I was now into my second full month as a Class 3 signalman at Earlswood Lakes Signal Box and had settled into the pattern of six consecutive twelve hour day and nights shifts (72 hour week) on alternate weeks. The work wasn’t hard, far from it, but, as anyone will tell you, tiredness would creep up on you due to the problem of trying to obtain sufficient sleep during the day whilst working the night shift and as for a ‘social life,’ it hardly existed.
Hall Green Signal box
Signalboxes on the North Warwickshire Line sadly no longer exist. Here we see the box at Hall Green, situated between Tyseley and Shirley, in June 1965. It was manned by a good friend of mine – Barry Bickerstaff, whom, if my information is correct, went on to be a signals inspector. The box, which also controlled access to a small goods yard, long since defunct, was not demolished upon closure and now resides at Winchcombe on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway.
Photograph by Peter Hands
My regular mode of transport to and from work was the Triumph Tiger Cub m/c although I still owned, but rarely used, the Raleigh Runabout 49cc moped. During 1964 I used the latter on two separate occasions to travel to Bournemouth and back. What a marathon that was with a top speed of around thirty miles per hour!!!
On 8th March, prior to commencing work on my first night shift of the week, at 6pm, I was at a loose end so I decided to shoot off to Shrewsbury, a round trip of approximately 100 miles, and ‘bunk’ the shed. Upon arrival I was rather disappointed to find only twenty‑six steam locos on the depot, of which two were in store. To add insult to injury only one was a ‘cop.’
The outward journey had been without incident, but on the way back ‘disaster struck.’ Whilst approaching a steep hill on the outskirts of Much Wenlock the throttle cable on the Tiger Cub ‘snapped’ leaving me stranded.
Leaving the bike behind it was a long upward trek on foot into Much Wenlock and despite visiting every garage in the town not one could provide me with a replacement throttle cable. With my spirits fading fast I trudged back to the abandoned Tiger Cub. With spare time at a premium before the start of my night shift I was beginning to panic. However, help was at hand from the resident of one of the few dwellings which were near‑at‑hand and after knocking on his door not only did he have a telephone, a luxury in those days, but he kindly contacted the AA and within the hour I was back on the road again – thank you, Good Samaritan.
After this ‘experience’ I never again strayed far from home prior to a shift commencing.
Steam locomotives recorded at Earlswood Lakes during March, were, apart from the 7.06am local passenger from Henley‑in‑Arden to Birmingham (Moor Street) for which for some unknown reason I failed to record the locos employed on the same, confined to parcels and freight traffic, light engine movements, Stratford bankers and the occasional pick‑up goods and these were as follows:
2800 Class 2‑8‑0’s Nos. 2895 (86B Newport – Ebbw Junction) and 3842 (86E Severn Tunnel Junction). Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 4920 Dumbleton Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), and 5971 Merevale Hall (85A Worcester). Grange Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6816 Frankton Grange (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 6823 Oakley Grange (2B Oxley), 6829 Burmington Grange (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 6853 Morehampton Grange (2A Tyseley), 6859 Yiewsley Grange (88A Cardiff East Dock) and 6876 Kingsland Grange (88A Cardiff East Dock). Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6908 Downham Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 6953 Leighton Hall (81E Didcot) and 6957 Norcliffe Hall (81F Oxford). Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 6963 Throwley Hall (81E Didcot), 6964 Thornbridge Hall (2A Tyseley), 6965 Thirlestaine Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road) and 6973 Bricklehampton Hall (86B Newport – Ebbw Junction). Manor Class
4‑6‑0’s Nos. 7821 Ditcheat Manor (2B Oxley) and 7826 Longworth Manor (88A Cardiff East Dock). Modified Hall Class 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 7907 Hart Hall (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 7920 Coney Hall (85A Worcester), 7922 Salford Hall (81C Southall), 7923 Speke Hall (88A Cardiff East Dock) and 7929 Wyke Hall (2A Tyseley). 5700 Class 0‑6‑0PT’s Nos. 9753 and 9774, both of 2A Tyseley.
Shirley Signal Box
Shirley Signal Box on 13th April 1980 and posing for the camera is the signalman Billy Holmes. As a youngster I was often invited into the box by Frank Docker. When I went to Earlswood Box he was still in residence at Shirley Box. Whilst spotting at Shirley station in the 1950’s the resident porter, Alan, used to pay me a few pennies to cycle up to the local pub and place bets for him on the horses to the ‘bookies runner.’ When the box closed there was an attempt to preserve it in situ, but the faceless mandarins at Network Rail could not be swayed from their determination to demolish it and another priceless piece of railway history was gone forever.
Photograph by Peter Hands
Class 5 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 44663, 44775 and 45369, all of 2A Tyseley. Class 8F 2‑8‑0’s Nos. 48266 (16F Burton), 48316 (1G Woodford Halse), 48471 (6D Shrewsbury), 48555 (5D Stoke), 48630 (5B Crewe – South), 48635 (16C Derby), 48671 (15B Wellingborough), 48672 (16F Burton) and 48694 (16F Burton).
Class 5 4‑6‑0’s Nos. 73003 and 73030, both from 82E Bristol Barrow Road and 73066 (2L Leamington). Class 2 2‑6‑0 No. 80072 (2L Leamington). Class 4 2‑6‑4T No. 80072 (2L Leamington). Class 9F 2‑10‑0’s Nos. 92001 (2A Tyseley), 92121 (15A Leicester – Midland), 92174 (36A Doncaster), 92209 (88A Cardiff East Dock), 92212 (2A Tyseley), 92213 (2D Banbury), 92214 (86E Severn Tunnel Junction), 92217 (2A Tyseley), 92223 (2A Tyseley), 92235 (86B Newport – Ebbw Junction), 92238 (82E Bristol Barrow Road), 92239 (50A York) and 92248 (88A Cardiff East Dock).
Henley‑in‑Arden Signal Box
Rationalisation over the years on the North Warwick; the removal of goods yards, surplus track and refuge sidings, reduced the importance of the line to a basic double track system with the odd crossover here and there. In this photograph of Henley‑in‑Arden on 3rd October 2010 the box and signals are still in use, though for not much longer, and one can see where the rails used to be in the left side of the frame. We must, however, be grateful for small mercies for if Doctor Beeching had had his way the North Warwick Line would have also been consigned to the dustbin of history and without it there would be no annual steam hauled ‘Shakespeare Express’ for us to see and travel on.
*Updated 10.01.16 as per a wonderful email from Andrew Dickinson who pointed out that the date originally listed was 31st October 2010 was incorrect and has been updated thanks to a very detailed email and double checking the original photograph the date has been amended to the 3rd October 2010.
Photograph by Peter Hands
Although there were a wide variety of ex. GWR locomotives to be seen, most, if not all, without nameplates, the same could not be said about the variety of Western Region sheds they worked from and as 1965 progressed more and more steam MPD’s on the Region either closed or succumbed to the ever‑growing presence of diesel power. ‘Foreigners’ from distant parts of the BR network were thin on the ground during March – just two – one from Doncaster and the other from York. Note the large number of BR Class 9F 2‑10‑0’s recorded; thirteen in all.
To be continued