Dorset Joint Railway
One feature of the semaphore signalling on the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR) was the use of a particular pattern of "wrong-road" signal, where the signal arm was in the form of a large elongated 'X'. This page provides more information about the use of this particular type of signal on the S&DJR. For more general information about S&DJR signals and signal arms click here.
It is often stated that these signals were unique to the S&DJR, but that is incorrect. This pattern of signal was a feature of the signalling contractors Stevens & Sons, who supplied equipment for many of the S&DJR signalling installations, and it appeared on many other railways equipped by them (including the London & South Western Railway).
This type of signal has been called a 'bow-tie' or 'cross-arm' signal because of the distinctive shape of the arm. The term 'backing signal' has been used also, but it is probable that its formal name was 'wrong-road' signal because of its function to control movements in the 'wrong' direction. In practice the S&DJR appears to have described them simply as 'shunt' signals.
The 'wrong-road' signals were all 'lower quadrant' signals, where the arm was lowered to indicate 'proceed'. In the 'on' position (with the arm horizontal) a red light was exhibited. Some records suggest that these signals showed a purple light when in the 'off' position as an alternative to green, but in the absence of suitable colour photographs it has been difficult to clarify this point. Certainly a surviving example has the usual 'blue' glass used to provide a 'green' indication in conjunction with the yellow of an oil-lit signal lamp.
As there were examples of this pattern of signal at Midford and Evercreech Junction, two locations which were popular with railway photographers, they do appear in many pictures of the S&DJR. Consequently there has been a tendency for them to receive far greater attention in any references to S&DJR signalling and its idiosyncrasies then really is justified by their actual limited presence on the line. Research so far indicates that only 5 examples of these 'wrong-road' signals existed on the S&DJR at various times, of which 3 survived into British Railways days until final closure in 1966.
This Signal Register lists, in line order, all known examples of a S&DJR 'wrong-road' signal. More details about each signal are given in the notes after the table.
Register of S&DJR Wrong-Road Signals
|MIDFORD||5 PULL R||Notes|
|EVERCREECH JUNCTION NORTH||21||Notes|
|TEMPLECOMBE No 3 JUNCTION||17||Notes|
|TEMPLECOMBE No 3 JUNCTION||?||Notes|
Signal 5PULL was situated on the platform at Midford station and controlled wrong-road movements onto the Up line of the double-track section to Wellow. It was not part of the original installation when the new (second) signal-box at Midford was opened in 1892 in conjunction with the doubling of the line to Wellow, but probably it was in use by about 1900. It would appear that this signal had a straight lattice post from the start, whereas the other signals at Midford originally had wooden posts (later replaced). Click here to see a signal diagram (77KB) for Midford during the British Railways period.
It was a common problem at Midford that northbound Up goods trains running through the single-line section to Bath Junction might struggle to climb the gradient towards Combe Down tunnel and eventually come to a stand. In such cases the train would reverse back to Midford and then, under the authority of signal 5PULL, could go 'wrong-road' onto the Up line of the double-track section. This action would clear the single-line section for the next Down train, while the engine of the goods train built up a good head of steam for another attempt at the gradient ahead.
A repeater arm for Midford signal 5PULL was provided on 11-June-1929 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 293) and this was mounted as a lower arm on the same post as the Down Home (No 2). This signal was mounted on top of overbridge No 17 (known as the 'Long Arch') at the north end of the station, which restricted the visibility of the main 5PULL signal on the platform - provision of the repeater arm enabled a train to be 'called past' the Down Home with the latter in the 'on' position. Both the main and repeater arms for 5PULL remained in use until the line closed in 1966.
Signal 21 was located on the outside of the Down Siding (also known as Cogan's Siding) close to the junction points where the branch from Highbridge trailed into the Down Main. The signal was erected on a left-hand bracket, probably in order to improve sighting for trains backing around the curve - the signal post was a S&DJR design made from old rails. The date of introduction is unknown, but the signal was in existence by 1904 (not necessarily at that time in the form illustrated). This signal controlled the following movements (click here to see a 1949 signal diagram (139KB) for reference):-
During the British Railways period the range of available movements declined as some of the siding connections were taken out of use, but the signal remained in use until the line closed in 1966.
Signal 17 was located adjacent to the Up Goods line and it controlled trains backing out from the Lower Yard onto the Up Main. This signal appears in a diagram (Public Record Office file MT6/1063/2 dated 6-Feb-1902) produced in connection with the new (second) signal-box opened at Templecombe No 3 Junction in 1902, although the signal itself may have existed previously. It was taken out of use on 12-Feb-1933 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 328) when the signal-box was closed as part of wider layout alterations in the overall Templecombe Junction area.
This signal was a little unusual in its location and use. To the casual observer it might appear at first glance at a plan of the area that this signal applied to the Down Main, controlling trains backing across crossover points 15. In fact it was situated at the lower level of the Goods lines and it is quite clear from the interlocking table attached to the original PRO diagram that it controlled forward movements on the Up Goods line through points 14 and 13 onto the Up Main. It was used when long goods trains were being backed out of the yard onto the Up Main (ready to go forward southwards on the Down Main) and therefore the engine was at the end furthest from signal 19.
(Note: after Templecombe No 1 Junction signal-box was closed on 16-Jan-1887, it was no longer possible for goods trains heading southwards to leave the Lower Yard directly onto the single-line to Henstridge and beyond, but instead they had to back out via No 3 Junction. It is known from S&DJR Signal Instruction 32 that on that date a "backing out" signal to cover such movements was provided in approximately the same location as the later signal 17, but that new signal was described specifically as being a ringed arm signal. It is probable therefore that the 'ringed arm' signal was replaced by the 'wrong-road' signal 17 at some unknown later date.)
On 15-Nov-1915 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 253) a new two-doll bracket signal was provided at the exit from the Down Goods line adjacent to trap points 12, probably replacing ground signal 9. The left-hand doll carried an ordinary 'stop' arm which controlled movements backing from the Down Goods line across points 10 onto the Up Main. The right-hand doll was fitted with a 'wrong road' arm and this controlled wrong-road movements from the Down Goods line back along the Down Main. The lever number for this signal is unknown. This bracket signal survived the initial layout alterations in 1933, but then was taken out of use later on 27-Aug-1933 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 341) when it was replaced by a new bracket signal with two ringed arms to perform the same function.
A copy of a S&DJR wrong-road signal has been constructed by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust and erected at their Museum at Washford station, on the West Somerset Railway. Another example, based on the one at Evercreech Jcn North, is under construction by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust for operational use at Midsomer Norton station.
© Chris Osment 2002-13
Photograph courtesy Ivo Peters, signal graphic from Classic Software courtesy John Hinson