Castlerock signal moves on

Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.
Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.

The Downpatrick and County Down Railway has taken delivery of the distinctive old semaphore railway signals recovered from Castlerock Station, which have been replaced with modern colour light signalling as part of a £46m upgrade to the Londonderry railway line aimed at improving journey times and frequencies by Translink.

Railway chairman Robert Gardiner said: “We’re absolutely delighted to preserve these relics of the Victorian era that had survived well into the 21st Century on the modern railway.”

Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.

Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.

He added: “These will be restored and re-erected along our heritage line in County Down to continue to perform the task they were designed to do, where members of the public can see them once again in action”.

These types of signals were known as “somersaults” because of their atypical motion compared to other railway semaphore signals, and were once a typical feature of the LMS Northern Counties railway lines from Belfast York Road Station to Antrim, Larne, Coleraine, Portrush and Derry.

They were designed for areas that were prone to snowfall in the winter, which meant normal signals could become frozen inside their slotted posts, which prevented them returning to the “stop” position, which could lead to a train running past a signal at danger.

Edward French, a signal fitter with the english Great Northern Railway, came up with the design in the 1870s where a centrally balanced signal arm pivoted away from the post. While the ‘on’ indication was no different in appearance from that of previous semaphores, the arm in the ‘off’ position remained fully visible in an almost vertical position and not obscured by the post.

Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.

Castlerock Signals now in Downpatrick.

Mr Gardiner added: “We have been working with Translink over the past number of years to secure the future of these semaphore signals, and our thanks to them for all their enthusiasm and assistance in making this project happen”.