Midland Railway


Opened: 1905

Closed: 1978

Location code: LM43/16

West Hampstead signal boxWest Hampstead box represents the third design used by the Midland Railway, introduced in 1900, and used until yet another change in 1906.

Larger boxes generally adopted larger window panes (as seen here in the end wall by the staircase) although smaller boxes retained the divided panes - an example of which is illustrated at Upper Portland Sidings. The window arrangement along the front of the box should be disregarded as these were LMS replacements following bomb damage during World War 2.

From 1906, another style of window pane was introduced, an example of which can be seen at Ilkley.

The abnormally shallow staircase is a typical Midland feature, too, although this is not so obvious on lower cabins.

Inside West Hampstead boxLess cheerful weather was in evidence when this interior photograph was taken. A fair proportion of white (spare) levers indicate that the connections into the south end of West End Sidings have been removed. West Hampstead station had been named West End until 1904; it is interesting that the sidings never adopted the new name, nor did the box at the north end of the yard which was called West End Sidings up until closure in 1968.

On the block shelf, in shadow, are four sets of Midland Railway Rotary Interlocking Block instruments controlling the Fast and Local lines. To the left are the goods line instruments (described below). Out of view, to the right, was another permissive block instrument for the Second Up Goods line, whilst above the photographer, mounted on a roof-beam, was the "Overland Bell" which was rung from Hendon or Brent Junction No.1 to all boxes southwards as far as Finchley Road to assist in the regulation of Up Fast line trains.

Incidentally, the box never fully recovered from its wartime damage, and when "mopping-out" the water always flowed to one corner!

Click here to see an enlarged version of the track diagram of West Hampstead boxBy the 1970's, the layout at West Hampstead was quite basic, although the short sections and intensive traffic kept the signalman busy enough to be exempt from making Train register entries. The whitened areas on the diagram show where alterations (mostly eradications!) have been made to the layout over the years.

Enlarged view of diagram.

Midland Railway pegging block instruments.The Midland Railway's standard block instrument was (as with many other Railway Companies) an adaption of early telegraph instruments. These signalled the Goods Lines between here and Finchley Road - a block section so short that permissive working was not necessary. This also allowed easy diversion of passenger trains via the Goods Lines at times of congestion.

The pegging latch can just be seen on the right hand instrument - this required a knack to operate with one hand (whilst ringing the bell with the other) and was not as simple to operate as the similar instruments on the Great Central or Great Northern.

The apparent pegging handle on the left-hand instrument is a dummy - at one time it would have allowed deflection of the needle for routing descriptions, but these were disabled in LMS days when routing bell signals were introduced.

The original brass plate below the instruments could do with a bit of Brasso, methinks!

LNWR Permissive block instrumentThe Goods Lines towards Cricklewood Junction (with West End Sidings abolished, and Watling Street Junction no longer controlling the Goods Lines) were signalled with permissive block.

The Midland Railway's idea of signalling a permissive Goods Line entailed the use of a block bell and nothing else, but after an unfortunate incident further down the line at Sharnbrook in the 1950's, all Goods Lines were equipped with proper instruments. As the BR standard block had not at that stage been introduced, LNWR instruments were used at all locations. The circular commutator can be rotated almost through 360° to show up to 6 trains in section; the plunger on the right side of the instrument has to be operated for each train.

West Hampstead Down Goods HomesThe Down Goods Homes at West Hampstead were mounted on an original wooden-post bracket signal which almost certainly dated back to 1905. The main arms had been converted to Upper Quadrant but curiously the calling-on arm, probably installed by the LMS, is a second-hand lower quadrant. A close-up view and more details of this can be found in the Branch Lines article about Midland Railway Lower Quadrant Signals.

Notice also the vacant space and fittings for the West End Sidings Distant, removed in 1968.

The background of this view would be marred today by the massive structure of West Hampstead power box, which controls the line from St Pancras right through to beyond Bedford.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated