Signals

THE SIGNAL BOX


Railway signalling discussion

THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

British signalling of the past (UK, excepting Northern Ireland)

THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby KEVIN SMITH » Mon Dec 25, 2017 9:49 am

Did anyone watch the repeat of the Charles Dickens ghost story of the signalman last night on BBC4 ? I have not read the book but some of you might have . Not sure if the Author intended it to be on the GWR but the play last night was. I am not sure where it was filmed either but as it was made in the seventies the choice is small I would say Keighley & worth Valley maybe. I forgot to take note of the number on the buffer beam of the loco but it looked the same one from the Railway children ? I assume the signal box was a mock up or was it real ? It was a GWR box in style but i could not read the nameplate. The interior was from a preserved box anybody recognise it ? The red light at the tunnel mouth was this common practice in the old days ?
KEVIN SMITH
Crossing box
Crossing box
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Mon Dec 9, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby Baxter » Mon Dec 25, 2017 12:29 pm

Hi Kevin. I saw it--it's a very atmospheric and chilling story that has become a staple of my Christmas viewing. I've just joined this forum because I have some questions about the situation of the story—I know nothing about the railways so maybe you or other members could help? Would a signal box really have been placed at a tunnel mouth on a single track railway? The red light is interesting too. I would also like to know of that was just for ominous effect.

Merry Christmas!
Baxter
Trainee
Trainee
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2017 12:18 pm

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby John Webb » Mon Dec 25, 2017 12:47 pm

According to John Huntley's "Railways on the Screen" (Ian Allan, 1993, ISBN 0 7110 2059 0) this film was made in 1976 on the Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster Tunnel, and used the adjacent signal box. To quote the book: "....a specially strong (and rather bogus) red signal light was mounted on the face of the tunnel for film purposes."

I'm uncertain when the story was published - can't find my copy of it, alas! I don't think he specified any particular railway company. But I wonder if the story was inspired by the accident on the 25th of August 1861 at Clayton Tunnel on the LB&SC Railway? In that case there was a signal box at each end of the tunnel with a single needle telegraph instrument to 'speak' to the other box about the trains entering the tunnel (which was a double-track one). The rest of the line was operated on the 'Time Interval' system. Due to the inadequacy of this telegraph system, a collision occurred killing 23 people and injuring 176 others. (The formal Accident Report can be downloaded at http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docsummary.php?docID=349)

(This was just under 4 years before the Staplehurst crash in which Charles Dickens was a passenger in the derailed train, and he died on the fifth anniversary of that crash, on the 9th June 1870.)
John Webb
(Member, St Albans Signalbox Trust)
User avatar
John Webb
Main line box
Main line box
 
Posts: 1884
Joined: Tue Jul 8, 2008 1:22 pm
Location: St Albans, Herts

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby John Hinson » Mon Dec 25, 2017 1:15 pm

The signal box at the tunnel was a mock-up. The interior views were shot at Highley.

John
Image
‹(•¿•)›
User avatar
John Hinson
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 6980
Joined: Thu Nov 8, 2007 1:13 pm
Location: at my computer

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby Chris Osment » Mon Dec 25, 2017 4:28 pm

Baxter wrote:Would a signal box really have been placed at a tunnel mouth on a single track railway?


That was certainly the case at Ventnor, where in effect you emerged from the tunnel directly into the station. I'm not sure about 'isolated' locations on single-lines (ie no nearby station or junction), although certainly the box at Pinnock Tunnel was not far away from the actual tunnel. Back in the late 1870s the first box at Winsor Hill was also almost at the tunnel mouth.
Chris Osment
West Country Railway Archives
http://www.railwest.org.uk
User avatar
Chris Osment
Main line box
Main line box
 
Posts: 2309
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:32 am
Location: Somewhere in the West Country

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby KEVIN SMITH » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:28 pm

Perhaps they used old stock footage for the bits showing the train moving through the countryside the scenery looks more like Yorkshire to me and filmed the rest on the seven valley railway. Changing locations for filming purposes is common place just to get the right scene as directors are fussy people ! They can fool the general viewer but not us lot !
So the signal box was a mock up well all I can say is they made a good job of it . I must say I also wondered why a signal box would be placed at a tunnel mouth on a single line you see the signalman exchange bell codes but no key tokens were exchanged ! I am not surprised there was a accident in the tunnel !
KEVIN SMITH
Crossing box
Crossing box
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Mon Dec 9, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby Chris Osment » Mon Dec 25, 2017 8:58 pm

KEVIN SMITH wrote:.....you see the signalman exchange bell codes but no key tokens were exchanged ! I am not surprised there was a accident in the tunnel !


Not every single line was worked by a method requiring physical 'tokens', even through tunnels. For example IIRC the tunnels at Ledbury and Colwell both used a form of Lock-and-Block. In any case, in Dickens's time block systems such as Electric Tablet etc had not even been invented :-)
Chris Osment
West Country Railway Archives
http://www.railwest.org.uk
User avatar
Chris Osment
Main line box
Main line box
 
Posts: 2309
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:32 am
Location: Somewhere in the West Country

Re: THE SIGNALMAN BBC4

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:51 am

'The Signalman' was first published at Christmas 1866.

If the signal box in the adaption is a recognisable signal box, it is certainly an anachronism. The signal box Charles Dickens would have had in mind would have been a small hut. There wouldn't have been a lever frame or what we'd recognise as block instruments. The signal (singular) would have probably been one of the pre-semaphore signals. The single track is also unrealistic - almost all main lines Charles Dickens would have been familiar with would have been double track. But, of course, a television director is unlikely to know any of this, and 99.9% of the audience wouldn't realise or care.

The Clayton accident report referenced by John Webb gives a good description of the system of working.

Essentially, the double line was worked under time interval working with a single isolated block section through the tunnel. Tunnels were, of course, places of exceptional danger when worked with time interval. At Clayton tunnel the block was worked by a pair of single needle telegraph instruments. When a train entered the tunnel, the signalman gave a single beat to the left, which rang a bell at the other end. This was repeated by the other signalman. When the train left the tunnel, the signalman gave a beat to the left and then to the right. Again, this rang the bell and the signal was repeated. The instrument could also be used to speak between the two boxes.

The signalbox at the south end had only a single distant (no home signal was provided) worked by wire using a wheel at the hut.

To summarise the accident itself. Three trains were following each other at much closer than the regulation 5 minutes. The first train was signalled correctly, but the distant signal did not automatically replace itself to danger. The second train thus approached the tunnel under clear signals before the first train had been signalled out of the tunnel. The signalman, at the last minute, waved a red flag at the driver, but the train entered the tunnel. The signalman then got train out for the first train, sent train in, and put his distant on. The driver of the second train saw the red flag, stopped in the tunnel, and then started to back towards the tunnel entrance. The signalman at the entrance then made the fatal mistake of asking the far end whether the train had cleared the tunnel. Confused, the signalman at the far end, responded 'yes', meaning, of course, the first train. This was enough for the signalman at the entrance who cleared his distant signal for the third train...

Personally, though it has little to do with signalling, I prefer the 'Garside Fell disaster' by LTC Rolt.
Andrew Waugh
Branch line box
Branch line box
 
Posts: 490
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:34 am
Location: Melbourne Australia


Return to Signalling - historical

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 2 guests