Mechanical signal boxes and semaphore signals are the last vestige of Victorian technology still to be found on Britain's railways. Still surviving against all the odds in a digital era, only a few hundred `boxes' remain in use out of the 10,000 originally built to control train movements across every inch of the network. Sadly, almost all of them are to be abolished within the next decade and replaced by twelve computerised Regional Operating Centres.
The old system is still alive and well throughout a number of locations seemingly lost in time, from the remote Scottish Highlands to the busy Great Western main line. The world's largest `box' at Shrewsbury - containing 180 levers - contrasts with many tiny level crossing cabins in Yorkshire, while single-track electric token systems have also remarkably stood the test of time on some secondary routes.
In this book, Gordon D. Webster looks at the last signal boxes and semaphores with a vast selection of photographs, showing the various trains that pass in an intriguing blend of old and new. Interior views are included, showing the traditional working environment of the signalman which will also soon be lost forever.
Gordon Webster is a journalism graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and author of several books. He is the webmaster and a committee member of the Friends of the West Highland Lines and lives near Glasgow.