THE SIGNAL BOX

PHOTO GALLERY

North Staffordshire Railway

STALLINGTON

Opened: 1884

Closed: 1989

Location code: LM83/08


Stallington signal box
Photograph 1976, by John Hinson

In 1875, the North Staffordshire Railway ceased using McKenzie & Holland's standard design (like Leek Brook Junction) and thereafter the structures were built to the railway's specification. The company was clearly impressed with the Great Northern's boxes erected on their newly opened extension into Staffordshire, which featured four-pane-high windows, and a gabled roof with attractively cut-out wavy bargeboards. The North Staffordshire concern adopted this design (see Stathern Junction) almost to the inch, although an extra flourish was a repetition of the bargeboards on the gable of the closet (one of these has been replaced in this view). The brick base was, though, perfectly typical of McKenzie & Holland boxes - featuring an arched locking-room window with several small panes. The design continued to be used for ten years, after which boxes were built in the simplified style illustrated at Mow Cop.

Stallington was an intermediate box between Cresswell and Blythe Bridge on the Derby to Stoke line. Opened in 1884, its main purpose was to control crossover points which assisted run-round movements at Blythe Bridge. The level crossing existed before this date, worked by a crossing-keeper.

Also visible in this view is an interesting feature found only on the North Staffordshire Railway. Instead of the more common wicket gates, the NS provided turnstiles for pedestrians.


Interior of Stallington box
Photograph 1976, by John Hinson

Inside the box, very little had changed between 1884 and 1976. The original 13-lever McKenzie & Holland frame was still in use. The first lever, actually numbered 2, works the bolt that locks the gates safely for the passage of trains, and is in the reversed (unlocked) position. To the left of it is a standard McKenzie & Holland gate wheel, which swings the level crossing gates. It is physically bolted to the frame, and in McK&H fashion it is allocated the theoretical number 1. The other brown lever (3) locks the turnstiles.

Levers 4, 5, and 6 are the Up Distant, Home and Starter, but 7, 8 and 9 are of interest. It was McK&H practice to lay out their frames differently from other contractors by placing the two discs that apply to a set of points to one side of the point lever. Hence 7 and 8 are discs, and 9 works the crossover points. Three spare levers exist at 10, 11 and 12, then 13 and 14 work the Down Home and Distant signals. Just visible behind the Distant is a mechanical indicator for Blythe Bridge's Distant. As the signals were so close together, Stallington did not clear the Down Distant until Blythe Bridge had done so.

Behind the levers is a board with hand-painted descriptions of the lever functions, and a curved section proudly states McKenzie & Holland, Signal Engineers, Worcester. The levers themselves carry small circular brass plates bearing their numbers, but the "pulls" (i.e. list of other levers that must be pulled first) are painted on the side of the lever.

The original Tyer & Co. block instruments had been replaced by BR products, although the luxury of Line Clear releases on the signals had not been provided. The wooden-cased lamp repeater on the block shelf, and the two electric repeaters slung below for the two distant signals are LMS products, but all other equipment appears original to the box's construction in 1884.

D J Baker wrote to say that whilst researching his family tree he discovered his grandfather, William Henry Baker, was a signalman at this box. He passed away whilst on duty on 3rd May 1939 - after placing all signals to danger he sat down and died. Prior to working at Stallington he had been employed at Pinfold Crossing, Uttoxeter, for 25 years.

Stallington box is also, sadly, no longer with us. After 105 years of service, it closed on 18th February, 1989.


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Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson