Signalling and Weekly Traffic Notices

Because of the nature of the area and communities and businesses that it served the L&YR became the most densely signalled of all the major pre-grouping companies; its geographical area was fairly small but the complexity of lines, with a multitude of closely-packed stations, sidings and junctions, combined with increasing government legislation necessitated the evolution of a comprehensive signalling system in order to keep traffic moving. For the first half of its independent existence the L&Y used a variety of contractors to supply its signalling equipment; Saxby & Farmer, Stevens & Sons, E. S. Yardley & Co., the Gloucester Wagon Co. and the Railway Signal Co. were the most significant. Each of these supplied their own individual designs of signals, signal boxes, lever frames and interlocking to the L&Y; some of the types of frame and interlocking proved less durable than others but (with the exception of the Gloucester Wagon Co.) examples of all their signal boxes can still be found in use on the ex-L&YR lines of Network Rail in 2015.

From 1881 until 1889 the Railway Signal Co. was responsible for virtually all the new signalling work on the L&YR. The firm was founded in 1881 by George Edwards, the former Signalling Manager of the Gloucester Wagon Co., who set up his works next to an L&Y main line at Fazakerley near Liverpool. The designs of signal boxes, signals, lever frames and associated apparatus built by this company set the standard for L&Y signalling and were adopted (with, initially, very few changes) by the L&YR itself when it began its “in-house” production of such equipment.

From 1890 until the 1922 merger with the LNWR the vast majority of L&Y signals and boxes were manufactured at Horwich (except the Westinghouse power systems fitted at Bolton [1903], and Southport [1917-1919]); the largest mechanical signal box that the L&YR built was opened in 1901 at Blackpool Central and originally contained a frame of 176 levers. Although the Railway Signal Company’s designs were used as a benchmark for the Horwich-built products, over time certain changes were made (particularly in respect of the design of the signals themselves); some variations to the standard signal box design also appeared, including a hip-roofed version which was used in a few locations. The standard L&Y lever frame (firmly based on the 1884 Railway Signal Co. tappet frame pattern) continued in production for many years after the grouping, however, and proved to be a very durable design – even now, in 2015, several examples remain in use in surviving signal boxes on ex-L&YR lines.

As regards the signals themselves, the first major change to the Railway Signal Co. design occurred in 1893 when the Railway Clearing House recommended a change in the indication of running signals during the hours of darkness from white to green for the “proceed” aspect. Prior to this, running signals only required one spectacle at the end of the arms, fitted with a red glass; the movement of the arm to the “off” position meant that this was moved away from the front of the lamp, thereby revealing a white light. After the change two spectacles had to be provided to provide the red and green indications. To facilitate the change, H. Raynar Wilson (then Signal Superintendent of the L&YR) devised a simple change to the spectacle plate casting to include the extra glass, which meant that the existing signals could be upgraded without too much difficulty.

In 1912, however, the design of L&YR running signals and associated equipment was radically revised, and gradually the new designs began to appear throughout the L&YR system; however some examples of the earlier versions did survive, along with some of their later siblings, until well into the BR era. However, from the early 1930s the LMS and then BR gradually replaced L&Y signals as renewals became necessary, so that by the 1960s few actual L&YR signals remained in use.

Immediately post grouping (1923) some LNWR influences came in, and some LNWR style signal boxes started to appear on the former L&YR lines. Later, both LMS and BR standard signal boxes also appeared in some locations, but nevertheless the actual pre-grouping L&Y signal boxes were very much in evidence until comparatively recently and a few stalwart examples still survive on the former L&YR lines of the national network even today.

Clayton West was a 20-lever Saxby & Farmer stone based box of 1878.

Ashton East was a Horwich built standard L&Y box with a brick base.

Lightcliffe was another standard L&Y box but with a timber base used where foundations were difficult.

Gathurst cabin (a Saxby & Farmer structure) shows how sighting problems were overcome – in this case the adjacent road bridge.

Ancient and modern at Brighouse: this bracket signal carries two 1893 pattern Raynar Wilson lower quadrant arms and a two-aspect colour light signal added in LMS days.

The departure bracket signals at Blackpool North showing both the early type bracket supports made up of fabricated iron loops and the later single casting type. The older style signal arms and full central post with wooden ball finials are on the left and the later arms on individual posts with cruciform finials are on the right.

The scene at Sandhills looking towards the station and through the platforms to Liverpool. The lines on the right lead to North Docks Goods Station.

L&Y signals at Hall Road on the Liverpool to Southport line. The main large arm controls the line towars Southport while the smaller arms control shunting moves to the goods yard and a central storage road.

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Further Reading

L&YR Signalling by Tom Wray – The L&YR Society 2002

Signal Boxes on L&YR Lines – North East Lancashire by Chris Littleworth – Signalling Record Society, 2002

Signal Boxes on L&YR Lines Part One – North and West of Manchester by Chris Littleworth – The L&YR Society, 2013

Signal Boxes on L&YR Lines Part Two – North and West of Manchester by Chris Littleworth – The L&YR Society, 2014

For more details and to obtain a copy go the the Books link.