Great Western Railway


Opened: c1885

Closed: 1979

Location code: W35/11

Sarnau signal boxThere are several villages in Wales called Sarnau. The word, in the Welsh language means five roads crossing, a word that has no equivalent in English. But only one of these villages possessed a station and signal box, and that was the one located just west of Carmarthen on the Great Western's main line to Fishguard.

Boxes to this design were built by the Great Western Railway between 1880 and 1889, though few now remain. Sarnau was a particularly splendid example in that it retained its original frame until closure. It is fortunate that the box was chosen to be preserved by Scolton Manor Country Park, although only the top portion survives.

Another style of box was introduced from 1883, and an example is illustrated at Moreton-in-Marsh.

Interior of Sarnau box To enter Sarnau box was to take a step back in time. The original twist-locking frame of just fourteen levers had survived. The levers that once controlled the few points here, and the level crossing levers, all stand nearer to the vertical and forward from the levers working the running signals. This is a feature found on a number of early twist-locking lever frames, although the significance of this is unclear. The raised tread plates are another early feature and this was the last operational box with both features.

At the far end of the frame is the gate wheel (sometimes referred to as a "crab" which controls the level crossing gates.

The only touch of modernity, apart from the post 1947 block instruments, is the presence of ivorine description plates on the levers. Originally, the levers would have had small brass plates indicating the lever number, and which other levers need to be pulled to release it, whilst the function of the lever would be described on a brass plate mounted on a board behind the levers.

Fortunately, the frame has been preserved, with the box.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated