Highland Railway


Opened: 1894

Closed: 1985

Location code: Sc60/03

Georgemas Junction signal boxGeorgemas was almost at the furthest extremity of the Highland Railway system, and was a far reach from authority. Here, it was possible to see light engines totally ignoring signals, and vacuum pipes being stuffed with newspaper to make them seal. After all, who needs rules? Everybody knows the timetable and the nearest Carriage & Wagon staff would have been over a hundred miles away.

But management recognised the remoteness, too. Here, if a train was lost in section (in snow, perhaps) an engine was legally permitted to set off in the opposing direction on the single line to search for it!

Enough of that, this is supposed to be about the signal box which is a modified version of Dutton's first design of box - not dissimilar to the McKenzie & Holland structures found further south, such as at Dingwall South. This isn't entirely surprising, as Mr. Dutton originated in McKenzie & Holland's employ. All of the boxes between Invergordon and Georgemas were built by Dutton & Co. who were contracted to carry out the 1894 resignalling. A distinct identifying feature was the decorative moulding in the gables.

Not all of the Dutton boxes were built on as grand a scale as this, which was of importance as the Thurso line curves into the Wick route from behind the box. A much more humble example was found at the other end of the station at Georgemas North.

Up Starting signal at Georgemas JunctionAn interesting lattice-post upper quadrant starting signal existed just south of the box, controlling movements onto the single line. Beneath is a "shunt ahead" signal (signified with a superimposed letter "S") for movements drawing forward onto the single line for shunting purposes. More detailed information on this signal can be found in the Signals pages.

Beyond, the Down Home has been cleared for the arrival of one of the three down trains per day. The rear few carriages would be detached to be worked to Thurso by a light engine from the depot there. On arrival at Georgemas, this engine passed the branch home signal at danger in order to draw as close to the junction as possible whilst the crew nonchalantly went to fill their tea cans. Before the main line train arrived, the locomotive was gently reversed back to the legal location in rear of the home signal. The engine was (as normal) attached to the rear of the train on arrival. But on this day, after the train had been split, great difficulty was had making the brake pipe seal and it was at this point the newspaper came into play . . .

At the time of this mid-1970s view, a new engine shed was being built, as can be seen, to obviate the need for light movements to and from Thurso, but it was not long before modern multiple units took over the service, obviating the need for an engine shed at all.

The signalling is now history, too, of course.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated