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Highdyke Signal Box – people and incidents

Above: High Dyke signal box in June 1974.
Photograph by Mike Mather.

A Ride on Pendennis Castle

by Rob Clipsham

I thought you might like to know about a very special train ride on the High Dyke branch in 1973?

To set the scene I was 17, had just passed my driving test and we set off from Balderton in my dad's Wolseley 4/44 to watch the arrival of No 4079 Pendennis Castle at High Dyke.  I was accompanied by my friend Peter Manning, and my young cousin Philip aged 12.

Nearly 30,000 Wolseley 4/44 four-door saloon cars were made between 1952/53 and 1956 at the Cowley works in Oxford.

Well we got to High Dyke and the Castle arrived on time, having been attached to a BR Sulzer Type 2 which duly departed.  We took a few photographs and waited for the Castle to head up the branch.

Highdyke from the north in 1973, looking toward the entrance to Stoke Tunnel which is just out of sight around the curve. Making its way across from the Up Goods line to the branch, via the Up Main and Down Main lines, is a delivery for the preservation centre at Market Overton. BR Sulzer Type 2 (Class 25) diesel electric No. 7616 is hauling GWR No. 4079 'Pendennis Castle' (in light steam), North Eastern Railway officers' saloon coach No. 305 and four vans.
Photograph taken by Tom Boustead.

Then we learned that No. 4079 was running low on water, and could we help by forming a human chain of bucket holders from High Dyke box to the tender?  We also learned that those helping would be allowed to travel in the tender of the Castle as she headed for her new home!!!

By now the evening was getting dark, and I didn't have any means of communication with my parents regarding the fact we were going to be home very late that night, so I had a bit of a dilemma!!!  Also, we did not know how we would get back to the car at High Dyke.  Fortunately we met a chap who said that if they dropped us off at Skillington Road Crossing he could drive us back.

So we were all set for one of the most exciting railway adventures of our lives!!
We clambered onto the footplate, stood on the coals in the tender and we were off.
The memory of the Castle barking up the incline lighting up the night sky will always stay with me.  We'd been in the right place at the right time for the ride of our lives.

We were duly dropped off near Skillington and said our goodbyes.

As expected we were very late home and a few harsh words were said, but when the dust settled my dad realised that the chance to go for a ride on a very famous steam locomotive on a local branch line was not one we could miss.

I would love to hear from anyone who was on that ride or can remember the event.

There is more about working Highdyke signal box in My Early Recollections of Working on the Railway by John Pegg here.

There's more about the railway preservation base at Market Overton which was No. 4079's destination here.

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