Caledonian Railway


Opened: 1921

Closed: 1986

Location code: Sc19/27

Taynuilt signal boxThis nicely kept cabin was one of the more rural outpost of the Caledonian Railway, being on the Oban line in north-west Scotland. The box is an all-timber version of a design used by the Caledonian between 1902 and 1908, and it could therefore be suggested that this cabin was brought in second-hand from another location. Whilst not an excessively old box (dating from 1921) there was much history to be found within.

Interior of Taynuilt box The lever frame contains 16 levers, and was made by Stevens & Sons. The frames supplied by their Glasgow works were slightly different to the English counterparts made in London - the most noticeable feature being that the levers were smaller - perhaps Scots signalmen were shorter?

The levers do not have any badges fitted - the descriptions of the lever functions are handpainted on a board behind the levers, but the "pulls" are stencilled on the sides of the levers. The standard colours are used for the levers - yellow for distant signals, red for stop signals, black for points and blue for facing point locks. The white-painted levers are not in use.

The white bands on two of the levers indicate they are electrically released when a single line tablet has been withdrawn from the machines which are housed in the station buildings. The signalman was responsible for station duties as well, and would only actually visit the box when necessary to operate the signals or points.

Signal box diagram at Taynuilt Mounted over the levers is the diagram of the layout - this one was the original Caledonian Railway diagram of 1921. The main running lines are shaded blue, and the sidings are shown in brown. This colour scheme seems to have been standard around the country, and compares well with the 1890 plan of Douglas on the Isle of Man

Stone signals in the Pass of Brander Further down the line, between here and Dalmally, are a sequence of two-way signals not controlled by any signal box. These are the stone signals through the Pass of Brander which is very prone to boulder-fall from the steep mountainside. There are sixteen sections, with signals spaced at about quarter of a mile intervals.

Signals were first provided here in 1882 over just a short section, but the following year the arrangements were extended to cover a greater area. Some minor alterations had to be made in 1893 when an intermediate box was opened at Awe Crossing, which was located part-way through the Pass. Finally, in 1913, additional sections were brought into use to cover the area as it is today. Awe Crossing box closed in 1966.

The signals are controlled by a set of ten lightweight wires along the side of the railway which would break with the weight of a boulder - one of the posts for these can be seen to the right of the picture. These are linked to the wooden post on the right (with the weight bars on it) which connects across the line above train level to the signal.

The two signals on each post do not work together, instead a breakage of the wire at any point will replace the signal at either end of a half-mile stretch.

No distants are provided; being able to stop short of a pile of rocks on the line is dependent on a good approaching view of the signals and the relatively low permitted line speed. Furthermore, the signals are regarded as "cautionary" and may be passed by drivers (with care) when at danger.

Surprisingly, the signals remain despite the entire area now being controlled by Radio Electronic Token signalling.

Taynuilt box itself closed in 1986, but instead of suffering the usual fate of demolition, it was moved onto the platform where it now acts as a waiting room.

Additional notes by Simon Lowe

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated