PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE RAILWAY
OPENED: 1884 CLOSED: 1989
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Stallington was an intermediate box between Cresswell and Blythe Bridge on the Derby to Stoke line. Opened in 1884, its main purpose was to control crossover points which assisted run-round movements at Blythe Bridge. The level crossing existed before this date, worked by a crossing-keeper.
In 1875, the North Staffordshire Railway ceased using McKenzie & Holland’s standard signal box design (like Leek Brook Junction) and thereafter the structures were built to the railway’s specification. It looks as if the company was impressed with the Great Northern’s boxes erected on their newly opened extension into Staffordshire, which featured four-pane-high windows, and a gabled roof with attractively cut-out wavy barge-boards. The North Staffordshire copied the operating floor (see Stathern Junction) almost to the inch, although an extra flourish was a repetition of the barge-boards on the gable of the closet – one of these has been replaced in this picture. The brick base was more typical of McKenzie & Holland boxes – featuring an arched locking-room window with several small panes. The design continued to be used for ten years, after which boxes were built in a simplified style illustrated at Mow Cop.
Also visible in this view is an interesting feature found only on the North Staffordshire Railway. Instead of the more common wicket gates, the NSR provided turnstiles for pedestrians.
Inside the signal box, little had changed between 1884 and 1976. The original 13-lever McKenzie & Holland frame was still in use. The first lever, actually numbered 2, works the bolt that locks the gates safely for the passage of trains, and is in the reversed (unlocked) position. To the left of it is a standard McKenzie & Holland gate wheel, which swings the level crossing gates. It is physically bolted to the frame, and in McK&H fashion it is allocated the theoretical number 1. The other brown lever (3) locks the turnstiles.
Levers 4, 5, and 6 work the Up Distant, Home and Starter signals, but 7, 8 and 9 are of interest. It was McK&H practice to lay out their frames differently from other contractors by placing the two discs that apply to a set of points on one side of the point lever. Hence 7 and 8 are discs, and 9 works the crossover points. Three spare levers exist at 10, 11 and 12, then 13 and 14 work the Down Home and Distant signals.
Mounted behind the levers is a board with hand-painted descriptions of the lever functions, and a curved section proudly states “McKenzie & Holland, Signal Engineers, Worcester”. The levers themselves carry small circular brass plates bearing their numbers, but the “pulls” (i.e. list of other levers that must be pulled first) are painted on the side of the lever.
The original Tyer & Co one-wire, two-position block instruments had recently been replaced by BR bakelite instruments, although the luxury of “Line Clear” releases on the signals had not been provided. The wooden-cased lamp repeater on the block shelf, and the two electric repeaters slung below for the two distant signals are LMS products, but all other equipment appears original to the box’s construction in 1884.
Behind the Down Distant lever is a mechanical indicator for Blythe Bridge’s Distant. As the signals were so close together, Stallington did not clear the Down Distant until the Blythe Bridge signalman had done so and this indicator showed when that signal had been operated.
D J Baker wrote to say that whilst researching his family tree he discovered his grandfather, William Henry Baker, was a signalman at this box. He passed away whilst on duty on 3rd May 1939 – after placing all signals to danger he sat down and died. Prior to working at Stallington he had been employed at Pinfold Crossing, Uttoxeter, for 25 years.
Stallington box is also, sadly, no longer with us. After 105 years of service, it closed on 18th February, 1989.