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Salisbury to Exeter Signal Boxes (Page 1)
SR target sign The Salisbury to Exeter Line
Signal Boxes since the 1967 singling
SR target sign
Introduction Index to Signalling Locations Background History Stations Signalling


This page describes the intermediate signal-boxes and other signalling locations on the former Southern Railway (SR) line from Salisbury to Exeter since the reduction of  much of this former main line to single-track in 1967. Other pages in RailWest deal with the background history of the line and the 1967 singling, the changes to the signalling arrangements and the individual stations.

To save image download time, detailed information about individual signal-boxes (SB), ground-frames (GF) and other signalling locations on the line is spread across two pages. This page covers all locations from Salisbury to Yeovil Junction and a separate page covers Crewkerne to Exeter Central. Any location on either page can be accessed directly from the Index below.

Index to Signalling Locations
Crewkerne to Exeter Central
Axminster Dinton Gillingham Salisbury Sidmouth Jcn Wilton
Chard Jcn Exeter Central Honiton Seaton Jcn Templecombe Yeovil Jcn
Crewkerne Exmouth Jcn Pinhoe Sherborne Tisbury  

SALISBURY station was re-built by the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) in 1901/02 and as part of that work two new signal-boxes - SALISBURY EAST and SALISBURY WEST - were opened in 1902. These two SBs were equipped with special 'draw-slide' power lever-frames, which worked all the signals and points by means of low-pressure air. The Great Western Railway (GWR) had their own SALISBURY 'C' box (opened in 1901) to work their own station, but this had a conventional lever-frame and all their signalling was worked mechanically.

Over the years there was little change to the signalling arrangements until some rationalisation of the ex-GWR 'C' box was done in British Railways days circa-1970, when its lever-frame was shortened..The ex-GWR route to Westbury used to leave Salisbury by an independent double-track that ran parallel to the ex-L&SWR for a couple of miles, but this arrangement was altered on 28-Oct-1973 when a new junction was put in between the two routes further west near Wilton and the ex-GWR lines between there and Salisbury were abandoned. Salisbury 'C' box was reduced to ground-frame status on 27-Oct-1973 and closed completely on 2-Dec-1973.

Salisbury East and West boxes continued in use complete with their pneumatic power signalling until 1981, when the station layout was re-modelled and conventional colour-light power signalling was installed. Both boxes were closed on 19-Aug-1981 and replaced by a new signalling panel located in the former parcels office at the London end of the main Down platform (click here to see a part of the panel (120KB)). Apart from Salisbury station itself, this panel controls the lines towards Andover, Romsey, Warminster and Tisbury.

WILTON SOUTH (where the station was closed) was the first SB down the line from Salisbury and after 1967 it marked the end of the first section of double-track and the beginning of the single-line to Gillingham. This SB was a L&SWR Type 1 with a 17-lever Stevens-pattern frame, although it is believed that this was a replacement or extensive refurbishment of the original lever-frame, which had contained a number of 'Russells' levers. At first only the Down signals were replaced by colour-lights, with the Up signals remaining as semaphores, but eventually the latter were replaced as well.

Wilton SB interior In 1973 a new junction was put in east of Wilton for the ex-GWR line to Westbury, with a short section of the old line to Salisbury retained to serve an oil depot. The SB was renamed simply WILTON and Track Circuit Block working was instituted to Salisbury West, and also on the Down Westbury line from Wylye, but absolute block working was retained on the Up line to Wylye. The working to Gillingham remained as tokenless block. Trains passed to and from the Westbury line at the actual Wilton Junction out of sight of the Wilton signalman.

Wilton SB was closed on 29-Nov-1981 and control of the area incorporated into the new Salisbury panel box, but tokenless block was retained for working the single-line to Gillingham. As trains to/from Gillingham can pass at Wilton without the Salisbury panel operator being able to see the tail-lamp of the Up train, reliance that the train has arrived complete is placed on the fact that all scheduled trains are fully-fitted. The structure of the SB was removed subsequently and taken to the Mid-Hants Railway, where it was re-erected at Medstead & Four Marks..

The next location down the line is the former station of DINTON, where the SB was closed on 2-April-1967. Connections were retained here to serve Ministry of Defence sidings on either side of the single line and these were worked by new East and West ground-frames (GF). About 1.5 miles further west there were sidings serving an RAF Ordnance Depot, which used to connect into the Up line under the control of CHILMARK box. This SB was closed on 1-Apr-1967 and the former Up line retained as far as Dinton to give an independent access for the RAF sidings, the Down line being used as the main single-line. Between Dinton and Chilmark lies Teffont Mill Crossing, where the gates were replaced by miniature red & green road lights - these were worked automatically by trains on the main line, but manually by plungers at the approaches to the crossing for trains on the parallel goods line. The last service freight train left on 2-Nov-1994, after which the two GFs at Dinton were taken out of use, and the RAF depot itself closed formally on 27-Jan-1995. The main line connections and much of the sidings and goods line (former Up line) have been removed, although some parts still remain.

TISBURY is now the first station down the line. A single platform was retained here in 1967, but with no signalling as the SB had been closed earlier on 5-Feb-1967, although the BR(SR) Type 16 building remains. In later years an increase in traffic on the line brought about the installation of a new passing-loop at Tisbury, in order to break up the long section from Wilton to Gillingham. Because there was no longer any room at the station (the former down side having been incorporated into an adjacent industrial area) the new loop was constructed some distance to the east - it was brought into use on 24-Mar-1986 (at a cost of GBP 435,000) and is controlled by Salisbury panel. The signalling at Tisbury Loop is slightly different from the other loops on the line, in that both loop roads are signalled for bi-directional running, but only the 'down' loop has starting signals. If two trains are to pass at Tisbury Loop then the first one to arrive is admitted to the 'down' loop and held there whilst the other passes through on the 'up' loop.

Although both the Wilton and Tisbury Loop areas are controlled now by the same panel at Salisbury the single-line section between them is worked still by tokenless block (presumably to save the cost of track-circuiting through the section). The result is the curious situation whereby the Salisbury signalman has to offer to himself, and give himself acceptance, for a train passing through that section using switches only a few inches apart on the same panel! Click here to see the relevant part of the panel (120KB). Tokenless block working is in force also for the section from Tisbury Loop to Gillingham. In addition a 'closing switch' for the Tisbury Loop is provided at the Salisbury panel, enabling the signalman there to work a single section from Wilton to Gillingham as required.

GILLINGHAM is the next passing loop down the line and both platforms are in use here, controlled from a BR(SR) Type 16 box with a 30-lever WBS 'A3' frame. The revised layout consisted originally of the passing-loop, with bi-directional signalling on the Up Loop, and a siding for the Engineers Department trailing into the Down Loop. The connection to this siding was disconnected from the SB and worked by hand-levers on the ground, being normally clipped and padlocked. Switching-out facilities were provided.

In 1969 a siding was added on the Up side to serve a new fertilizer depot, with a connection into the Up loop facing to Down trains. The Engineers siding was lengthened in 1976 and the existing trailing connection replaced by a facing connection at the western end of the Down Loop, the points and associated shunt signals being operated from a new 4-lever GF released from the box. In later years the points at the Salisbury end of the loop were converted to clamp-lock operation and more recently a SPAD indicator has been added for the Up Starting signal. This signal also has an emergency replacement switch on the panel at Salisbury, for use in the event of a problem at any of the intervening un-manned level-crossings during the time that Gillingham SB is switched 'out'.

Gillingham SB
Gillingham SB Jan 2000

Gillingham SB interior
Gillingham SB interior Jan 2000

TEMPLECOMBE marks the beginning of a section of double-track, which commences about 100 yards to the west of the signal-box. The Up line is signalled for bi-directional running right through to Yeovil Junction and is controlled by the usual tokenless block. The Down line, although used in one direction only, is controlled by tokenless block also, except that the relevant instrument at Templecombe is 'non-pegging' so the signalman can only 'offer' a train to Yeovil Junction on that line and not 'accept' one from there.

A short siding was retained on the Down side for Engineers use and this trails into the Down line adjacent to the former goods-shed. In order for a train to shunt the siding it has to be put 'on the block' to Yeovil Junction for the Down line - if the train then is left in the siding or else shunted back to the single-line towards Gillingham, then the signalman at Yeovil Junction has the facility to clear the block instrument for the Down line by 'winding out' on a time release.

The signalling arrangements were unaffected by the re-opening of the station in 1983 except that the Down Home signal, previously situated opposite the platform about half-way along, was moved further down the line to the Yeovil side of the foot crossing which at that time gave passengers access to the platform.

Templecombe SB exterior
Templecombe SB exterior in Sep 2004

Templecombe SB interior
Templecombe SB interior

The signal-box itself was unique on the line, being a 'glasshouse' SR Type 13 (the most westerly example of this type) opened in 1938 as part of a station re-building scheme - it contained a 60-lever WBS 'A2' frame fitted at the back of the box. The original lever-frame was retained in 1967, but it was reduced in length to 16 levers (including 4 spares) at the Yeovil end. At some later date all the points were converted to clamp-lock operation.

SHERBORNE station has both platforms in use and is the only intermediate station on the line to have double-track in both directions. The SB here was a BR(SR) Type 16 opened in 1960 with a 30-lever WBS 'A3' frame and a wheel to work the gates of the level-crossing at the east end of the platforms. Under the original singling proposals this was the limit of the double-track, the line onwards to Chard Junction being singled on 7-May-1967 - a connection was put in between the two lines at the west end of the platforms and the former Up line used as the single-line to Yeovil Junction. A siding was retained for Engineers use in the former Up yard with a connection into the reversible Up line facing to Down trains - this connection was disconnected from the SB and the points were hand-operated, being normally spiked, clipped and padlocked.

On 1-Oct-1967 the double track was extended to Yeovil Junction - the former Down line was brought back into use and the new single-to-double connection removed. As the SB existed then merely to control the level-crossing, apart from splitting the 10-mile section from Templecombe to Yeovil Junction, it became a target for further rationalisation and was closed on 4-Jan-1970, although the structure remains. When the SB was closed the gates were replaced by lifting barriers (a set of four barriers, each covering only half the width of the road, rather than the usual pair of full-length barriers), protected by Distant and Home signals in each direction. The Down Starting signals were removed and also the Up Home (the former Up Starting adjacent to the crossing becoming the Up Home).

Disused Sherborne signal-box
Sherborne SB Sep 2004 (closed)

Sherborne crossing control point
Sherborne crossing control point Sep 2004

The controls for the barriers and signals, as well as the various repeaters, are located in a cabinet on the up platform adjacent to the crossing, with duplicated repeaters in the station office. Approaching trains trigger a warning bell at the station and a member of the staff walks to the crossing to operate the controls. Once he has lowered the barriers and cleared the signals he can return to the office, as the passage of the train over the crossing will restore the signals automatically and raise the barriers.

YEOVIL JUNCTION has the most complex arrangements on the line and has been subject to the most change. Under the 1967 scheme severe rationalisation took place here, and as far as the main line was concerned the station was reduced merely to a single platform without any signalling. The new single line followed the course of the former Up Local and served the south face of the old Up platform. The Up Through line was removed and the tracks that were left on the Down side were relegated to sidings for the Engineers Department. On the north side of the new single line lay the goods yard and connecting line to Yeovil Pen Mill, and these continued to be worked by the former Yeovil Junction 'A' box, but this was no longer a block post on the main line. New East and West GFs were installed to work connections from the single line to the Engineers sidings and the Pen Mill link. These arrangements came into force on 7-May-1967.

With the re-introduction of double-line working to Sherborne the layout was modified again and both East and West GFs were recovered. The original lever-frame was removed from the SB and replaced by a BR(WR) 5-bar 4" VT frame, second-hand from Dock Junction (Newport). This frame is actually 55 levers long, but as re-fitted only lever positions 1-44 were used initially. A temporary box was in use from 10-Sep-1967 until the original SB re-opened as YEOVIL JUNCTION on 1-Oct-1967. The box was equipped with Tokenless Block to Sherborne and Chard Junction, with 'C' configuration BR(WR) Electric Key Token to Yeovil Pen Mill. 'Switching-out' facilities were not provided.

Yeovil Junction SB interior
Yeovil Junction SB interior

A new connection at the east end of the station from the single line to the line at the rear of the platform allowed the north face of that platform to be restored to passenger use as a bay line. Another connection was brought into use at the west end of the station between the main and bay lines, but this was facing to Down trains on the main line and therefore did not permit through running onto the bay line - it was worked by a new GF released from the box. Colour-light signals were installed on the main line, but semaphores were retained on the rest of the layout. Through running onto the Pen Mill link was possible via the connection at the east end of the platform facing for Up Main trains, but curiously only a colour-light shunt signal was provided at this point, the actual junction signal being the Up Home some distance back before the platform. The double-track link to Pen Mill was reduced to single-track on 26-May-1968.

The layout was revised in 1975, when the bay line was converted into an Up Loop by reversing the direction of the connection at the west end of the station. The GF was removed, the new points were worked directly from the SB and additional colour-light signals were provided. These changes came into use on 26th March 1975. The former main platform remained signalled for bi-directional working, any Up trains using it crossing to the Up Line to Templecombe at the east end of the station. One unusual feature was the provision of a colour-light signal with a permanent red aspect at the Exeter end of the Up Loop, facing Down direction movements - this permitted trains to arrive on the Up Loop from the Pen Mill line without the facility for through running on towards Exeter. A subsidiary draw-ahead was fitted at this signal to permit trains to move onto the single-line for shunting purposes and an elevated position-light shunt was provided some distance ahead on the single-line to limit such movements.

A further revision of the layout came into effect on 12-Dec-1977, but this was confined mainly to a rationalisation of the connections at the Salisbury end of the station and did not affect the overall arrangements. Later (circa Nov 1987?) the 'fixed' red signal at the Exeter end of the Up Loop was converted to a normal 2-aspect colour-light, enabling through running to take place in the Down direction. At some stage during all the various changes after 1967 lever 45 was brought into use in the SB lever-frame.

Chris Osment 1988-2004

Next page for Crewkerne to Exeter Central locations

Introduction Index to Signalling Locations Background History Stations Signalling