PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE RAILWAY
Leek Brook Junction
OPENED: 1872 CLOSED: 1989
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In its 117-year life, this signal box changed names twice. When first opened in 1872, it was Cheddleton Junction, but it later became Leek Brook South Junction. In 1935 it became Leek Brook Junction, following the abolition of the East and North Junction boxes that had worked a triangular junction.
Leek Brook Junction was on the direct line from Uttoxter to North Rode, which avoided Stoke-on-Trent. It outlived the closure of that route, however, becoming a remote location at the end of what was originally just a single-line branch line turning off here towards Stoke.
The box is built to McKenzie & Holland’s first design, used prior to 1875, which had hipped roofs. The North Staffordshire Railway used McK&H exclusively for signalling work (apart from, perhaps, very early days) although an in-house design of box was introduced in 1875. An example of the latter is illustrated at Stallington.
An interior view of 1955 shows the 40-lever frame by McKenzie & Holland, described by them as their “No6” pattern. Mounted on the instrument shelf are Tyer & Co one-wire, two-position block instruments which survived around the North Staffordshire system until the 1970s.
Some significant recent alterations must have been made – the levers are fitted out with a full set of British Railways (London Midland Region) plates.
But in 1987, the shelf was bare – apart from a few telephones – because the main line had closed.
Unlike many, this signal box does not sport a highly polished floor – the wet weather gear at the end is a reminder that signalman at boxes controlling single lines have to make many a trip outside to deliver and collect the single line token so perhaps a polished floor would be quickly messed up.
Notice the false ceiling which is not found in a many signal boxes. These make for a splendid loft area and the chance of a visit was usually rewarded with a veritable treasure trove of old train registers and notices going back years.
This view was taken from the wooden island platform on the branch from Stoke, looking towards the signal box and junction. This station did not appear in timetables and closed the following year. It provided an interchange with a tramway to a nearby hospital.
The tall bracket signal (of BR build) protecting the junction survived the years, although latterly it only carried one doll and arm, the other having been replaced by a shunting disc at the foot of the post.
The balance weights have, oddly, been mounted very high up the post necessitating an additional ladder. This is normally only done where the signal is mounted on a platform or where space between lines is very limited – neither of those appear to apply here.
The diamond sign indicates the presence of a track circuit, avoiding the need for a driver to immediately apply Rule 55 and visit the signal box to remind the signalman of the presence of his train.
The last train at Leek Brook Junction ran on the 8th February 1989, and the box was “mothballed” for possible future use. It was officially abolished on 21st August 1993. The line to Cauldon Low subsequently re-opened in April 1994 without requiring signalling at this location.
However, the Churnet Valley heritage railway now reaches the location from the south on the main line. The signal box, which is a listed building, has now been restored but currently does not serve any operational function.