Belfast & Northern Counties Railway

by John Hinson

Carrickfergus signal cabin
Photograph 23/6/60, from the collection of Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

Boxes of the Belfast & Northern Counties (later the Northern Counties Committee) bore great similarity to Saxby & Farmer architecture, but the overhang of the hipped roof was far more extreme and made this style of box very distinct and completely different to other companies' boxes in Ireland.

Carrickfergus was an important intermediate station on the Belfast to Larne line with facilities for looping and terminating passenger services. The box opened in 1922.

Interior of Carrickfergus box
Photograph 23/6/60, from the collection of Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

The inside of the box instantly reveals some features familiar to LMS aficionados, and this is because the Northern Counties Committee was owned by that company. The Midland Railway purchased the Belfast and Northern Counties in 1903 and the MR NCC became the LMS NCC at the grouping and at nationalisation
passed to the British Transport Commission. The Ulster Transport Authority acquired it from the BTC on 1 April 1949.

The track circuit indicators are identical to those found in LMS boxes. The diagram, in colour on a black background also looks familiar but this is not an LMS-style illuminated diagram so the similarity may be coincidental. The 40-lever frame is recorded elsewhere as being of McKenzie & Holland construction, although this view suggests it may have been a Westinghouse product.

The most interesting feature, though, is the provision of Tyer's One-Wire, Three-Position Non-Sequential block instruments. This was the most advanced design of instrument to use a single telegraph wire between boxes, but had its disadvantages as it depended on specific voltages to operate correctly.

Carrickfergus box closed in 1986 in connection with the resignalling between Bleach Green and Larne Harbour was resignalled. The box has been retained as a period piece and has recently been refurbished recently by NIR. It still contains the 40-lever frame dating from 1922.

Compiled from notes by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour, Chris Bellett and Tony Gray

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson