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European Railroad Discussion > Somersault signals on the way to Skegness


Date: 05/14/20 08:07
Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 86235

Skegness is a resort town on England's east coast, famous for its Jolly Fisherman skipping along the broad sands below the slogan 'Skegness is SO bracing' in the poster created by artist John Hassall for the Great Northern railway in 1908. The term 'bracing' on England's east coast broadly means damn cold because of the easterly onshore wind which blows much of the time. Also known in more recent times as Skeg-vegas because it's not anything like Las Vegas but does have a casino. Today it's on the end of a long, straggling cross country line from the East Coast Mainline at Grantham through the fenland towns of Sleaford and Boston. In 1992 one of the main reasons for seeking out the Skegness line was the handful of remaining centre pivot or somersault semaphore signals which dated back to pre-Grouping i.e. before 1923. They were designed by a Great Northern Railway signalling technician to ensure they couldn't show a false positive, which was a problem with the previous slotted signals, especially in snowy conditions, where snow and icy built up in the slot which made it impossible to return the signal to danger, resulting in a triple collision at Abbots Ripton on the ECML in January 1876 during a particularly ferocious snowstorm.

The GNR used them extensively, as did many of the railway companies serving the South Wales coalfield and the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway in the north of Ireland. But by 1992 there were just a handful left on the section of line east of Boston. I think in total there were five remaining, four on the Down line and one on the Up controlled by the boxes at Bellwater, Thorpe Culvert and Wainfleet. They were all mounted on concrete posts and it was the age of the posts which condemned the somersaults in the mid 1990s, being replaced by conventional tubular post semaphores. These were all taken during the summer of 1992.

1: A class 117 passing Bellwater signal box, you can see the somersault Down home signal which is still in the off position. These class 117s had recently been transferred from the London area, where they worked the suburban services in and out of Paddington, having been bumped by the, then, new class 165 Thames Turbos. Those that were still roadworthy were redeployed to Regional Railways, on commuter and local services in the East and West Midlands and on long-ish distance Saturday service such as this, the 07:35 SO Coventry to Skegness.
2: This is the Thorpe Culvert Down distant
3: And here is another redeployed class 117 on the 07:26 Nottingham to Skegness passing Wainfleet's down distant. By this time they were getting difficult to pull off properly, the arm should be almost vertical and perpendicular to the post. Too often, as we shall see, the Wainfleet signalman didn't even bother to pull off the distant, requiring the train to slow down even though the home signal probably was off, the latter being closer to the box and therefore easier to pull.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/20 13:21 by 86235.








Date: 05/14/20 08:21
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 86235

4:  I include this one to show the Wainfleet Down home, which is much nearer the box, which is at the other end of the platform I'm standing on, the distant is about half a mile away. It's Monday August 31st 1992, which was our Late Summer Bank Holiday (public holiday). At the time Regional Railways ran a M-F loco hauled train throughout the summer from Derby to Skegness, today behind a matched pair of 'Dutch' liveried class 31s, 31512 and 31174. Aficionados are leaning out of the leading passenger cars to catch the two EE 12SVT prime movers which were growling away.
5: A mixed formation DMU, consisting of a class 101 (leading) and a 115 (trailing), the former built by Metropolitan Cammell at Washwood Heath in Birmingham, the latter a product of BR's Derby works. Most DMUs were inter-operable, although a few, built either early on in the programme, or for specific duties were not. It's on a Skegness to Nottingham service passing the Wainfleet Down distant.
6: Thorpe Culvert was a small wayside station a couple of miles north of Wainfleet, it saw very few trains stopping but because of the grade crossing had a signal box and four signals, three of which were somersaults. Internally all the equipment was of Great Northern railway vintage, the wheel to close and open the crossing and the block instruments, time really had stood still. This 153, fairly new in 1992, is heading towards Skegness on the 13:19 from Nottingham



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/20 11:27 by 86235.








Date: 05/14/20 08:42
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 86235

7: This was taken from behind the box at Thorpe Culvert, with the permission of the signalman. DMU set T420 was a four car hybrid set based at Tyseley depot in Birmingham consisting of a DMBS (Driving Motor Brake Second) and TC (Trailer Composite) from a class 115 and a TS (Trailer Second) and DMS (Driving Motor Second) from a class 116. The 115s were also refugees from London, they had worked out of Marylebone but like the 117s had been displaced by the new class 165 Chiltern Turbos. What differentiated the 115s from the 116s was a nicer interior with better seats and fittings, the 115s benefited from design input from BR's Design Panel, and more powerful Leyland Albion engines, which produced 230 hp from six cylinders as opposed to the 150 hp from the BUT engines in the 116s (and virtually every other class too).
8: Taken on 26th September 1992, the last Saturday of the summer timetable, a pair of 117s between Thorpe Culvert and Wainfleet on the 09:57 SO Sheffield to Skegness, always nice to see DMUs in multiple. That's Thorpe Culvert's Up Distant to the left and the signal box and upper quadrant Up Home signal just to the right of the DMU's cab.
9: And finally from 10th April 1993, the Jolly Fisherman from Nottingham to Skegness behind Standard 4MT 2-6-4T 80080 approaching Wainfleet. There were a number of us at the grade crossing and were sadly disappointed that the signalman did NOT clear the distant.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/20 10:42 by 86235.








Date: 05/14/20 09:59
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 55002

Very nice collection, Nick. I spent quite a few summer Saturdays along this line for the loco hauls. Like you, loved to get the somersaults in the pic. A nice signal box was Little Steeping, which had conventional signals, but the box was slowly sliding into the drain. chris uk




Date: 05/14/20 10:47
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 86235

55002 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Very nice collection, Nick. I spent quite a few
> summer Saturdays along this line for the loco
> hauls. Like you, loved to get the somersaults in
> the pic. A nice signal box was Little Steeping,
> which had conventional signals, but the box was
> slowly sliding into the drain. chris uk

Chris - I think by 1992 Little Steeping had subsided into the fen and been abolished! IIRC the instruments in the Thorpe Culvert box had been relabelled from Little Steeping to Bellwater.



Date: 05/14/20 20:39
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: tq-07fan

Really nice set Nick! I have seen video of these but it would have been way cool to have seen these in action in person. 

55002 was the crossing in your picture at Little Steeping* hand operated, and was it walked over by the signalman?

*I like that name Little Steeping.

Edit: Changed Sleeping to Steeping...

Jim



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/15/20 18:44 by tq-07fan.



Date: 05/14/20 22:10
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: krm152

Excellent photos with concise descriptions.  Deninitely liked them all.
Thanks for your posting.
ALLEN



Date: 05/15/20 04:00
Re: Somersault signals on the way to Skegness
Author: 55002

tq-07fan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Really nice set Nick! I have seen video of these
> but it would have been way cool to have seen these
> in action in person. 
>
> 55002 was the crossing in your picture at Little
> Sleeping* hand operated, and was it walked over by
> the signalman?
>
> *I like that name Little Sleeping. 
>
> Jim

I'm sure Little Steeping had hand operated gates. There were a few locations on this line where the signalman came out to operate the gates. Chris uk



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