One of the features that made the S&D so distinctive was the mixture of signalling that survived right to end as a backdrop to Ivo Peter’s lovely photography. Many of the Stevens/L&SWR lower quadrant products from the 1892 doubling of the line survived, along with quirky home –grown variants, SR upper quadrant types and even a few BR(WR) signals, all combining to give the railway a unique flavour. To rebuild a section of the S&D without the signalling would be to create nothing more than a glorified siding and it has been long felt by the S&DRHT that the signalling project elevates the rebuilding as a whole to the level of a ‘real ‘railway.
The project to signal with prototypical S&DJR/L&SWR/SR equipment started at the former Midsomer Norton South station in 2009. Directed by professional signal technician John Rideout and assisted by engineer Graeme Mayes the project began with the rebuilding of the signal box on its original site and this was completed in 2012 to such a high standard that it is impossible to tell that it is not the original. Encouraged by this and with the assistance now of a small band of signalling ‘devotees’ a plan evolved to signal the entire heritage railway operation that was being envisaged. A lever frame of the same type as the original was obtained from Branksome and provides 26 levers - unlike the original 16 lever frame, more than adequate for its new role as a terminus. Unfortunately the founding fathers of the project left us in 2013 and since then the project has continued under the direction of Alan Price.
A large amount of SR signalling equipment was obtained from Paddock Wood and Faversham which has proved sufficient for much of the mechanical side. To remain prototypical, two new lattice signals were constructed on site. We have also been fortunate in obtaining additional equipment from friends on the DFR, Swanage Railway and Network Rail. A flap signal, lattice doll and signal motor have been bought from the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway in Scotland and transported back to Somerset in the back of an estate car though not at the same time. Like all railway projects the signalling design and equipment has to be subjected to rigorous testing at every stage. This was provided by a team of professional S&T Engineers led by David Collins without whose assistance, patience and encouragement the project would have failed long ago. The first phase became fully operational in 2016 when thanks to the good offices of Ian Harman and Mott Macdonald we were granted our SSSV Certificate. Simultaneously the S&D Company approved a training regime which has given us four fully trained signallers to operate it.
The single line is worked by a tablet variation of ‘no signalman token’, entry and exit being controlled by 3 running signals. Westinghouse/SR/BR(SR) disc signals control the sidings and crossover while one flap signal, of CR origin, graces the end of the up platform. An in- section ground frame hut modelled on Downside Sidings, has been constructed and furnished with a 4 lever Stevens knee frame. This is unlocked by Annett’s Key released from the signal box- possibly now a unique arrangement on a heritage railway . This section of the line has a 1:53 gradient so protection against runaways is provided by a motor worked safety point leading to a short sand drag.
In preparation for the next stage an illuminated diagram has recently been supplied to the signal box and work is underway to signal some 500m.of double track both of which will have a bi-directional shunting capability. In connection with this, a replica of the famous Evercreech North Junction No.21 ‘bow-tie’ backing signal has been constructed and should be operational soon. A motor point is to be provided where the two running lines converge and the up outer home signal will be worked by the Larbert Junc.No.17 signal motor. An SR upper quadrant calling- on arm (based on one at Worthing) will allow cautionary access to the up platform when it is occupied. A new up fixed distant has been built and will be located where the original up distant was located some 1000m.from the box. The design is based on the Evercreech North Junction up branch fixed distant which was a L&SWR lower design and utilises parts from the original Moorewood Sidings up distant.
Work is presently underway to kit-out four location cabinets and energise the signalling, track circuitry and point at a distance of over 500m from the signal box.