Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway


The railway has two fully operational signalboxes with all their associated equipment. A third 'box is in the process of being commissioned to oversee operations at Bolton Abbey, which are currently controlled by groundframes. Additionally, a fourth signalbox has been acquired for use as a demonstration signalbox at Bolton Abbey.


(c) Dave Barlow. The current Embsay Station signalbox (so called as there was also an Embsay Junction signalbox) is not the original structure from the line's opening in 1888. This 'box was replaced in 1923, at the dawn of Grouping, for reasons not fully known, although it was assumed that the box tried to slip down the embankment! This 1923 replacement (a Midland 4D wooden signalbox, although opened under the LMS) is still standing, following a very thorough rebuild, and still controls Embsay Station. It is now busier than at most times during its history!

The lever frame in the signalbox is of Midland Railway design, using tappet interlocking and four and a half inch lever spacings. This design was much more common as made by REC. Each one of the 20 levers are in use currently, and with plans to expand this creates a problem!

The signalling controlled by the signalbox is almost entirely mechanical, with a mixture of Midland Railway lower quadrant signals as well as some LMS / BR signals. As and when alterations are required, or signals become due for replacement, Midland Railway designs are installed.

I have reproduced the current signalling diagram from the 'box - click to enlarge.

Embsay Station signalbox diagram
(c) M.G.Riley. (c) M.G.Riley. Both photos inside the 'box were taken by M.G.Riley. The one to the left shows the slightly out-of-date diagram, behind one of the track circuit indicators. The other photo is taken from one end of the signalbox, looking towards the station itself, with a set of coaching stock in platform 1. The lever that has been pulled off is the main crossover - No.6, allowing movement from the main line into platform 2.


(c) Bob Bonsall. Despite appearances, this is not a historic structure which existed in BR days, nor is it a signalbox that has been moved from elsewhere. The signalbox here was built by the railway to control Stoneacre Loop as a passing loop. It is built to a design similar to that used by Saxby and Farmer, and is based on Daisyfield 'box, near Blackburn. The reasons for this covered security (it is switched out for the majority of time, and is visible from the A59) and the ground itself - it is on a bog (hence its alternative name - 'Bogside'!) The result is very pleasing, and contains an L & Y frame, controlling signals of LMS style, with one of LNWR design (although containing no genuine LNWR components!) to match the 'box - the loop starter. Although largely a mechanical signalbox, as there is no mains electricity, the points at the far end of the loop are motorised owing to the distance.

Stoneacre (Bogside) signalbox diagram

Below are some photographs of the operation of Stoneacre 'box.

(c) Pete Walker. Not long after commissioning the 'box, Bob Bonsall is seen opening the box, allowing Cranford to come off the train that was double-headed from Embsay, and return via the loop - which is pulled off in the photo. The staffs have been split to switch the 'box in.
(c) Pete Walker.
(c) David Spark. With the down train in the loop (having already arrived from Bolton Abbey), the signalman (Bob Bonsall) collects the staff for the Embsay-Stoneacre section from the up train.
(c) David Spark.
(c) David Spark. At the same time as collecting the Embsay-Stoneacre staff, Bob passes over the Stoneacre-Bolton Abbey staff, allowing the train to pass into the section. He then sets off back to the box...
(c) David Spark.
(c) David Spark. ...up the stairs and into the box which is finished in BR (NE) colours, giving each box a different time period. Here he will get a release to be able to pull off the down starter, allowing the train to enter the Embsay-Stoneacre section. This is to prevent two trains being on the same part of the line at once.
(c) David Spark.
(c) Bob Bonsall. A general view of the interior of the box, with levers 10 and 11 pulled off. 10 is the point at the East end of the loop (Bolton Abbey end) and 11 is the locking for this point.
(c) Bob Bonsall.
(c) Bob Bonsall. William (trainee in Stoneacre 'box) pulls off the signal allowing the train into the loop, under Bob's strict eye!
(c) Bob Bonsall.
(c) Bob Bonsall. William pulls off the signal allowing a train from Embsay to enter the up (main) road.
(c) Bob Bonsall.

Bolton Abbey ex-Guiseley

(c) Tim Warner. Bolton Abbey signalbox is a Midland Railway 'box, which was recovered from Guiseley station when it became redundant. It is currently fitted out for display, although work is ongoing to commission the signalbox to control movements at Bolton Abbey. This will be done using a Westinghouse elecro-pneumatic system with searchlight signals, air-operated semaphores and air- operated points. This is all to be controlled by a miniature lever frame recovered from Liverpool Street on the underground. Most of the searchlight signals were recovered from Hackney Downs. (c) William Lister. This set-up will be unique in preservation - an example of power signalling using a frame and signalling dating from the dawn of grouping (Big Four), using an electro-pneumatic system.

Below is a selection of photogrpahs of the setup at Bolton Abbey.

(c) Pete Burke. The searchlight signal at the throat of the junction is unusual as it has separate heads for each route (semaphore practice) as opposed to having a route indicator or feather. This controls movements into platform 1 or 2, and will also require some form of subsiduries to signal trains into the Duke's Siding and platform 3.
(c) Pete Burke.
(c) Pete Burke. This searchlight signal is the Down Main starter controlling departures from platform 1 at Bolton Abbey towards Embsay.
(c) Pete Burke.
(c) Pete Burke. Inside the ex-Guiseley signalbox and the leverframe has been assembled in roughly the configuration it will retain for operations, although there may be further changes as the scheme progresses.
(c) Pete Burke.
(c) Pete Burke. A couple of examples of the relays we will be using underneath the box, in location cabinets and inside the signal heads.
(c) Pete Burke.

Bolton Abbey ex-Sleights Sidings East

A very recent arrival at Bolton Abbey has been the Midland Railway signalbox which formerly controlled Sleights Sidings East. Although it has yet to be reassembled, it will eventually be fitted out as Bolton Abbey's original signalbox was, with a mechanical frame and all the instruments, to allow members of the public to experience a signalbox, and have a go!

More detailsa bout this project can be found on the departments website under Signal and Telegraph.


Yorkshire Dales Railway Museum Trust (Holdings) Limited
Registered Charity No. 1116386
Bolton Abbey Station, Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6AF
General Enquiries: 01756 710614 - Talking Timetables & Fax: 01756 795189
enquiries AT embsayboltonabbeyrailway DOT org.uk webmaster AT embsayboltonabbeyrailway DOT org.uk
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