South Tynedale Railway
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South Tynedale Railway

South Tynedale Railway - Alston, Cumbria.

Let us start the tour at Alston Station, where the ticket office, shop and Tourist Information Centre, public toilets and a café (independent of the railway) are situated. The picture shows the station on a typical Alston Summer evening, with the passenger train ready to be put away for the night. You can just see Helen Kathryn, the steam loco that had been used that day for passenger service, in the distance at the headshunt. In addition to the original platform and buildings, the station has a run-round loop and is fully signalled.

Alston Station. Guard Daniel McIntyre prepares to put the train away

The traffic movements on the railway are controlled using mechanical semaphore signalling. The signal box at Alston formerly stood at Ainderby, on the branch line to Redmire, being acquired from British Rail and re-erected on a new brick base. The level crossing barriers and mechanism came from the now-closed How Mill station on the Newcastle and Carlisle line.

Alston Signal Box May 1999

The signal box houses a 21 lever frame, made by McKenzie and Holland. In addition there is a manually operated gate machine to operate the level crossing barriers- this combination of manual gate wheel and lifting barriers (rather that gates) being somewhat rare. The ‘box also houses a token instrument for single line working (One Engine in Steam system), the internal telephone exchange and a fireplace for a coal fire! The next picture shows the interior or the ‘box.

Alston Signal Box - Steve Beer is the Signalman

The Signalman is responsible for the running of all trains within the area covered by the ‘box. At Alston, this area includes the station area and level crossing, and access to the sidings. Many traditional duties are carried out; the key token must by handed out and retrieved, points kept cleaned and oiled, and levers polished. As a train passes the ‘box, the signalman must also check that doors are closed and the train is complete, with tail-lamp in place. The next picture shows the Signalman’s view as a departing train passes the Down Main Starting Signal controlling access to the single line to Kirkhaugh. The disc signal beneath is for entry to the Carriage Works sidings.

Train departing Alston on the Down Main.

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