South Eastern Railway


Opened: 1894

Closed: ——

Location code: S37/15

Rye signal boxRye signal box opened in 1894. Whereas many of the early signal boxes on the South Eastern Railway had been erected and fitted out by the company themselves, the intensive signalling of the late 1880's and 1890's necessitated the extensive use of contractor's work.

Much of this work was carried out by Saxby & Farmer, and this example depicts one of two designs introduced in 1884. This variety was a little more attractive than the alternative - see Bearsted - but it isn't clear why two designs were used in parallel. Of the two designs, this remained in longer production, the last batch were erected in 1901 and an example can be seen at Coombe Junction.

Distinct features of this design was the cock's-comb ridge tiles and the heavily overhanging roof, although not all of those built had as great an overhang as seen here. Some examples had shallower windows, too.

Inside Rye signal boxRye can be found on the Hastings to Ashford line. Until relatively recently the line was double-track, but it is now single line with a crossing loop here.

Here, we see inside the box in double-track days.

The lever frame is to Saxby & Farmer's Duplex design, introduced in 1888 and manufactured in large quantities over the next seventeen years. This example contains thirty levers which was ample to control the facilities at this country town station.

Prominent on the block shelf is a standard SR instrument communicating with Ore box, but lurking in the shadows at this end is something rather more interesting.

Walker's block instrument in Rye boxThis is a Walker's one-wire two-position block instrument, predating the box by about twenty years for this instrument almost certainly dates from the 1870's.

The earliest block instruments used just two positions to indicate the state of the block section (the norm is three positions), and a miniature signal is used to give the indications. In simple terms, the model signal has two arms which represent the view out of the box window. The red arm shows the state of the section going away from the box - here it shows clear and the starting signal could be pulled off to show a corresponding indication.

The rear view of a signal on the instrument represents the next box (Appledore) as to whether he may clear his starting signal.

Either signal in the raised (danger) position indicates a train in section in which case the corresponding starting signal should also be at danger.

That was as the system was first conceived, anyway, but the principles of absolute block did change slightly over the years in that even though the arms are lowered here, trains have to be accepted before the corresponding signals are cleared.

The instruments are called "one-wire" because all bells and indications are achieved by just one electrical wire running between the boxes. This made the mechanisms rather more complicated than later three-wire instruments but in early days this was considered worthwhile owing to the cost at that time of running out telegraph wires.

The device at the bottom is the "commutator, allowing the signalman to select the indication required before ringing the bell to transmit it. the bell itself is mounted on top.

The section between Rye and Appledore was the last in the country to be signalled with these instruments, but that was long ago. The line is now single and worked on the Tokenless Block system. Nevertheless, the box remains in use.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated