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Gotherington signalbox opens

article by: Ian Crowder
posted on: 04 December 2011
updated on: 28 February 2012


The signalman accepted the up and down trains scheduled to pass each other by the signalbox. Nothing unusual in that, except that this was at Gotherington: after final approval of the signalbox and signals following years of painstaking work, interrupted in 2010 by slipping of the embankment on which the passing loop was laid, the 'box was finally opened on Sunday 4th December. It was the first time that trains had passed each other here since at least 1976 and the first time since 1949 that trains had been signalled from Gotherington, when the original signalbox was closed.

For the first time in preservation, trains departed from Winchcombe and from Cheltenham Racecourse at the same time, meeting each other at Gotherington. They safely passed each other, disturbing the patina of rust that had developed on the rails of the previously unused Up loop.

"It was quite an occasion," said Neil Carr, the railway's operations manager and the Gotherington signalman. "Word had got around and several photographers were there, as well as members of the team who have been working on the project for years, to witness their thousands of man-hours of dedicated effort coming to fruition."

The Down 'Elegant Excursions' dining train, behind ex-Turkish 8F no. 45160, arrived first and was held at the home signal to await the slightly late-running Up 'Santa Special', hauled by centenarian 2-8-0 no. 2807. The tokens were exchanged and the 8F disappeared towards Cheltenham, before the exchange took place to allow 2807 and its train to head off towards Winchcombe. Passengers on the dining train were evidently told of the historic significance of the event, judging by the number of people at open windows capturing the occasion on their cameras.

"It was a very good trial for the 'box and for communication between Winchcombe and Cheltenham 'boxes," said Neil. "Gotherington 'box will see a lot more use as the Santa season progresses - for the rest of December we have a two-train Santa service. The loop gives the railway a huge amount of additional operating flexibility."

Historical notes

The first signal box at Gotherington opened on 1 June 1906 and, like all of the buildings at the station, it was built of local Cleeve Hill stone. Reflecting unfulfilled GWR expectations that Gotherington would become an important goods facility, the frame comprised 33 levers to allow for future expansion - but only 20 were ever used. The box controlled two crossovers between Up and Down lines, an Up loop and a single siding. It was only 'opened as required' (like Cheltenham Racecourse box) and so was often switched out. The signal box, siding, loop and connections were taken out of use in April 1949 and removed later that year. Gotherington Halt itself closed to passengers in June 1955.

The new signalbox is about 150 yards south of the original, which was sited at the south end of the Up platform ramp. The building is of new construction but is built to standard GWR pattern, however using modern materials, including a mock Cotswold stone. The 21-lever frame (of which 14 are being used) dates from 1901 and is from Claydon Crossing, between Banbury and Leamington Spa. 

Interestingly, Claydon Crossing signalbox was involved on the occasion of a nearby deraiment on 5th November 1974.  The driver of an Up freight train noted unusual movement on the track as it passed Cropredy and, as a precaution, the following DMU service was stopped at Claydon Crossing signalbox: the box immediately in advance of the point of concern.  The driver was told to proceed with caution.  He and the guard, also travelling in the cab, spotted a missing 2ft section of rail but too late to prevent the train from passing over the gap and derailing, fortunately no-one on the train was hurt. The casue was subsequently found to be a fatigue fracture of the rail.  There was considerable disruption of train services until repairs had been completed early the following morning (information from Railway Inspectorate report of 11 July, 1975).   


6 comments for “Gotherington signalbox opens”

  1. Gravatar of Andy BryneAndy Bryne
    Posted 04 December 2011 at 20:38:54

    Wonderful and positive news! Also very good to see 2807 making people happy on the Santa Specials. Thanks for the great photos from the 'box too!

  2. Gravatar of Rodger NagleRodger Nagle
    Posted 05 December 2011 at 08:14:37

    Fantastic achievement! Great work by a dedicated group of volunteers proving what is possible with the right attitude.
    Good news for the railway and a welcome boost for all involved, next stop Broadway.

  3. Gravatar of Mick RogersMick Rogers
    Posted 05 December 2011 at 08:37:54

    Thanks to a slight detour off the M5 on a journey home from Manchester, I was able to photograph and video this historic event from an adjacent field. I echo the praise of other respondents - it is great to see another obvious sign that the GWSR continues to move forward, despite the embankment problems.

  4. Gravatar of Ian CrowderIan Crowder
    Posted 05 December 2011 at 18:53:13

    There was an error in the original article, which stated that the lever frame came from Whiteball. In fact, the Whiteball frame is at Cheltenham Racecourse. This one came from Claydon Crossing, as the corrected story explains. Sorry for the misleading information and thanks to Malcolm Walker for putting me right!

  5. Gravatar of Ian CrowderIan Crowder
    Posted 05 December 2011 at 18:54:23

    Hi Mick, thanks for that message - if you would like to share your images on this page please send some in - also a link to your movie clip! Thanks!

  6. Gravatar of Gervase HamiltonGervase Hamilton
    Posted 19 December 2011 at 13:31:25

    Congratulations and best wishes to all on a good job well done inspite of all the frustrations and delays that have been experienced since the scheme was first mooted. I know how proud you must have been to open the box first time to service trains. I felt the same way when I was still a volunteer signalman and Dave Wasdell and I opened up Cheltenham Racecourse Box after it had been passed by the Railway Inspectorate. I hope to persuade my neighbour in Woodchester,Rod Harris to allow to visit the box in action some time soon. Roll on the construction of Broadway Box!

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