North Eastern Railway


Opened: 1870

Closed: ——

Location code: NE32/09

General view of Norton SouthOver a hundred and thirty years ago, the North Eastern Railway erected three signal boxes to control a triangular junction near Norton-on-Tees, north of Stockton. Three routes met here, from Northallerton and Darlington (via Stockton), Hartlepool and Ferryhill.

Two of these three survive today - Norton West was renewed in 1910. Norton East is not regularly manned, as the west to east portion of the triangle no longer carries regular traffic, and is boarded up to provide protection against vandalism.

However, Norton South (depicted here) is very much alive and well. This view, looking towards Stockton, shows the Ferryhill route to the right of the cameraman as being the straight route for traffic, although not the main line, and it is worth noting the home signal has the arms mounted at the same level. Just in front of the signal box can be seen a cut-out speed restriction sign with an arrow indicating a limit of 20 mph for the diverging route.

That signal is distinctly modern compared with the box, and probably dates from the British Railways era. The main post is crudely constructed from four pieces of angle iron, welded together at intervals with steel plates for strength. It has since been replaced by a colour-light signal.

Norton South signal boxA closer view of the box shows how it is neatly tucked into the embankment. The brick base reaches to roof level at the rear. Unusually, the gabled roof is at right angles to the line - this feature could occasionally be found on early boxes, but became impractical as larger frames necessitated longer boxes. Later boxes on the Central Division of the NER were built in the style illustrated at Cargo Fleet Road.

The roof is capped with a splendid piece of Victoriana in the form of a massive ventilator. This would have served an important purpose in the days when the only lighting would have been an oil lamp.

Notice how the signalman's staircase down to track level faces approaching trains. This is a principle adopted nationwide, in the interests of safety, from a very early date and exceptions are rare.

Norton South can now claim to be the oldest operational signalbox on the Railtrack network. Alas, the ventilator has now gone, but the box survives.

Click here to view the track layout for this box

Additional notes by Eric Collins

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated