Points Indicator Signals


In the earliest signalling days, the only signals that would be provided were running signals - to protect stations and junctions. Soon, the need arose to control shunting movements with signals. The earliest of these worked in a primitive manner in being directly connected withe the points that they applied to. This made them vulnerable to giving an indication (or part-indication) even if the points were not fully over, but this was not a significant issue as most shunting movements were overseen by yard staff who would check the points before authorising movement. From this point of view, the signals were more significant to the shunting staff than the locomotive drivers.

Example of revolving points discThe most common signal of this type was the rotating disc signal, and some examples of these existed into the 1960s. Many of these were also used as independent discs (working independently to the points, i.e. on a separate lever) and some survived even later. Other types of point indicating signal became extinct at an earlier date.

Points indicing signal at High Carr
Photograph from the collection of John Hinson

Signal at High Carr

This particular points indicating signal was in use up to the 1955 on the Talk o'th' Hill branch near Stoke-on-Trent, and was thought to have been installed around 1870. It worked with points connecting from branch to a colliery and tile works at High Carr.

Originally a lamp was provided at the top of the post, working with the semaphore arm. The spectacle was provided with white and purple lenses. The arm indicated the closed switch of the points - in other words it pointed in the direction that the points were not set!

The Nord railway company in France used a similar signal, although part of the arm was concealed within a white covering. The arm itself was purple (and had a distant-like fish-tailed end). The colours of white (for route cleared) and purple (route barred) applied to these signals. The colour of the arm of the signal at High Carr does not seem to have been recorded, but it seems unlikely to have been coloured purple as the use of that colour on signal arms in the UK is unknown.

The North Staffordshire Railway purchased the Talke branch (as it was known) in 1904 but in 1931 the branch was closed beyond High Carr. In 1955, this section of the branch closed altogether.

A similar signal is thought to have existed at Kerry, on the Cambrian Railway, but with the arm angled to indicate the route set.

The signal was put in safe keeping after closure, and is amongst the items on display at the York Railway Museum.

Based on notes by Simon Lowe, Michiel Rademakers and Howard Sprenger