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Salisbury to Exeter Signal Boxes (Page 2)
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 time downloading all the images, 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 Crewkerne to Exeter Central and a separate page covers Salisbury to Yeovil Junction. Any location on either page can be accessed directly from the Index below.

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

CREWKERNE signal-box was closed on 26-Feb-1967 but the station remains open for passenger traffic, using the former Up platform. About half a mile further west is the level-crossing at CREWKERNE GATES, where Automatic Half Barriers (AHBs) were introduced on 12-Nov-1967 to replace the former hand-operated gates and GF. A problem arose subsequently in that the platform at Crewkerne lay within the striking distance of the AHB track-circuits, which meant that Down trains stopping at the station held the barriers down for a long period. Accordingly on 19/20-July-1970 a colour-light stop signal facing Down trains was brought into use situated just beyond the Exeter end of Crewkerne platform, with a 'distant' repeater approximately 1400 yards in its rear, the signals being controlled from Chard Junction signal-box. A 'Train Ready to Start' plunger is provided at the station communicating with Chard Junction signal-box. If a down train is stopping at the station then the signalman keeps the signal 'on' until he receives the 'ready to start' message, when he will activate the AHB sequence to lower the barriers and clear the signal to 'off'. For non-stopping trains the signals are cleared in advance and the AHBs will operate normally.

CHARD JUNCTION is the next passing-loop, although the station itself is closed. The line eastwards to Sherborne was singled on 7-May-1967 and then westwards on to Pinhoe on 11-June-1967. The revised layout consisted of a passing-loop, signalled for bi-directional running on the Up Loop, and a trailing connection in the Down Loop to serve the Unigate Dairies creamery. The points leading into these sidings were worked by a GF released from the signal-box. An additional signal was provided at the Yeovil end of the Down Loop to enable trains in the loop to start away in the Up direction. The level-crossing at the Yeovil end of the loop remained in use, but the wooden gates were replaced by full lifting barriers on 14-Jan-1968. Switching-out facilities were not provided at Chard Junction.

Chard Junction old signal-box diagram

Chard Junction old SB interior
Old Chard Jcn SB interior 1982

The original Chard Junction signal-box was a L&SWR Type 1 with a 15-lever Stevens pattern frame, situated on the Up side of the line at the Yeovil Junction end of the loop next to the level-crossing. Like most Type 1 boxes the interior space was limited and by the time that a new illuminated diagram had been provided, and an impressive array of indicators added to the instrument shelf, it acquired a decidedly cramped appearance. When the lever-frame was re-locked for the singling there were insufficient levers for the new arrangements, so both Up and Down Distant signals were worked from switches on the instrument shelf. A further switch was added in July 1970 for the new Down signals protecting Crewkerne Gates crossing. Curiously the one original spare lever in the frame was never re-used.

On 11-Sep-1982 a temporary signal-box and panel were brought into use on the opposite side of the line and the road, after which the old SB was demolished and a new structure built on the same site. The new SB and its panel were brought into use on 11-Dec-1982 and the temporary box closed. In recent years this location seemed to suffer an identity crisis, as the various signalling diagrams refer merely to 'Chard', but other publications mention 'Chard Junction' and that is the name now borne by the current signal-box.

New Chard Junction SB
New Chard Junction signal-box

Panel in new Chard Jcn SB
Panel in new Chard Junction signal-box

The next station is at AXMINSTER where the former Down platform remains in use, but the SB was closed on 5-Mar-1967. Some distance on the Yeovil side of the station is the level-crossing at AXMINSTER GATES, which used to be controlled by a 10-lever 'knee'-type GF in a ground-level hut. After the station SB was closed this GF was upgraded temporarily to block-post status until the line was singled, when it reverted to being a non-block post. On 16-Dec-1973 the GF was closed and control of the signals and barriers transferred to a new control point in the station office, with CCTV supervision of the crossing.

The station at SEATON JUNCTION had been rebuilt in 1928 with four tracks, the platforms being served by loops. After the removal of passenger services the signal-box was closed when the line was singled. The new single line followed the course of the former Down Through, all other track on the down side being recovered. Lines on the up side were retained to serve the Express Dairies creamery and these connected to the single line at the Exeter end by a connection facing to Up trains and worked by a new GF. Subsequently the single-line was re-aligned onto the site of the former Up Through road. The GF and connections were taken out of use in March 1987.

Honiton SB interior
Honiton signal-box interior in 1984

HONITON signal-box is a BR(SR) Type 16, which was opened on 16-June-1957 with a 24-lever WBS 'A2' frame. In 1967 the layout was reduced to a basic passing loop, with bi-directional signalling on the Down Loop, and switching-out facilities provided. The approach to the station for Down trains is through a curved cutting with problems for sighting the Down Home signal, but this was rectified eventually by the provision of a banner repeater on 3-June-1970.

It is unclear why Honiton had an 'A2' lever-frame, as BR(SR) was already using 'A3' frames elsewhere (eg at Gillingham) and WBS had ceased to manufacture 'A2' frames circa-1949. As there appears to be no record of an order to WBS for this frame, it is probable therefore that it was constructed by BR(SR) from parts already in their stores.

A siding trailing into the Up Loop was retained for Engineers use, but despite the fact that the connection was immediately in front of the box it was disconnected from the box and worked by hand, being normally clipped and padlocked. In February 1976 the siding points were connected to a single-lever GF, which is located in front of the SB and unlocked by an Annetts key obtained from the box. The switching-out lever had been bolted out-of-use by 1992, because the signal-box has to remain open now during traffic hours in order to provide protecting signals for local AHB crossings.

At SIDMOUTH JUNCTION the station and signal-box were closed, but an existing GF was retained to work the level-crossing gates and protecting signals. With the subsequent growth of housing in the area the station was re-opened to passenger traffic on 3-May-1971 using a portion of the original Down platform and is now called FENITON (which in fact was one of the names by which it was known prior to the construction of the Sidmouth branch). The gates were replaced by full lifting barriers on 23-June-1974, when the GF was closed and control transferred to a control point in the station office.

WHIMPLE signal-box closed on 11-June-1967 when the line was singled, but the station remained open. The single-line served the former Down platform with access via the footbridge, although the Up side remained reasonably intact. The up sidings and a portion of the former Up line were retained to serve a cider depot, with connections facing to Up trains at each end of the station controlled by new East and West GFs. Eventually the sidings were taken out of use and both GFs were closed on 8-July-1990. In 1993 the Down platform was closed and the Up platform re-opened and built out to meet the re-aligned single-line.

PINHOE marks the start of the final section of double-track. The station here was closed to passenger traffic, but the signal-box remained open - this was a L&SWR Type 1 box with a 18-lever Stevens frame. Like Wilton South the signalling was a mixture originally, as colour-lights were introduced on the Up line but semaphores were retained on the Down line (except for the Down Distant) and these remained in use until the SB was closed. Absolute block working was in force to Exmouth Junction using SR-pattern 3-position block instruments.

Pinhoe SB interior
Pinhoe signal-box interior

There is a level-crossing at the Yeovil end of the station, where the gates were replaced by full lifting barriers on 17-Mar-1968. The SB itself was closed on 15-Feb-1988 and control of the area passed to Exmouth Junction SB, with CCTV for the crossing. (The SB and its contents were sold into private ownership and subsequently re-erected at Bere Ferrers station near Plymouth.)

A siding trailing into the Up line at the Exeter end of the station was retained for access to a cold store, and semaphore ground-discs were in use there, but subsequently the points and discs were taken out of use on 1-Apr-1969. In the section between Pinhoe and Exmouth Junction were two separate sidings - one trailed into the Down line and was worked from PYES GF, while the other trailed into the Up line and was worked from POLTIMORE GF. The former was released electrically from Pinhoe and was taken out of use in 1969, whilst the latter was released electrically from Exmouth Junction and was taken out of use on 6-Dec-1987.

EXMOUTH JUNCTION is controlled from a BR(SR) Type 16 box situated in the fork of the junction between the main line and the Exmouth branch. This box was opened on 17-Nov-1959 (as a replacement for an old L&SWR box) and contained a 64-lever WBS 'A3' frame and two illuminated diagrams. Block working was by standard SR 3-position instruments on both the main line and the branch, which was double-track to Topsham. The first box down the branch was in fact at NEWCOURT, which was an intermediate box provided during the Second World War to control the access to new Admiralty sidings, but in normal times this box was switched out except for a short period at mid-day.

Exmouth SB interior
Interior of Exmouth Junction signal-box in 1984

On 5-Feb-1973 the line to Topsham was singled and Newcourt was reduced to GF status - Acceptance Lever working was introduced between Exmouth Junction and Topsham. On 1-Feb-1988 the lever-frame at Exmouth Junction was replaced by a panel and the area of control extended to include Pinhoe and Topsham stations, the signal-boxes at both those places being closed and their level-crossings controlled by CCTV. Exmouth Junction now works with tokenless block to Honiton (for the section starting at Pinhoe), whilst the remainder of the Exmouth branch beyond the loop at Topsham is One Train Working (OTW). The box is now a fringe box to Exeter panel.

EXETER CENTRAL station was rebuilt by the Southern Railway (SR) in 1927-33. As part of this work two new SBs were built to replace the old ex-L&SWR boxes - these were both SR Type 11c with Stevens-pattern frames (actually manufactured by Tyers) located at the rear of the box. The 'A' box had a 90-lever frame, making it the largest SR signal-box west of Salisbury, while the 'B' box had 35 levers. The singling alterations had no effect here, as normal double-line working remained in force from Exmouth Junction right through to Exeter West box at the ex-GWR Exeter St Davids station.

During the late-1960s various rationalisations took place at Central station and these culminated in the closure of the 'B' box on 23-Feb-1970. At the same time the 'A' box was renamed simply EXETER CENTRAL, and its lever-frame was reduced to 50 levers and re-locked to control the whole station area. The former Up Through line had been taken out of use previously on 9-Nov-1969, but the Down Through remained in use, the trailing connection at the west end now being worked by motor points - all other connections and sidings controlled by the former 'B' box were removed. The signalling continued in this form for a few more years, although further points and signals were recovered at various times.

Exeter Central SB interior
Interior of Exeter Central signal-box at night in 1984

During the weekend of 26-29th October 1984 the SB lever-frame was taken out of use and replaced by a small temporary panel, as part of the stagework for the Exeter MAS panel scheme. All points were converted to motor operation and the semaphore signals replaced by colour-lights. By this time the Down Through line had been taken out of use also, and the layout was reduced to that of a basic double track with a single crossover at the east end, a facing connection into the Down Bay and a trailing connection into the Up Sidings. This arrangement continued until 4-6th May 1985, when the box was closed and the area placed on the new Exeter panel. (The box was used for a few years as a training school for signal locking fitters, but eventually it was closed and demolished). As part of the MAS scheme the Down line was signalled for two-way working between the crossover and Exeter St Davids station, thus enabling trains to come up the bank out of St Davids on either track.

© Chris Osment 1988-2017

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Introduction Index to Signalling Locations Background History Stations Signalling