Following the tragic events in Sri Lanka recently, I pondered whether I would complete the intended final post of the series I had in mind. I have concluded that I would primarily because the experience that I had of Sri Lanka and its people was so friendly and felt so safe. So this post is my small bit of illustrating that Sri Lanka is not the country that was illustrated by the acts of a few deranged members of the population.
One of the joys of Sri Lanka’s railways is the retention of widespread railway relics from times past – in particular the signalling. Whilst there are modernised sections, substantial sections are still firmly in the first half of last century with full semaphore signals, tablets and block sections. Although a few arms have been removed, the bulk of the installations are still in situ and largely in use; so it is a bit of a cornucopia of signalling. Here are a few of the signals that I saw:
The signalling that I saw was all Saxby and Farmer – I only saw a couple of the lines in the country so it may be that there are other suppliers in evidence. The ground signals were quite similar to the McKenzie & Holland equivalents and tended to come in batches – looking like sentinels from an episode of Dr Who!
I thought the signal boxes looked decidedly home counties, although the rather shocking salmon pink wouldn’t have been found in Hertfordshire or Surrey I hazard!
With the exception of the signalman’s attire, the inside of the signal box was instantly recognisable to any UK railwayman of the last century of a half (well perhaps any UK railwayman of the last 40 years would be surprised to see so few white levers………).
This is the inside of Kandy’s signal box. Kandy is largely a terminus with the line from the Highlands and Columbo meeting here, along with a branch. With five platform faces and only moderate amounts of sidings, it struck me as a perfect modelling track plan if anyone wants to have a go! Here is the view from the steps of the box, along with the signalling diagram.
The approach to Kandy was in the process of being doubled when I visited, so I suspect that it will be resignalled with colour lights when this is done – so you had best get there soon if you want to see it like this………….
As part of the Missenden Railway Modellers summer retreat, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the Princes Risborough North Box, which is now in the custody of the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association.
The box had lain derelict for many years, since its closure in 1991. Somewhat peculiarly, it was a break in by vandals during this period that potentially saved the box as it identified how seriously affected by water penetration and rot it was. This lead to the preservation society being able to convince Network Rail to let them in to stabilise it and they feel that had this not have occurred, when the building’s distress subsequently became apparent to Network Rail they would have merely ripped it down.
The box is substantial and is apparently the largest remaining GWR signal box in the country. It originally controlled the north end of Princes Risborough station but its size was determined by the complicated junction at this end of the station with three branch lines splitting from the main-line to Bicester and beyond. The branches it served were Aylesbury (still part of the national network), Oxford (closed in 1963) and Watlington (closed in 1957 but now reopened to Chinner as part of the preserved railway). The Railway Clearing House map is below and just to prove the complexity the box diagram too!
As would be imagined, there is a fairly extensive array of levers although in the various rationalisations that occurred through the GWR and BR eras have reduced the extent of these significantly. The preservation association have, however, reinstated many of the missing levers even though they are not yet connected to anything.
At present, the preservation society only have a temporary connection into the Princes Risborough bay platform but the intention will be to make this a permanent link onto their line, signalled via the box. However, given that this will still only be one of the lines that the box formerly served, there will only be a limited amount of it in use. Apparently the plan therefore will be to separate off the bulk of the box to create an interactive museum where visitors can play the part of a signalman.
The treat for me (and many of the others on the visit) was to go into the frame room to take a look at the locking frame. Although I had seen this in model form before, I had never seen a full sized locking frame – even though this is only a shadow of its former self as it only covers that proportion of the box that was in use at 1991, it is still very complicated as you can see.
The Chiltern line is now really quite busy, far more so than when I used it to get to Solihull on business regularly. In addition to the procession of class 168 DMUs, there were class 68s on the trains for Birmingham and Wrexham plus a pair of trips each day with class 66s on spoil trains from the Thames Tideway sewer project.
And finally, this is what the box looked like in the days of steam. This photograph was taken in 1960 by Christopher Bomken when he was still in his shorts – it even won him 2 shillings and sixpence in a school photographic competition. Recognition at last Christopher it has made the interweb!