Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses

by John Hinson

Senhora da Hora signal box
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68

Yes, folks, the little shack on the right that looks like a bus shelter is one of two signal boxes at Senhora da Hora. The signalling at this station would have been worked by the Sequential Key Interlocking system, similar to that described and illustrated at Renigunta in India. In normal circumstances, the Station Master would have control of a "key board" (not the computer kind!) from which keys would be withdrawn which would be inserted in the relevant points to release them. Once the points were set, a different key would be released and taken back to the key board which would in turn release the appropriate signal lever. Here, at Senhora Da Hora, the remoteness of the points would have justified remote cabins with electrically released keys, using a system known as Electrical Key Carriers. Block working was achieved by telephone communication between Station Masters.

At less important stations, the signalling would be simpler as no home signals were provided! No second key was necessary for return to the key board and trains would be handsignalled for all but through moves which were indicated by the distant board.

Looking south towards Porto
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68

In this view, taken from a level crossing north of the station, the signal box can be seen on the left in the middle distance. The small hut in the left foreground is the crossing-attendant's accommodation, but the crossing is not interlocked with the signals.

The signals themselves are of considerable interest. Unlike the signals in nearly every country around the world, the arms are placed on both sides of the signal post according to which side of the line the signal is located. Hence, here, the signal on the left applies to the branch from Trofa and Guimares (which is the left-hand of the two lines in the foreground) whilst the two-armed signal is for trains on the right-hand line, the main route from Povoa de Varzim.

The two single lines merge at Senhora da Hora to become double track through to Porto Trinidado, but the signal configuration allows trains to use both lines through the station. From this view it can be seen that two of the three signal arms have no spectacle for the off position, which means they must show a white light when clear. Or, rather, two white lights, for each spectacle has two glasses alongside each other. The top arm of the right-hand signal is of special interest, however. As it applies to a lower speed through through the crossover, it is provided with twin yellow glasses for the "off" position.

Signals at Sehora da Hora
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68 J

Looking north from the station platform towards the level crossing, we see the Starting Signals from the station for the two routes that diverge here. On the left, the junction signal acts like the one described above - the top arm is cleared for the main line to Povoa da Varzim, and the lower arm applies (with twin yellow lights) to trains passing through the crossover to the Trofa line.

Close examination of this photograph will reveal the twin glasses in the lamp housings.

The signal numbers are shown on the white area of the signal arms.

Looking north through the station
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68,

Looking north through the station, this rear view of the semaphore starting signals governing departure onto the double track main line towards Porto Trinidado shows they were painted in the same style as British semaphore signals. A rickety-looking steam train is poised for departure from Senhora da Hora.

Diesel train approaching from porto direction
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68

There was also another branch that diverged at this station.

A diesel suburban service approaches from Porto Trinidado and passes over the points serving the Matozinhos branch which sweeps away to the right where it has its own platforms. In the far distance, behind the train, the signal box controlling this end of the station can just be discerned.

View showing flat crossing
Photograph by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour 9/68

This final view, taken looking through the station towards Porto, shows the station building on the island platform between the main and Matozinhos lines. In the foreground is a "flat crossing" which was a siding connection between the Matozinhos line and a flour mill*.

Incidentally, Senhora da Hora translates to "Lady of the Hour".

The Porto narrow gauge system was subsequently closed throughout and replaced by a Light Transit system.

* - it is thought that this did not actually serve a flour mill but ran to an old quarry in S. Gens (now a wooded area, about 800 yards to the East) which was used during the construction of the breakwaters in Matosinhos, circa 1890.

Additional notes by Hugo Leandro and Pedro Silva

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Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson