PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH BRITISH RAILWAY
OPENED: 1910 CLOSED: 1980
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Throughout the life of the North British Railway, brick construction was preferred for signal boxes, but occasionally circumstances demanded otherwise. At Thornton, the extensive coal mining made wood construction more appropriate as it was more flexible (and more easily “adjusted”) when subsidence occurred. Close examination of the picture below suggests that the lower sections of the wooden pillars have all been replaced and this could indeed have been done to keep the signal box straight and upright.
Thornton Station signal box was just one of many Thornton boxes (try not to think about chocolate!) at this complex of lines passed through by the East Coast main line north of Kirkcaldy. There were North, South, East & West boxes, each controlling corners of triangular junctions here, plus a Weighs box and a Central too (at the north end of the station), as well as Thornton Station (at the south end) illustrated here.
The design can be compared to the rather smaller brick example at Touch North Junction with the small upper and large plate glass lower windows. One of the front window sections is boarded over – as this box has a rear-mounted frame this is probably an area for wall-mounted telephones above the train register desk.
This general view taken from the station footbridge shows the layout geography and some interesting signals:
The two main lines spread in the foreground to pass through the island platform. The line on the left is the Down Goods Loop and in the distance a freight train patiently waits at Thornton North for a passage forward.
The Leven and East Fife line separates to the right here, descending to pass the North box before separating away.
The Down Goods Loop home signal is interesting – two miniature arms on short posts signal trains to the Down Main or Down Branch, and two shunting discs are bracketed left – the right-hand one is “off” and has presumably not yet been replaced after the freight passed (or maybe a following train is approaching). The left-hand disc is no longer operational, having served the Balgonie Sidings that formerly curved off to the left.
The signal box contained a 108-lever frame, mounted in the rear of the signal box as mentioned above. The North British were quite early in adopting this arrangement which gradually spread as common practice around the country over time. It has great benefits with larger lever frames in giving a good, unobstructed view of the trackwork outside, and with that leg-work can be reduced by locating the main signal levers together centrally in the frame.
To the left of the NBR instruments is a glass-fronted notice-case, and on the far left is a huge card of “Local Intructions”. These specify necessary variations from standard Rules and Regulations, and clearly there were many here!
The track layout here was simplified and controlled from the power box at Edinburgh on 16th June 1980, resulting in the closure of this signal box on that date.