PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE RAILWAY
OPENED: c1868 CLOSED: 1972
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Pratts Sidings was situated about a quarter of a mile from Stoke-on-Trent on the branch that ran from Stoke Junction to Leek Brook Junction, or Cheddleton Junction as it was first known.
Early signal boxes on the North Staffordshire had hipped roofs, although few survived into recent times. Several were built in the style shown here, with three-pane high windows – t
hey may have been of McKenzie & Holland origin or (it has been suggested) Easterbrook, Hannaford & Co.
This splendid photograph has much of interest in it when studied closely.
The signal box is all-brick in construction, entry to the locking room is through a wooden door in the front wall of the box. Point rodding leaving the box is neatly boxed-in with a sloping cover. The significance of the part-demolished retaining wall is unknown, but the sturdy post on the raised ground above it carries the signal wires overhead – a once not-uncommon way to carry signal wires across lines. This shouldn’t be confused with telegraph wires, a much smaller telegraph pole can be seen nearer the box.
The Up Home signal has two arms – the top arm has provision for slotting into the post, but the lower arm (which is fish-tailed to indicate it is a distant signal) does not, and there is only one spectacle, This signal may have operated as a three-position signal (without the distant arm below) prior to the introduction of block working around 1870.
Enamel plates hang either side of the signal box name-plate marked S and T which seemed to be universal practice around the country in pre-telephone days as a means of indicating the need for attention by the Signal or the Telegraph departments.
In the foreground, what look like guide rails in the wrong place are single-blade trap points in the sidings leading into the Down main line.
A few non-signalling features are worthy of comment for interest’s sake. The 0-6-0T steam locomotive has obviously been carefully positioned for the photograph – there would be no purpose in parking it on the Up Main line immediately inside the Home signal. Two of the five men hold their shunting poles – no change in those for the following 100 years!
Nearer to the camera, lying tidily on the ground is a piece of very heavy rope with a large ring on either end. This would be for rope shunting, allowing an engine to shunt a few wagons on an adjacent line which had its conveniences but derailments came easily and this practice was unpopular in later years.
By 1911, the box was fitted with a 37-lever McKenzie & Holland frame, but this was probably not the original. In 1966, the box was reduced to Shunting Frame status under the control of Stoke power box. Abolition took place on 9th April, 1972.