North Eastern Railway


Opened: 1899

Closed: 1983

Location code: NE39/13

Wolsingham signal boxWolsingham was a quaint corner of the former North Eastern Railway if there ever was one. It was located on the branch from Darlington up Weardale to Wearhead, although by the date of this photograph the line only ran as far as Eastgate for freight traffic.

The line was operated by Electric Token from Bishop Auckland (the limit of passenger train working) as far as Wolsingham, where there was the only surviving passing loop. Beyond here, the line was worked by No Signalman Key Token as far as a ground frame at the site of Broadwood box. This ground frame simply controlled two sets of trap points (one facing each direction) to separate the two sections of line as the section on to Eastgate was worked on the One Engine in Steam system. The purpose of this arrangement was to allow a second train beyond Wolsingham to work at intermediate ground frames while a previous train was at Eastgate.

In practice the ground frame was not closed behind trains proceeding towards Eastgate, and the token (which had to be placed in the lever to release it) was left in the frame and there was even some doubt as to whether the remote token instrument would work. I have often considered what havoc I could have caused by scrambling through the undergrowth up to the top of the embankment, closing the frame and stealing the token while a train was at Eastgate.

Parked on the line opposite the box is an Engineer's Velocipede, a self propelled trolley powered (probably) by a Ford Prefect car engine. These were useful for patrolling remote sections of the line, but more difficult to remove from the rails for the passage of trains. My wife and I regret, to this day, not having taken the offer of an afternoon's ride up the valley with the gang.

Architecturally speaking, the box to the Central Division's third design (compare with Billingham) which was used from 1899 until 1905, after which the Central Division ceased to exist. The main difference at Wolsingham is, of course, the fact that it has been built lean-to fashion against the retaining wall, resulting the single large ventilator that would normally be found at both ends of the box being centrally placed.

Interior of Wolsingham box Inside the box was a McKenzie & Holland frame of the type known as the No.16 pattern. This type was used extensively by the North Eastern, and had the levers spaced at 5 inches intervals. A later type, known as the No.17 type, had levers at 4-inch centres.

The frame retains many of its original features - the small round brass lever number plates, and the painted "pulling order" on the sides of the levers are typical of McKenzie & Holland. An attempt to emulate the plastic sleeves on the handles of later frames, by painting the lever handles white, has not worn well and they now look untidy.

The points at the south end of the loop are motor operated, and worked by lever 15 (the right-hand of the two with shortened handles) which is painted black rather than the usual blue over black scheme. This lever, and the now spare one next to it, took over the control of another box (Stanners Close) which had controlled the far end of the loop at one time.

On the block shelf are a range of lamp indicators and signal repeaters, and just the one bell which worked with the token instrument to Bishop Auckland.

The most modern feature of all is, most surprisingly, the illuminated diagram - an Eastern Region product.

Sadly, this little time-warp is no more.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated