North Staffordshire Railway


Opened: c1868

Closed: 1972

Location code: LM84/17

Pratts Sidings signal box
Photograph c1880, by Dr Hollick/collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Pratts Sidings was situated about a quarter of a mile from Stoke-on-Trent on the branch that ran from Stoke Junction to Leek Brook Junction, or Cheddleton Junction as it was first known. The box opened around 1868 and the architecture demonstrates that boxes built prior to 1875 were not all erected by McKenzie & Holland, as is claimed in some quarters. However, the lack of documentary evidence leaves the contractor concerned unidentified, although it is possible that the work was done by Easterbrook. Hannaford & Co. A similar box is known to have existed nearby at Heath Junction, but few photographs showing other early cabins in the North Staffordshire Railway.

This c1880 view shows the yard pilot standing on the Down Main in a position just inside the home signal - it has clearly been parked there for the photographer's benefit. The home signal itself is of considerable interest - the top arm is of the old "slotted post" type, with the lamp and spectacle located beneath the slot. This dates it as having been erected before 1877, and it probably originally operated as a three-position arm prior to the introduction of block working around 1870. The lower arm is a later addition, mounted on the front of the post and not within it, presumably acting as the distant for Stoke Junction. A lamp and spectacle for this arm is not visible, which seems odd.

The front of the box bears the nationally recognised enamel plates with the letters S and T, seen on either side of the box nameplate. These were used to indicate to crews of passing trains when the Signal Lineman or Telegraph Lineman were needed - for telephones were not provided at this early date and this was the only way to call for maintenance staff.

The post to the right of the box carries the signal wires above siding connections, a policy long since discontinued.

By 1911, the box was known to contain a 37-lever McKenzie & Holland frame, but this is presumed to have been a replacement. In 1966, the box was reduced to Ground Frame status under the control of Stoke power box. Final closure took place on 9th April, 1972.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson