The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

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Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

When I was a telegraph lad at Welwyn Garden City in the early 1970s one of the regular signalmen at the box during the 1960s and 1970s until the time the box closed in 1976 was named Alan 'pedlar' Palmer who originated from around the Peterborough area and who came on the LNER sometime during the mid/late 1930s but after 'doing his bit' in RAF Bomber Command as a member of the air crew flying in Lancaster bombers during WW2 he returned to the railway as a signalman at Lolham level crossing (north of Peterborough) but he subsequently migrated south to the 1955 Potters Bar panel box then Hatfield No.1 and then finally Welwyn Garden City anyway he was the only person I heard call the Great Eastern 'the Swedey' nobody else called it that plus he would often call Peterborough United FC 'the posh' which always stuck in my mind because during weekday evenings when Peterborough were playing a evening game he would often shout out "Up the posh!!". It goes without saying he was good on the single needle telegraph because it was 'natural' to someone like him who was brought up on it on the GN/LNER.

An interesting place was Peterborough with the GN, GE, Midland and didn't the LNWR run into Peterborough East from Northampton as well?. Then there was Eastfield & New England yards and New England loco shed as well.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by BoxBoy »

The Hatfield school of signals was located in the old waiting room used by Royalty visiting Hatfield House. The six week signaling course included learning the single needle telegraph. The inspector in charge of the course suggested we practice at home the telegraph using two cups and a spoon. A drop of water in one cup made the sound different when struck with the spoon. At home the two cups at around three inches apart and the spoon, acting as the needle, in the middle. Hit the left cup for dot and right cup for dash. It was not long before the sounds of words and letters could be recognized.
Ogden’s sold tobacco in round tins and these empty tins fitted neatly over the brass sounding boards and amplified the sound as the needle struck them. This made listening to messages easier when working the frame. Hatfield No1 would telegraph running times to Fins bury park 6 by sending GB repeatedly. No6 lad or signalman would then hold the instrument lever to one side which jammed the needle both ends. Releasing it after a few second then send GB to No1 which would reply with HD followed by the message e.g. 1A11 16 all spelt out, the sixteen being the passing time. Finsbury Park would add on the running time from Hatfield, 11 minutes I think for an express in the late 60's early 70's, to give the time it would pass the Park. An express train passing Finsbury Park 6 would be reported to Kings Cross by phone as “passing the park” which triggered the train announcement of its imminent arrival at the terminus. All timing subsequently phoned to control in GN house. Freightliners were also reported to No 6 because most changed crews at “The Park” and if the crew was in the tea room ready you could run it slow, or main then turn it in to the slow from which Finsbury Park 4 would signal it towards Canonbury. Should the relief crew not be available it had to be turned before Wood green to run goods line to Finsbury Park and held on one of the two permissive goods lines to await the crew. Liaising with No5 box re the whereabouts of down liners and their crews was useful because most of the time crews working down trains changed to collect an up one and vice versa. Some crews popped up the box for hot water to replenish their white billy can and check the running of their train.
Wood Green 4 signalman communicated with No 6 to check if it could be sent slow road, if not it was up the goods line. Should a freightliner be on the fast Southgate Cemetary signalman would check to see if he could run it? Finsbury Park was the last place a train heading for Canonbury could be diverted off the fast.
To my knowledge the only freight trains booked fast to slow at Finsbury Park 6 was the early afternoon up oil train returning to the southern and the occasional bullion both could be given the splitting fast to slow distant. Another service I recall was “The Highwayman” which started and terminated at Finsbury Park. Cheap as chips tickets bought by students and pensioners for the 10 hour? journey north.
I would like to add to the discussion on the Enfield old station depot. Grange Park was booked to be opened at 05:00 to receive the up coal train to Palace Gates and drop off some coal wagons into Enfield yard old station. This rarely happened and the coal was tripped from Palace Gates along with the bananas, usually with a 08. The coal empties were collected by 7J62 from Palace Gates which reversed into the other end of the yard at Enfield Chase end collected the empty wagons and departed north. The sidings between Grange Park and Enfield Chase were used to store additional carriages for Summer Saturday additional holiday trains.
Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

You really know your stuff BoxBoy I presume you was a telegraph lad and possibly a signalman around the London area out of Kings Cross. About four of us including John thesignalman and Dave Cockle were 'tele lads' at Finsbury Park around 1970/71 with myself at Welwyn Garden City 1972 until early 1974 and Grandad was at Crescent Junction at Peterborough around 1967-69. Nice to meet another 'old boy' on here.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by BoxBoy »

Hi Mickey,
I was never a lad I graduated from the Hatfield school and was assigned to Enfield Chase and passed out became the only regular man. This was a two shift box and after a while I ended up on 12 hour shifts which finished after the evening coal empties left Enfield yard and cleared Gordon Hill. I then went as regular man to Bounds Green then Finsbury Park 6, this latter move was not popular with the regular men both of which lost a far chunk of overtime. A vacancy arose for a GP relief job based at Cuffley which I took. I know Dave mentioned the "Highwayman" and I am sure the train was turned out fast at Finsbury Park 5 and the motive power was usually a class 40. This train was booked fast to Finsbury Park, then in slow to decamp the weary or maybe hardy passengers. This train was so popular that an extra carriage was added and on arriving back at Finsbury Park the train no longer cleared the track ciruit covering the fast to slow, goods to slow and entrance/exit from the carriage sidings up to the end of the slow line platform. This stopped the job with all passenger lines blocked until the train departed for Kings Cross Goods. It was routed via the slow from that day on. Trains could be called off the goods lines and put round the back using the old highgate branch platform to proceed to the Cross or Canonbury.
Whilst I was at Bounds Green I was never aware of the the turnback siding being used. Bloody busy little box that. Empty rolling stock was routed into the up platform, the crossover and washer points reversed and the train setback. Occassionally the air brake pipes would separate as the coaches swung across the reverse curves of the crossover a loud hissing sound and the train came to a halt stopping the job.
Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

BoxBoy wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:34 pm Hi Mickey,
I was never a lad I graduated from the Hatfield school and was assigned to Enfield Chase and passed out became the only regular man...
Ha ha I presume you may have read one of my posts about ECS being routed into the center road 'reversing siding' just beyond Bowes Park station heading towards Palmers Green direction. Bounds Green box looked like a nice little job although it was situated on the Enfield lines but it was glimpsed from the main line.

With regards to Finsbury Park 6 I was going to the box after my position as a telegraph lad was abolished at Welwyn Garden City in early 1974 and I had the appointment in writing but decided to go on the loco as a secondman at Kings Cross instead but that only lasted for about 18 months before I 'jacked the railway in' BUT I re-joined in 1979 and at the start of 1980 I got a resident signalman's position at Victoria Park at Hackney Wick in east London and went to the Ilford signalling school for 6 weeks before going back to the box and passing out around March 1980 and subsequently I have been a signalman (or should I say 'signaller' nowadays) for the last 41 years.

I visited several of the Finsbury Park boxes around 1971-72 including Finsbury Park 3, 4, 5 & 6 along with Ashburton Grove.

There is a thread on here about me and my railway friend a ex telegraph lad visiting Ferme Park South Down box in the summer of 1971 (after closure in late 1969) and taking out several levers from the redundant lever frame all legal with B.R. who provided a covering note.

With regards to the 'Highwayman' yeah there's been a bit of talk about that train on here in the past you may have seen it.

On the LNER people thread there is a lot of stuff posted on memories of various signalling staff and signalling Ops managers mainly around the London area out to Welwyn Garden City.

I posted a lot of stuff on Welwyn Garden City box spread over 3 or 4 topic threads in the past.
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StevieG
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG »

Much enjoying reading your posts BoxBoy. So much details with references to places and operating that I became familiar with, including that No.49 Fast-Slow splitting Distant at No.6.

I wonder if we perhaps knew each other. I was 'around' the boxes from about 1967 onwards thanks to two gents named Curtis, Greenwood and Tilbury, starting at New Barnet and Oakleigh Park and being gradually 'wired out' to other amenable signalmen, until eventually seeing inside all the boxes from KX (inclusive) to Langley (both ways), except Ferme Park South Up, and learning the telegraph, until they started to disappear from 1970 onwards.

Before it became a firm and operational reality with the resignalling in about 1974, the Reversing Siding at Bounds Green (Bowes Park) looked a strange thing to me in c.1968/9, in that I think it was not physically connected with running lines, and looked very rusty, as if disused for a long time, or never having been used. I know that its history, and that of Bounds Green box and the old (1940s) Bowes Park box, are not simple and quite unclear.

Coincidentally, my first invitations into boxes occurred in Berkshire, on 'the Berks and Hants' line.
Last edited by StevieG on Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

StevieG wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 4:05 pm the Reversing Siding at Bounds Green (Bowes Park) looked a strange thing to me in c.1968/9, in that iI think it was not physically connected with running lines, and looked very rusty, as if disused for a long time, or never having been used. I know that its history, and that of Bounds Green box and the old (1940s) Bowes Park box, are not simple and quite unclear.
Your description of the 'reversing siding' just beyond Bowes Park station was like that Stevie because I vaguely recall seeing it in that state myself although I rarely travelled around the 'Hertford branch' circa 1970 preferring to stay on the main line via Hatfield. As previously posted by 1974 for several years some loco hauled trains of ECS that weren't going into Holloway Down carriage sidings or Ferme Park carriage sidings would be run into that reversing siding at Bowes Park while another loco would be attached at the Wood Green end to take the ECS either into Bounds Green carriage sidings or Hornsey carriage sidings although I presume that all stopped sometime during the 1980s?. Also there was a run/round siding located between Grange Park and Enfield Chase stations for running around main line ECS although it was set back some distance from the Hertford branch it's self.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by BoxBoy »

I am sure Stevie will recall another Finsbury Park park box which I was sent to learn, No7. The box was heavily vandalised and the only bits that worked were the levers and sometimes the signals. The only traffic was the LT stock move using battery locos and the Station Manager acting as pilotman accompanied the train over the old branch. I never worked the box in fact I doubt any one would stay up there for a few hours especialy in the winter months. I think the SM did it all including removing the fridges, bikes and other obstructions left on the line by the local kids. As soon as the train had passed they came out of hiding put it all back again.
The battery loco upon return would toot away on that distinctive whistle when passing no7 and crossing the bridge spanning the main lines then wait at the very tall lattice post branch home signal and await it clearance. Dropping off the SM in the station it proceeded to Drayton Park. I wish I had photographed that train.
There was a fan of around 4 sidings between Grange Park and Enfield Chase in which a train could be stored and the engine could be released by running up into the dock at Enfield and back through any vacant siding. I seem to recall that the dolly was a yellow one allowing locos to pass it unless waiting to go out onto the running line. If all ines were occupied you could run round via the main line providing both boxes were open.
The Palace Gates coal trip working mentioned in other posts stored the empty wagons in one of those sidings. To access them meant Grange Park had to shunt the empties onto the up main and then back into the Enfield sidings ready for the vening pick up from the Enfield Chase end. I cannot remember the maximum length of the train that would fit in between the Enfield starting singnal and the trailing down line to yard points. This was important because if you had to shunt into forward section you had to send the porter to scotch & clamp the catch points just beyond the down starting signal.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG »

I did once visit No.7 briefly BoxBoy, thanks to having a trusty standard box key.
No-one around of course (probably a Saturday) but I don't remember any sign of vandalism, it unsurprisingly just looked extremely uncared for.
That was probably shortly before, or around the time that, the Up road flyover became prohibited to all traffic except he LT trips.

Hard to imagine that around 1932/33 the LNER had resignalled from No.7 to Park Junction (both, exclusive) to be TCB with 3 and 4-aspect colour-lights (a stretch once having had intermediate boxes at/called Stroud Green, Crouch End, Archway and Highgate).
And the more extraordinary to think that, if the 1935-40 New Works Plan's conversion of the Northern Heights lines (to Ally Pally, High Barnet and Edgware) to LT signalling and electrification standards for its transfer to LT Northern Line operation - and joining up with the Northern City Line to Moorgate - been fully implemented, the LNER's still almost new FP7-Park Jn. signalling would have been superseded by new standard LT signals.
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Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

Regarding Finsbury Park 7 in particular on several occasions around 1964/65 I remember walking through Finsbury Park and then crossing all the running lines on the footbridge that was close to the Up Edgware bridge and that brought you out on the other side of the Down Edgware line in Woodstock road anyway a good view of Finsbury Park 7 was obtained of the box from that area where the footbridge started and ended.

Also around November 1970 a railway friend and myself visited the then closed and redundant Finsbury Park 7 and had a quick look inside. The lever frame was still there but the block shelf was cleared of the block instruments although maybe a signal light indication box mite have remained on the shelf but it's over 50 years ago that the visit occurred so it's all a bit vague now to be honest.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG »

To richard (Forums admin.),
Having had to put aside reading & contributing to the forums for several weeks until the last couple of days, I have just plunged back into posting, but perhaps too keenly : -
Because in the case of this topic thread, I have now fully realised that it is in the "LNER News" Forum, and over its 15 months' 'life' it has been continued, in the process graduating from being a a single genuine 'News' announcement item to becoming a thread purely concerned with history and reminiscences.

Its presence in "LNER News" is therefore completely incongruous, for which I apologise, and it would be quite understandable if you moved the thread to "General LNER Discussion" or any more appropriate forum.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by BoxBoy »

Mickey wrote: Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:40 am Regarding Finsbury Park 7 in particular on several occasions around 1964/65 I remember walking through Finsbury Park and then crossing all the running lines on the footbridge

Hi Mickey. You must have passed by the trainspotters area. A platform specifically built by the park so kids could collect numbers of passing trains. This was a very popular place in the late 50's for enthusiasts armed with their IanAllen spotters book.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey »

Mickey wrote: Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:40 am Regarding Finsbury Park 7 in particular on several occasions around 1964/65 I remember walking through Finsbury Park and then crossing all the running lines on the footbridge

BoxBoy wrote: Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:53 pm Hi Mickey. You must have passed by the trainspotters area. A platform specifically built by the park so kids could collect numbers of passing trains. This was a very popular place in the late 50's for enthusiasts armed with their IanAllen spotters book.
Hiya BoxBoy yeah that 'spotters platform' on the Up side of the running lines north of Finsbury Park station has been mentioned several times on here before in the past but apart from a handful of people remembering it including myself nobody else has mentioned it because either they didn't know anything about it or they have nothing to say about it?. I believe it mite still be there but hidden under a ton of vegetation?.
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by BoxBoy »

The platform was removed long ago and just above where it stood is now a car park. Delving into past posts I have come across lots of memory joggers one being the loss of my good friend Dave Lindstromb. Reading those past posts were difficult for me because I covered his shift so he could be rostered off for the flight to see the French GP. He was an avid motor racing enthusiast and we travelled to a few racetracks together.
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