Midland Great Western Railway

by John Hinson

Claeremorris signal box
Photograph 10/6/64, from the collection of Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

Further down the Galway line of the Midland Great Western from Athlone was an important junction at Claremorris.

The box opened in May 1941, replacing two previous boxes. The hipped-roof design is typical of work carried out by the Great Southern Railway (who took over the MGW in 1925) after 1928, although the use of stone construction of the base was not typical.

The bilingual nameboard on the signalbox is a popular feature in Ireland - whilst such signs are common at stations around the world, I know of no other country that applies dual names to operating buildings such as signal boxes.

General view of junction at Claremorris
Photograph from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

This view, at the Athlone end of the station, shows a double-headed passenger train arriving at Claremorris from the Athlone direction. Bracket starting signals allow Up trains to depart from both the Up and Down platforms towards both Athlone and (to the right) Limerick via Athenry. A starting signal is also provided to allow trains to depart from the third platform towards Athenry.

A similar view, May 2000
Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00

Amazingly, this view has hardly changed - this is how it looked in May 2000.

View looking towards the station at Claremorris
Photograph from the collection of Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

Looking back towards the station, the two bracket signals in the above views can be seen, along with the single signal from the loop, which has two platform faces. The outer one provided easy interchange for passenger from the Ballinrobe & Claremorris Light Railway which was worked by the MGW. Over on the far left of this view, the starting signal for this line can be seen.

Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00

From outside, the box doesn't look particularly large, but it houses a 66-lever frame manufactured by the Railway Signal Company, and can now claim to be the largest operational lever frame in Ireland. Notice there are few spare levers, too.

Miniature Train Staff instruments
Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00

There are four Webb-Thompson Miniature Train Staff instruments in Claremorris cabin, three of which are visible here. The furthest is empty of staffs and is probably out of use as the Athenry line is now worked by Manual Train Staff but is no longer in regular use.

The red box is a hand-generator to provide the electricity to work the staff instruments, and the keys mounted on the right-hand extension of the instruments allow mechanical release of the starting signals concerned. The use of keys rather than electric releases is thought to have come about through the fact that the staff instruments were maintained by the Post Office (Eircom nowadays) and not by the railway themselves, because it avoids having any physical connection between the different areas of maintenance responsibility. The key has to be returned to the instrument after use because its removal prevents bell signals from being sent, although they can be received.

Signal diagram of Claremorris
Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00

The signalman's diagram is nicely drawn in traditional style. Although there is evidence of removal of redundant trackwork, the box still has much to control.

FPL with outside bar
Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00

There is much in the way of interesting signalling equipment to be seen at Claremorris. Noteworthy here is the lifting bar mounted on the outside of the rail. The points themselves are of the "economical" type where the Facing Point Lock and the points themselves are all worked from one lever. At the time of the photograph, the points were out of use and may now have been removed.

Square yellow shunting signal
Photograph by Simon Lowe 2/5/00
Yellow calling-on arm at Claremorris
Photograph by Janet Cottrell, 1992

Two interesting signals at Claremorris are illustrated here. On the left is a square shunting disc (which is a bit of a contradiction of terms!) with yellow "arm" indicating, as on the UK mainland, that the signal may be passed at danger when the points are in the normal position. The wagons in the background are loaded with (of course!) Guinness.

On the right, the miniature yellow arm is actually a calling-on signal. This is believed to be the last mechanical calling-on arm in Ireland. By modern standards, the arm should be red.

Compiled from notes by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour, Tony Gray and Simon Lowe

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson