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Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

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Do you think that these terms could be Railway (especially Baker Street) related?

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Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby alank » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:35 am

Hi All,

I really hope I am not intruding by posting in this section. I am looking for help with a puzzle and I hope someone here may be able to help. It may well be the case that some little knows facts (google doesnt seem to know) about Signal Boxes might be uncovered in the process. Mods - please advise if this is an offence.

A friend and I set a yearly "riddle challenge" for each other, and I am having particular difficulty with one early aspect of this years challenge. My friends riddle leads me to the Sherlock Holmes statue at the main entrance of Baker Street station (this is 100% definite) but this is where I stumble into trouble. The riddle details a "crows nest" and a "sailors bed" which are obviously both Maritime / Navy terms. I am trying to ascertain if items that might qualify are to be found inside Baker Street Station (which I think is most likely, or maybe in the immediate locality outside)?

- "Crows Nest": I am wondering if there was ever any kind of "lookout tower" at Baker Street, or would the old Signal Box be the only qualifying object here?
- "Sailors Bed": I was thinking that if the Signal Box had bunks or beds for staff that were in the Navy style of small shared "hot bunks", then this might qualify.

So my main question: Is anyone aware of sleeping facilities in the old Baker Street Signal Box, or Signal Boxes in general? I suspect it may have been common practice in bygone days to have sleeping quarters in Signal Boxes, especially for remote locations. I have spent some time searching for such a fact but I have been unable to find, as yet.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you may have. FWIW my friends puzzles often tend to a "say what you see" type of set-up, somewhat like the TV show Catchphrase. I mention this in the hope that you all wont be afraid to throw some ideas in the ring. It can often be the a random association that sparks an 'aha' moment, and leads to the answer - somewhat like Sherlock Holmes I guess :)

Any help or comments very much appreciated.

Alan

P.S. Board posting / asking around are considered fair game as part of the challenges. I am not cheating
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby alank » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:26 pm

UPDATE

Mods, thanks for the approval.

I did find a link between he Crows Nest and old rail cars. Wikipedia:
In classic railroad trains, the box-like structure above the caboose, the cupola, was also called the crow's nest

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crow%27s_nest

I also found a link between rail cars and bunks, via couchette cars, some of which were exclusively employed for staff
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couchette_car

However, I am left to believe that these are not the correct answers, as generally when I solve a clue its quite obvious.

Again - all comments welcome and criticism often proves as useful (if not more so). If anyone sees anything wrong with my logic or facts, please do let me know. Thanks
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby Danny252 » Fri Mar 16, 2018 2:10 pm

I've never heard of sleeping facilities being provided in signal boxes (unless one counts a comfy armchair!), not even incredibly remote ones, never mind one in the middle of the largest city in the country. I dare say signal boxes were rarely used for anything other than controlling/monitoring the operation of trains.

The closest example might be remote level crossings, which were often provided with a cottage occupied by the crossing keeper on a permanent basis, but Baker Street is definitely not the sort of place I'd expect to find a crossing cottage (or any level crossing at all!).
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby Stuart Johnson » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:31 pm

That reference to cabooses and crows nests is to American railroad terms, not British. Does that help?

I wonder whether the Sherlock Holmes connection might be more fruitful than the railway one.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:27 pm

I'm with Stuart in thinking this probably isn't related to signalling or even railways at all.
I don't know how elaborate this riddle should be, but for what it's worth a sailor's bed would traditionally be a hammock.
From the Crows Nest one would be looking down on all aboard the vessel.
Perhaps a reference to the famous poem "Drake's Drum" by Henry Newbolt?

...Drake he's in his hammock and a thousand miles away,
Captain, art thou sleeping there below?

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a waxwork of Sir Francis just along the road at Tussaud's.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby Chris Osment » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:19 am

Somewhere lurking in the remoter parts of my brain :-) I have a vague recollection that at least one station (Waterloo?) did once have an elevated signal-box known (un)officially as the 'crow's nest'. If so, might that be relevant? Otherwise, I tend to agree with the views that these terms are either not railway related, or at least not UK.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby kbarber » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:25 am

Danny252 wrote:I've never heard of sleeping facilities being provided in signal boxes (unless one counts a comfy armchair!), not even incredibly remote ones, never mind one in the middle of the largest city in the country.
<snip>


Sleeping facilities that were provided (apart from the aforementioned armchair) would have been highly unofficial, if they had ever existed, and carefully hidden or disguised. Of course, as with Sir Humphrey and the Intelligence Services, I can neither confirm nor deny that any such facility ever did exist :wink:
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby John Webb » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:41 am

Two thoughts about the Crow's Nest:
1. Did the train announcer at Baker Street or Marylebone have an elevated room looking out over the station?
2. A few hundred yards away is the former Manchester Square Fire Station (click on picture to go to the original):
Marylebone: Former Manchester Square Fire Brigade Station, W1
Image

© Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Like most early fire stations, there was a lookout tower manned at all times, which can just be seen in the above picture. Likewise they had sleeping accommodation. Furthermore most London fireman in the early days of the London Fire Brigade were recruited from the Royal Navy or other seafaring sources.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby John Hinson » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:45 am

Beds did exist in some places in early days. Described as a "cot" they were just a box, really, presumably with a mattress.

I can't remember where I saw it, but I did see an illustration of such recently. It might not have even been in this country. I guess they were pertinent to boxes with little traffic that may have been manned by a single person over the vast proportion of the day in Victorian times.

But not at Baker Street, methinks.

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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby alank » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:30 pm

Hi All,

Thanks everyone for the replies, you have provided more than enough on the possibility of official sleeping facilities to put the idea bed (*ahem). Joking aside, you have fleshed out both questions well enough that I believe the line of inquiry to be wrong, or misconstrued at least.

Special thanks to John, who really stretched this out, and in doing so landed on the exact spot other parts of the puzzle had me hovering around - Chiltern Firehouse. I will concentrate some effort there. Also, as I note your St Albans association, I might mention Albany on Vigo St was an early solution to the entire puzzle, but I deemed it too obvious as it came so easy. There is also Albany Street not far away from my current search area, at the edge of Regent Park. I don't know if there is some connection between St Albans, Hertz and the Albany(s) of London, other than the etymology? Maybe you might drop me a pm about it if there was something worth discussing?

So my questions answered and the search continues. Thanks once more for having me and for the quality and cordiality of responses.

Best,
Alan
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby JRB » Sun Mar 18, 2018 2:41 pm

Maybe mote about Mr. Holmes later, he did get involved with railways.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby alank » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:20 pm

Hi JRB, thanks for the heads up. Any chance of a broad synopsis so that I can hone my research?
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby JRB » Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:30 pm

No details remembered, but one case involved a chartered train disappearing and another concerned the Circle Line (Inner Circle then).
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby Cotswolder » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:56 am

The Sherlock Holmes story involving the circle line is ''The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans'' and concerns the death of a government employee whose body is found on the track at Aldgate station. There is also a naval connection inasmuch as the plans referred to are for a secret submarine.
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Re: Sherlock Holmes, and the curious case of the Signal Box

Unread postby alank » Tue Mar 20, 2018 12:22 pm

Hi everyone. I have had a busy few days and am happy to say that the search has made definite progress in that I hit a dead end here. No matter what I try I cannot successfully tie together the rail related clues I had about this area, and that means I need to move on.

So to close the thread I just wanted to say thanks to all here again. I have tapped many communities over the years for information (I'm always ferreting about after some odd fact or other) but this board just about tops the lot for responses and good information. It has been a pleasure talking to you all.

I have a feeling that while Mr Holmes may be gone for sneaky nap behind the signal box for now, that I may meet him again on this track. If I do have any more rail related questions I will certainly know who to ask!

Case Closed!

Best, Alan
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