HISTORIC SIGNALS ‘SENT TO SCRAPHEAP’
Rail user group says NR could have handled Blackpool modernisation with more compassion.
Historic mechanical signalling equipment that could have been used on preserved railways has been scrapped by Network Rail, campaigners claim. The Blackpool North-Preston line was one of the last major bastions of semaphore signals, which have been swept away by the electrification of the route and the concentration of signalling in Manchester. Three signal boxes – Blackpool North No. 2, Poulton No. 3 and Kirkham North – all featured original Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway lever frames that were more than a century old. Poulton ’box, with its 74-lever frame, underwent an historical survey before it was knocked down, and the levers were removed before demolition. Kirkham and Blackpool North No. 2 were torn down without ceremony. Two smaller ’boxes, Salwick and Carleton Crossing, were among the other casualties. Blackpool and Fylde Rail Users’ Association, while recognising that the removal of the ’boxes was the price of progress, said some of the equipment could have been saved and used on preserved lines. In the association’s newsletter, Branch Line, Chairman Paul Nettleton wrote: “Considering the poor state of some of the bracket signals that stood sentinel for so long, it was maybe understandable why NR was so keen to consign them to the scrapyard. However, Mr Nettleton said progress on ‘dragging the area into the 21st century’ was staggering and added: “NR is on a hiding to nothing: it has to get the job done, on time and within budget. “But I’m sure it could have dealt with the matter in a much more compassionate way, and I doubt whether it would have delayed proceedings by very much. “Those levers have been literally tossed into the scrapheap. As a long-standing railway enthusiast, it was particularly painful to watch Kirkham being torn apart.” He added: “Electrification will bring faster journeys, usually in three or four-car sets rather than two-car trains. “Similar upgrades to the Manchester and Liverpool areas will give the industry better flexibility of rolling stock.” NR says it had no alternative but to demolish the boxes, and claims they could have become a trigger for trespass and vandalism.