North British Railway


Opened: 1901

Closed: 1987

Location code: Sc34/21

Banavie Canal Bridge signal boxIn contrast to the small boxes built on the West Highland line in 1894 (see Arrochar & Tarbet) the 1901 extension from Fort William to Mallaig was provided with more conventional signal boxes, although again they bore no resemblance to boxes found elsewhere on the North British system.

The contract was let to the Railway Signal Company, and the boxes were basically to their standard design (see Hoylake) but with a hipped roof which had an unusually large overhang. The frames in the boxes were built by RSC but were to Stevens' design, which was the standard frame of the NB.

Banavie Canal Bridge was originally just a gate and bridge-keeper's cabin, not being upgraded to signal box status until 1912 when the nearby box at Tomonie was abolished. The number of small boxes gave rise to the extraordinary circumstance of several successive boxes on a single line without passing loops - Banavie Junction (closed 1921), Banavie Canal Bridge, Camus Na-ha (opened 1942, closed 1964) and Annat (opened 1964). As far as is known there were no formal arrangements to ensure that trains from opposite directions were not signalled towards a point where they couldn't pass, but no doubt the low traffic levels ensured this never occurred.

Apart from controlling the bridge over the canal, the box controlled the gates of three hand-operated level crossings but had no points whatsoever.

Banavie Signalling CentreWhen the area became signalled by radio control in 1987, Banavie was the location chosen for the control centre, and the new box was built very much in the style of the original one.

The junction with the original West Highland line was originally known as Banavie Junction, as its branch originally ran only to Banavie Pier. When the Mallaig line opened in 1901, that box became Mallaig Junction, and a small box on the Mallaig line controlling the divergence to the Pier branch was named Banavie Junction. An unfortunate incident since the Radio Electronic Block Working was installed, where a driver was issued with an electronic token to Mallaig in error for Mallaig Junction, caused Mallaig Junction to be renamed Fort William Junction. This is, of course, a far more sensible name for the box and junction, being located in that town.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated