PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH BRITISH RAILWAY
OPENED: 1906 CLOSED: 2010
Click or tap the images for enlarged views
If you could find an excuse to travel up the East Coast main line all the way from Kings Cross to Aberdeen, you would pass over one section of single line that was never doubled – between Usan and Montrose.
The signal box at Usan was deep in the countryside, but was naturally a key location owing to the need to deliver and receive the single-line tablet. In the picture above, the driver of a Down express is collecting the tablet by hand from the signalman.
And here, a southbound freight prepares to surrender the tablet as it arrives from Montrose.
The delivery facilities can be seen clearly on the left – apart from the small wooden steps and platform (illuminated by an oil lamp), the remains of the Manson’s automatic delivery apparatus, which fell out of use during World War II, remains.
The signal box is taller than it looks in the first picture, its brick base extends below rail level owing to the line being on an embankment. It is another North British Railway box with many typical features (such as the sash windows at each end in the front wall) but non-standard in other ways. The area above the glazing is vertically boarded.
The simple layout here was controlled by a 16-lever frame built by Stevens & Sons at their Glasgow works. The instruments on the shelf above are North British Railway original-style “chain and pin” three-position blocks for the double line towards Lunan Bay – the nearest is the pegging block and the chain can be seen hanging down as the block is in the “Normal” position.
The device at the far end was a push-in switch to boost the battery power when intermediate signal boxes at Lunan Bay, Inverkeilor, Cauldcots, Letham Grange and St Vigeans Junction boxes were all switched out, to ensure the bells and needles worked satisfactorily between here and Arbroath North.
The signal box had changed little by 1982, when it was photographed in glorious technicolour but the method of working had changed – in 1965 the tablet equipment had been replaced by Scottish Region tokenless block.
The lamp shed seems in a parlous state!
A diesel locomotive echoes the progress of the steam engine in the first picture, but the signalman has not had to go out to deliver a tablet to the driver with the tokenless block system in use by this time.
Usan signal box remained in use until 1st February 2010, both ends of the single line are now controlled by Montrose North.