie of the points, proved through the point detection. This method of sharing the use of a single lever has, in the past, been used at many boxes around the country where alterations to the layout would otherwise demand the provision of extra levers in the box.

The Bedford - Bletchley line once had numerous intermediate boxes serving brickworks and other freight facilities, but Forders Sidings was the last survivor. But its life ended on 23rd July 2004, when control of the entire line was taken over by a new power box at Ridgmont known as Marston Valley. Ironic, perhaps, that it adopted the name used by one of the intermediate boxes closed many years

It was demolished over the weekend of 20-21st March 2010, but the whisper is that it may have gone to a preserved railway.

Additional notes by Graham Harris

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