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FARSAP film archive

Northenden Junction signal box

The latest additions to the Film Archive of Railway Signalling and People (FARSAP) can now be viewed. These films have proved to be very popular when details were posted on several Facebook signalling groups. The star of the show this time has been the signal box at Northenden Junction on the route between Altrincham and Stockport Edgeley Junction. As you can see from the picture it is a very tall eyrie of a box which has an 1881 Cheshire Lines Committee 25-lever frame and, to reach it from ground level, a long internal staircase with 42 steps. In the feedback, signallers who worked there in the past talked of lowering the single line token over a pulley using a long piece of rope with a home-made hook at the end so that train drivers could easily reach out and get the token. They also talk of the box having the smallest toilet in the world and some very fit rats which climbed the 42 steps. Several stressed the importance of checking they had everything to hand when coming on duty as you didn’t want to negotiate those steps more than was necessary. Some spoke of leaning a plank of wood against the ground-level door at nights so that any out-of-hours visitors opening the door would displace the plank and the noise would wake you up and, it is said, give you plenty of time to get out of your sleeping bag! One signaller rebuilt and re-assembled his rally car engine in the box between trains - and later wished he hadn't given the trouble he had getting it out again down 42 steps….. It beats “The 39 Steps” hands down one supposes!

Moss signal box

Also very popular has been the film of 12 locations between Selby and Doncaster on the East Coast Main Line. Film was shot in 2014 and 2015 before some of the crossings were changed from hand-operated gates on a 125 mph line to what are defined as "MCB-OD" crossings - literally translated, this means "manually-controlled barrier operation with obstacle detection", although it should be pointed out that these crossings actually operate automatically: they are initiated by approaching trains and have no direct signaller involvement when working normally, apart from them monitoring the process. This film includes the North Eastern Railway style box at Moss and the crossing at Balne. There are now around 170 signalling locations shown on the free-to-view films in the FARSAP archive. Additions are made when the films shot by volunteers from the Friends of the NRM and Signalling Record Society are edited. Helpful primers about signalling subjects cover some of the technicalities, and signallers recount their memories. Just search online for FARSAP – there’s a lot to see. 2-1 “Train out of section”.

Former crossing equipment at Balne

Mike Peart

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