Victorian Railways

by John Hinson

General view of Flinders Street 'A'
Photograph from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour, 1968

This splendid birds-eye view shows Flinders Street station, Melbourne, and the Jolimont yards beyond it. Flinders Street "A" cabin can be seen in the centre of this picture, in the vee of the junction where the two double track branches to St Kilda and Port Melbourne cross the Yarra river. Despite the electrification of the area, an impressive gantry of semaphore signals can be seen in the foreground.

Flinders Street 'A' cabin
Photograph by Dr J W F Scrimgeour, 3/10/67

The signal box was a sturdy brick-built structure with hipped roof opened in 1905. The method of construction and dimensions might imply this is a power-operated cabin, but this is not the case.

The main line to Spencer Street is on the right, whilst the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines curve away to the left.

A train of elderly electric stock awaits departure from the carriage sidings. Note the range of shunting signals in this view, all mounted on posts as was normal Victorian Railways practice.

Interior of Flinders Street 'A'
Photograph by Dr J W F Scrimgeour, 3/10/67

The cabin contained two mechanical frames of equal size, totalling 280 levers. Notice that the levers in this frame have different lengths of stroke, leaving an untidy appearance.

Sykes' locking instruments can be seen on the instrument shelves, but this does not indicate that Lock & Block working was in use. They simply provide local locking between signals.

The "booking boy" is seated centrally at his desk, diligently recording all train movements. At his side is the most essential feature of all signal boxes - the tea tray! The presence of three grimy cups, in addition to tea, sugar and pot, imply that this busy box is manned by two signalmen as well as the "boy".

Signal gantry at Flinders Street 'A'
Photograph from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Here's a closer look at that the impressive signal gantry at Flinders Street "A". Twenty one somersault signals and ten shunting discs control access to the station platforms from the direction of Spencer Street.

The signal gantry, and indeed Flinders Street "A" cabin, are now just history, but one large mechanical signal box survives as an oasis in Melbourne - at Spencer Street No1.

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson