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Grantham Yard signal box – an introduction

by John Clayson

Grantham Yard signal box occupied a prominent location at the south end of the Up, or southbound, main line platform.  It features in many classic photographs of the southern end of the passenger station.

Grantham Yard was the third largest of the four signal boxes which were in operation at Grantham between 1881 and 1968.  After an upgrade in 1903 its locking frame had 50 levers until it closed in 1971. Like the other Grantham boxes the Yard Box was staffed round the clock in three shifts by a Signalman, but there was not normally a Telegraph Lad on duty.

Its official name was 'Grantham Yard' signal box, but its nameboards simply read 'Yard Box' and locally it was generally referred to by that name.

Here are some photographs which help to place the Yard Box in the context of the track layout and traffic flows at the south end of the passenger station.

A General View

This photograph, taken on 3rd October 1963, illustrates most of the area controlled by the Yard Box (on the left). Leading in from the left is the Up (southbound) Main line. The colour light signal controls its connection, just beyond the barrow crossing, with the Up Goods line. Approaching from the far distance, and to the left of the prominent semaphore signals, is the Down (northbound) Main line. Approaching to the right of the same semaphore signal is the Down Slow line, leading to the Western platform which is on the other side of the wooden building on our right. There is a connection into the Down Main line at the platform end. Just discernible this side of the signal post is a series of diagonal crossings which connect the Western platform with three of the four running lines (Up Goods, Up Main and Down Slow) - please see the enlarged view below. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
This photograph, taken on 3rd October 1963, illustrates most of the area controlled by the Yard Box (on the left).
Leading in from the left is the Up (southbound) Main line. The colour light signal controls its connection, just beyond the barrow crossing, with the Up Goods line.
Approaching from the far distance, and to the left of the prominent semaphore signals, is the Down (northbound) Main line.
Approaching to the right of the same semaphore signal is the Down Slow line, leading to the Western platform which is on the other side of the wooden building on our right. There is a connection into the Down Main line at the platform end.
Just discernible this side of the signal post is a series of diagonal crossings which connect the Western platform with three of the four running lines (Up Goods, Up Main and Down Slow) - please see the enlarged view below.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
This is an enlarged view of part of the photograph above which shows more clearly the series of crossovers leading to and from the Western platform. These arrangements provided good flexibility of operation in a relatively compact area, at the cost of quite complex trackwork. The crossings required regular maintenance under the heavy traffic conditions of this busy section of the East Coast Main Line. On the left are the up side sidings and goods yard. Despite its proximity and its name by this time there were no connections with these sidings at the Yard Box; the up side sidings connected with the running lines in the distance, at the South Box. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson
This is an enlarged view of part of the photograph above which shows more clearly the series of crossovers leading to and from the Western platform.
These arrangements provided good flexibility of operation in a relatively compact area, at the cost of quite complex trackwork. The crossings required regular maintenance under the heavy traffic conditions of this busy section of the East Coast Main Line.
On the left are the up side sidings and goods yard. Despite its proximity and its name by this time there were no connections with these sidings at the Yard Box; the up side sidings connected with the running lines in the distance, at the South Box.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
 This is the approach to the station from the south in the early 1960s. It was taken from between the Main lines, on the right, and the Down Slow line on the left. Beyond the Down Slow line is Carriage Siding No.1. The roof of Grantham Yard box can be glimpsed above the front of the first coach of the approaching train. All the connections with the line which crosses diagonally from the bottom right corner to the Western platform on the left were under the control of Grantham Yard box. The disc signals facing the camera control shunting movements towards the station platforms. On the right the lofty pole route carries telegraph and telephone communication along the eastern side of the railway. Photograph by Noel Ingram, used with permission from Steam World.
This is the approach to the station from the south in the early 1960s. It was taken from between the Main lines, on the right, and the Down Slow line on the left. Beyond the Down Slow line is Carriage Siding No.1. The roof of Grantham Yard box can be glimpsed above the front of the first coach of the approaching train.
All the connections with the line which crosses diagonally from the bottom right corner to the Western platform on the left were under the control of Grantham Yard box.
The disc signals facing the camera control shunting movements towards the station platforms. On the right the lofty pole route carries telegraph and telephone communication along the eastern side of the railway.
Photograph by Noel Ingram, used with permission from Steam World.
Access to the Yard Box was by a wooden staircase at the rear, betwen the box and the adjacent Goods Shed, as seen in this photograph of Class A1 No. 60158 Aberdonian departing for the south. Photograph by Noel Ingram, used with permission from Steam World.
Access to the Yard Box was by a wooden staircase at the rear, betwen the box and the adjacent Goods Shed, as seen in this photograph of Class A1 No. 60158 Aberdonian departing for the south.
Photograph by Noel Ingram, used with permission from Steam World.

A View from Above

The Yard Box was at the end of a row of offices at the south end of the platform and it backed onto the goods shed.

Grantham Yard signal box is at the platform end, slightly to the right of centre in this photograph, which was taken on 19th April 1950. The station platforms and buildings lie to its left, with the station water tower near the top left corner, across Station Road. At lower left are the Loco Department offices and workshops, with the top of the shed water tower and the coaling plant at the bottom left corner. Photograph from Britain From Above © English Heritage.
Grantham Yard signal box is at the platform end, slightly to the right of centre in this photograph, which was taken on 19th April 1950.
The station platforms and buildings lie to its left, with the station water tower near the top left corner, across Station Road.
At lower left are the Loco Department offices and workshops, with the top of the shed water tower and the coaling plant at the bottom left corner.
Photograph from Britain From Above © English Heritage.

 

The Main Lines

The Up Main and Down Main lines passed in front of the box, on its western side.

On April 18th 1963 a northbound passenger train passes the Yard Box on the Down Main line, hauled by a diesel electric locomotive of the ‘Peak’ class, so called because the first ten were named after English and Welsh mountains. Train 1A47 would be the southbound The Heart of Midlothian at that time, so it would seem that this locomotive has faulty train indicator blinds. It is also carrying 'Class 1' express passenger train oil headlamps, as used on steam locomotives, which may be intended to show that the indicator blinds are not to be relied upon. Peak locomotives seemed prone to this problem. This could possibly be service 1A42, the 15:00 from King's Cross to Newcastle, which would be at Grantham around 16:45. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson,
On April 18th 1963 a northbound passenger train passes the Yard Box on the Down Main line, hauled by a diesel electric locomotive of the ‘Peak’ class, so called because the first ten were named after English and Welsh mountains.
Train 1A47 would be the southbound The Heart of Midlothian at that time, so it would seem that this locomotive has faulty train indicator blinds. It is also carrying 'Class 1' express passenger train oil headlamps, as used on steam locomotives, which may be intended to show that the indicator blinds are not to be relied upon. Peak locomotives seemed prone to this problem. This could possibly be service 1A42, the 15:00 from King's Cross to Newcastle, which would be at Grantham around 16:45.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
Train 1A30 was the 14:00 from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, The Heart of Midlothian. The locomotive is D9010, a member of the 22-strong ’Deltic’ class which took over passenger expresses from steam locomotives on the East Coast Main line from 1961 onwards. The date is September 19th 1963. The colour light signal on the left is the Up Main line home signal of Grantham Yard signal box. It is a junction signal for the Up Goods line and also a distant signal for the next box to the south, Grantham South. Therefore the main aspect could show either red, yellow or green depending on the positions of the relevant levers in both boxes. If the Yard Box signalman set the diverging route onto the Up Goods line the inclined row of five white lights (known as a 'feather') would also illuminate. Below and to the left of the main aspect is an inclined row of two white lamps. These were illuminated to permit a short distance shunting movement onto the Goods line, for example when a locomotive arrived from the shed (via the North box and the Up Main line) in preparation for an engine change, and it was only to proceed along the Goods line for a few yards, before setting back into the into the locomotive spur, which is behind the signal, to await the arrival of its train. The white diamond attached to the signal post informs locomotive crews that the line at that point is monitored by a track-circuit, an electrical system which detects the presence of a train and provides a visual indication to the signalman. Disc signals controlled shunting movements. On the left, just beyond the flat cabinet, is a disc signal which released a waiting locomotive from the engine spur. On the right, behind the gas lamp post, is a disc signal which allowed a movement out of the Down platform through the connection to the Down Slow line. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
Train 1A30 was the 14:00 from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, The Heart of Midlothian. The locomotive is D9010, a member of the 22-strong ’Deltic’ class which took over passenger expresses from steam locomotives on the East Coast Main line from 1961 onwards. The date is September 19th 1963.
The colour light signal on the left is the Up Main line home signal of Grantham Yard signal box. It is a junction signal for the Up Goods line and also a distant signal for the next box to the south, Grantham South. Therefore the main aspect could show either red, yellow or green depending on the positions of the relevant levers in both boxes.
If the Yard Box signalman set the diverging route onto the Up Goods line the inclined row of five white lights (known as a 'feather') would also illuminate. Below and to the left of the main aspect is an inclined row of two white lamps. These were illuminated to permit a short distance shunting movement onto the Goods line, for example when a locomotive arrived from the shed (via the North box and the Up Main line) in preparation for an engine change, and it was only to proceed along the Goods line for a few yards, before setting back into the into the locomotive spur, which is behind the signal, to await the arrival of its train.
The white diamond attached to the signal post informs locomotive crews that the line at that point is monitored by a track-circuit, an electrical system which detects the presence of a train and provides a visual indication to the signalman.
Disc signals controlled shunting movements. On the left, just beyond the flat cabinet, is a disc signal which released a waiting locomotive from the engine spur. On the right, behind the gas lamp post, is a disc signal which allowed a movement out of the Down platform through the connection to the Down Slow line.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
This northbound Class 7 train of empty mineral wagons is passing through the station under clear signals on 9th April 1964, hauled by class B1 locomotive No.61162 of New England (34E) motive power depot in Peterborough. The semaphore signals at the approach to the station control both the Down Main Line - the three arms on the left hand post - and the Down Slow line - the two arms on the right hand post. The two arms which are raised into the clear position show that the train 'has the road' through the station and is not required to stop. The upper arm was controlled jointly by the South Box (as its starting signal) and the Yard Box (as its home signal). There was a slotting arrangement on the post so that the signal arm was raised only when its respective levers in both boxes were pulled over. Beneath it is the North Box distant signal, requiring another slotting mechanism to co-ordinate its movement with the arm above. There is a third, smaller signal arm just above the gantry bracket. This was a 'calling on' signal, used by the Yard Box signalman to permit entry to the platform under caution when the line was already occupied. It would be used, for example, when a vehicle was being attached to, or detached from, the rear of a stationary train. The signals on the right hand post controlled the Down Slow line in a similar way, but without a distant signal arm at this time. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson
This northbound Class 7 train of empty mineral wagons is passing through the station under clear signals on 9th April 1964, hauled by class B1 locomotive No.61162 of New England (34E) motive power depot in Peterborough.
The semaphore signals at the approach to the station control both the Down Main Line - the three arms on the left hand post - and the Down Slow line - the two arms on the right hand post.
The two arms which are raised into the clear position show that the train 'has the road' through the station and is not required to stop. The upper arm was controlled jointly by the South Box (as its starting signal) and the Yard Box (as its home signal). There was a slotting arrangement on the post so that the signal arm was raised only when its respective levers in both boxes were pulled over. Beneath it is the North Box distant signal, requiring another slotting mechanism to co-ordinate its movement with the arm above. There is a third, smaller signal arm just above the gantry bracket. This was a 'calling on' signal, used by the Yard Box signalman to permit entry to the platform under caution when the line was already occupied. It would be used, for example, when a vehicle was being attached to, or detached from, the rear of a stationary train.
The signals on the right hand post controlled the Down Slow line in a similar way, but without a distant signal arm at this time.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
This northbound train is signalled to stop in the station because the Grantham North box distant signal is at 'caution'. The driver of the railcar (diesel multiple unit) on the right has stopped on the Down Slow line waiting for one of the right hand signals to clear, which will allow it to run into the Western platform. The South Box can be glimpsed in the distance, immediately to the right of the railcar. Photograph taken in late June 1962 by Cedric A. Clayson.
This northbound train is signalled to stop in the station because the Grantham North box distant signal is at 'caution'.
The driver of the railcar (diesel multiple unit) on the right has stopped on the Down Slow line waiting for one of the right hand signals to clear, which will allow it to run into the Western platform.
The South Box can be glimpsed in the distance, immediately to the right of the railcar.
Photograph taken in late June 1962 by Cedric A. Clayson.

 

The Junction for the Up Goods Line

An Up Goods line, which continued for five miles to High Dyke, commenced at a junction controlled by Grantham Yard signal box.

A train of empty ironstone wagons is being taken south through the station on the Up Main line by class 9F locomotive No.92184 on 27th June 1963. Projecting above the level of the cab is an inclined row of illuminated white lights attached to the colour light signal. This shows that the train is signalled to take the connection into the Up Goods line at the points just beyond its tender. It will use the Goods line, alongside the Up Main line, from here as far as High Dyke, where it will be crossed over to the Down side to enter the reception sidings for the Stainby Branch. The Goods line kept slower trains, such as this one, out of the path of the expresses, especially important because the route climbs continually from here to Stoke Tunnel (just beyond High Dyke), slowing mineral trains even more. The term ‘Iron Ore Tippler’ indicates that the wagons have no doors – they were emptied by being tipped upside down in unloading plant at the steelworks. Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.
A train of empty ironstone wagons is being taken south through the station on the Up Main line by class 9F locomotive No.92184 on 27th June 1963.
Projecting above the level of the cab is an inclined row of illuminated white lights attached to the colour light signal. This shows that the train is signalled to take the connection into the Up Goods line at the points just beyond its tender. It will use the Goods line, alongside the Up Main line, from here as far as High Dyke, where it will be crossed over to the Down side to enter the reception sidings for the Stainby Branch. The Goods line kept slower trains, such as this one, out of the path of the expresses, especially important because the route climbs continually from here to Stoke Tunnel (just beyond High Dyke), slowing mineral trains even more.
The term ‘Iron Ore Tippler’ indicates that the wagons have no doors – they were emptied by being tipped upside down in unloading plant at the steelworks.
Photograph by Cedric A. Clayson.

Here is a link to another photograph which shows the 'feather' illuminated.

 

Connections between all lines and the south end of the Western Platform

 The line leading in from the bottom right corner intersects all four running lines to provide connections to and from the Western platform. The first turnout is a carriage siding, then there is a crossing with the Down Slow line (including a 'slip'), after which it crosses the Down Main (on which the Pullman train is passing), and connects with the Up Main and the Up Goods lines. Photograph taken in late June 1962 by Cedric A. Clayson.
The line leading in from the bottom right corner intersects all four running lines to provide connections to and from the Western platform. The first turnout is a carriage siding, then there is a crossing with the Down Slow line (including a 'slip'), after which it crosses the Down Main (on which the Pullman train is passing), and connects with the Up Main and the Up Goods lines.
Photograph taken in late June 1962 by Cedric A. Clayson.

 

Locomotive Changes

Until the early 1960s Grantham was a regular locomotive exchange point on the East Coast Main Line. Changes on southbound trains were all managed from the Yard Box.  There was an engine spur which connected with the Up Goods line, where a locomotive awaiting the arrival of its train could wait without obstructing other traffic.

In this photograph the Yard Box is near the left edge of the picture. A passenger locomotive on the goods line is about to back into the engine spur - see the next photograph.
In this photograph the Yard Box is near the left edge of the picture. A passenger locomotive on the goods line is about to back into the engine spur - see the next photograph.
Taken a few minutes later, the locomotive is now in the engine spur to await the arrival of its train.
Taken a few minutes later, the locomotive is now in the engine spur to await the arrival of its train.

Here is a link to a photograph showing a locomotive change taking place in the early 1960s.  The A4 locomotive on the left has brought the train behind it in from the north and is drawing forward to make its way to the shed.  The A3 locomotive on the right will back down to take the train forward to King's Cross.

 

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