Watercress Line

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Update

Our priority during the Coronavirus / Covid-19 outbreak, and the railway's closure, is on meeting our running costs. We need around £75,000 per month. Without this income, within a relatively short period we will exhaust our reserves which are so important us for our long term plans.

Although these are difficult times for all of us, we are asking you to consider providing financial support to the railway. With your support, ideally through a monthly standing order, the railway can be in a safe and good position to move forward rapidly when circumstances allow.

The amount is up to you as everyone’s circumstances are different, but please give as generously as you can. One-off donations would also be welcomed.

Thank you.

Visit our donation page to make a monthly gift or donate a single amount.

You can also text WATERCRESS to 70085 to donate £10. Texts cost £10 plus one standard rate message.

Home » About » Signal Engineering

Medstead and Four Marks Signal Box

Medstead box

The original signal box at Medstead was closed on 23rd January 1967, 6 year before the eventual closure of the whole line. A copy of the final entry by the signalman in the Train Register has been obtained and is now framed on the wall in Medstead box. After closure the box was demolished and the hole in the Up platform that was the locking room was filled in. Coincident with the relaying of the track from Ropley to Medstead in the early 1980’s, work was underway to restore the derelict station buildings on the Up platform at Medstead and the Mid Hants also acquired the LSWR Type 1 signal box formerly located at Wilton South on the LSWR Main line. The debris in the locking room was cleared and like Ropley, the wooden upper storey of the signal box was installed on a new brick base. When at Wilton South, the box had an extension but these was not incorporated when moved to Medstead resulting in the box being almost identical to the original LSWR box that stood at Medstead in BR days. The locking room window in the front of the brickwork is the only surviving part of the original box having been saved by a local resident when the old box was demolished.

On 28th May 1983, with the track reinstated from Ropley to Medstead, the first Mid Hants train ran through to Medstead. As the signalling was still being installed, the method of working the Ropley to Medstead section was One Train Working with a Train Staff. A small ground frame was installed at the country end for the run round movements with hand points at the other end of the loop.

When the relaying of the track from Medstead to Alton was completed and opened on 25th May 1985, Medstead signal box and all the associated equipment was still being installed. All the points at Medstead were clipped and padlocked so that Ropley to Alton became one ‘long section’ operating under the One Train Working with a Train Staff method.

However, just 5 months later, the signalling installation was complete and Medstead box was commissioned in October 1985 with a 21 lever Stevens frame installed. Medstead once again became a ‘block post’ and Electric Key Token working was operational to Ropley using Tyers instruments. The Alton section was operated as One Train Working with a Train Staff.

All the new main semaphore signals at Medstead are the SR/BR(S) standard upper quadrant style and are all lit by oil lamps. The signal posts at Medstead are fabricated from lengths of bull head rail with either two, or in the case of the Down Home gantry, four vertical lengths bolted together with spacers for stability. Mechanical disc signals are used for the shunt signals, again lit with oil lamps. Two new ‘fixed’ colour light distant signals are also installed either side of Medstead that display a permanent yellow aspect.

There has been little change to the frame at Medstead since first commissioned although two new signals, Down Main Home and Down Main Starting signals, were installed a few years later that enabled bidirectional running through the Up platform and the King Lever was decommissioned together with the Shunt signals to and from Bennetts Siding. Other minor changes occurred between 2007 and 2009 when the entire signalling installation was re-wired to modern standards along with all lineside cables being renewed. Additional electrical locking was also provided consisting of the back locking of all main running signals and provision of a London End FPL locking bar. The most recent changes have been following the commissioning of Alton box when a further Tyers Electric Key Token machine was installed for operation of the Medstead to Alton section.

This EKT instrument can operate in two modes. Under normal circumstances, the Alton section is operated under Auto Working which does not require Alton box to be open. Under these circumstances, only one train can be in the Alton section at one time. However, when Alton box is open and is therefore designated as a ‘block post, the EKT instrument is connected to a counterpart in Alton box operated by the signalmen at both ends of the section in the normal way.

The block shelf has the usual array of signal repeater instruments but lacks traditional block bells as the inbuilt bells in the two EKT machines are used instead. As is the case at Ropley, the signalman cannot see the tail of an arriving Up train and therefore relies on the guard to operate the TAC (Train Arrived Complete) plunger on the platform to indicate with a bell in the box that the train has arrived complete with a tail lamp.

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