The mid 1890s were a tumultuous period for the WAGR. The 1890s Gold Rush had resulted in a staggering increase in rail traffic, straining the system and particularly the Eastern Railway between Midland and Spencers Brook, to near breaking point. Under a scheme instigated by the great engineer C Y O’ Connor, the Eastern Railway was virtually rebuilt, involving substantial regrading, the laying of heavier rail, and installing strategically located crossing loops to increase the line's capacity. One of the crossing loops installed as a part of this process was located at the 47 mile peg (as measured from Perth) , near the top of the climbs from both Perth and Spencers Brook. This crossing loop was initially named Mount Baker, but was soon renamed Baker’s Hill.
The loop at Baker’s Hill was opened on the 18 th June 1897. It divided the existing section Werribee to Clackline into two new sections of roughly equal length. The loop was located approximately one and a half miles east of the highest point on the line, the location that was to later become Koojedda, and was approached by a rising grade virtually all the way from Clackline, some four and a half miles to the East. No doubt, having a loop at this location was appreciated by both the WAGR traffic staff, who were pleased with the increase in line capacity it created, and loco crews, who must have welcomed having a new stop where the crew could stop to raise steam or, if necessary, divide their load with less disruption to traffic than would have occurred previously.
Initially, this crossing loop appears to have been almost devoid of any concessions to Safeworking - or, it seems the working of trains safely - however this was soon remedied and October 1897 when point indicators were installed, followed by the opening of an interlocked signal cabin on the 2 November 1897.
Fixed signals were provided; although how many is not apparent as to date the author has been unable to locate any diagrams of the pre 1907 signalling arrangements. By the time of its opening Mount Baker had been renamed Baker’s Hill, this change occurring in August 1897 to avoid the possibility of confusion with the Mount Barker, a town on the recently acquired Great Southern Railway. Pages 152 and 153 of "The Plan and Estimate Book" dated the 20/6/1898 shows Baker's Hll a plan of the station with several more signals, although the drawing (see above) does not show the location of the Signal Cabin. The entire signalling scheme was estimated at the time to be worth £67.0.0 - one wonders if it could be done so cheaply now?
Initially, Bakers Hill worked with Werribee to the West.
Page 60 of the 1901 Appendix to the Working Time Table states that the Electric Staff sections were:
After 1902 Baker's Hill worked with Karrijine to the West.
Duplication of the Eastern railway began in the early years of the twentieth Century and by early 1907 had reached Karrijine. In preparation for the duplication east of Karrijine, Baker’s Hill underwent a radical change.
Weekly Notice 17 of 1907 announced that an island platform was provided, the old signal cabin was removed and a new signal cabin was built on the platform. New Up and Down Starting Signals and Up and Down Home Signals were provided (the Down Home signal being located on the Up side of the line, presumably for sighting purposes) with the old Distant Signals remaining in-situ.
Weekly Notice 38 of 1907 carried the following announcement:
Karrijine to Clackline Duplication.
On Thursday, 19th September, 1907, after arrival of No. 21 at Clackline the existing single line working between Karrijine and Clackline will cease, and double line will be brought into use as soon as necessary alterations are made at Karrijine, Baker’s Hill, and Clackline, which will be about 5 p.m.
The signal-box at Karrijine will be cut out and "Not in Use" boards fixed on signal-arms. Points leading from Up road to ballast pit will be spiked over.
Lines of way and signal arrangements at Baker’s Hill and Up end of Clackline will be re-arranged to suit double line, in accordance with diagrams; copies of same will be supplied to depôt stations concerned.
The sections will be Wooroloo - Baker’s Hill, Baker’s Hill - Clackline, and the traffic will be worked under the Absolute Block system; Winter’s Block instruments being used.
Speed not to exceed 18 miles per hour between Clackline and Baker’s Hill on Up road, and between Karrijine and Baker’s Hill on Down road, until further notice.
C. T. M., 17970/07.
When the duplication between Karrijine and Clackline was opened. Absolute Block working using Winters instruments was introduced on both the Up and Down lines. This form of Safeworking was to remain in force until 1924, when permissive block working from Wooroloo to Baker’s Hill was introduced.
Following the opening of the duplicated line from Karrijine and the closure (or more correctly, the closures) of that box it worked with Wundowie when it was open, and Wooroloo when it was not. After 1926, it worked with Koojedda. To the east Baker’s Hill only ever worked with Clackline. A signalled siding on the up line between Bakers Hill and Clackline was in use around 1909 although there is no evidence to suggest that it was ever used as a block post.
Baker’s Hill was closed as a crossing loop but remained open as an attended station, servicing the small local community and acting as a block post.
The signalling arrangements at Baker’s Hill were that befitting a block post equipped with a siding. Up and Down Distant, Home and Starter Signals were provided, together with an Advanced Up Starting Signal. A loop siding graced the Up (left hand as looking towards Fremantle) side. This siding was accessed from both mains, a crossover at the eastern end of the station allowing Down trains to shunt the siding. This facility was no doubt of considerable assistance to the prompt clearing of 'divided loads'. That is, if the crew of a locomotive found itself unable to haul the train over a steep grade they could 'divide' the train by leaving a sufficiently secured (braked) portion of it on the main line then take the front part of the train forward and to another siding and detach it, then return for the portion left behind.
As reversing was not an option between Spencer’s Brook and Bellevue, a locomotive unable to haul its train had to detach its loading at location such as Baker’s Hill and return for the balance. A considerable amount of time could be wasted if the locomotive had to return “wrong line” i.e. against the normal direction of travel, to retrieve the balance of its load. Up trains dividing their load at Baker’s Hill could stow the load in the siding and, as the siding was capable of being accessed from both mains, the locomotive could return via the down main to retrieve it without blocking following up trains.
Although reduced to the status of a block post, its strategic location as the closest station to then highest point of the line meant that Baker’s Hill was an important part of the process of moving traffic efficiently between Spencers Brook and Midland. In 1911, as a consequence of the reduction in normal hours for station masters, an Assistant Station Master was appointed. He most likely performed the safe working tasks during the period the Station Master would otherwise have been in attendance, as it is highly unlikely that a small station the size of Baker’s Hill would have generated sufficient traffic to justify manning it for more than a few hours a day. Some idea of the importance of Baker’s Hill can be gleaned from fact that the 1927 Working Timetable records its opening times as between midnight and 10pm Mondays to Saturdays.
Baker’s Hill was not immune to the effects of the drastic decline in traffic caused by the Great Depression. Weekly notice no 50 of 1931 (week ending 18 December 1931) announced that the Station Master and the Assistant Station Master were to be withdrawn, although "the positions would be filled on a seasonal basis". The plan to withdraw the Station Master was never followed through, although the Assistant Station Master was withdrawn, this occurring in June 1932. The withdrawal of the Assistant Station Master apparently caused some problems, for the Weekly Notice announcing the withdrawal of the ASM role announced that on Tuesday nights a Safeworking porter was to travel to Baker’s Hill on train No 81 and open the box to allow for the movement of stock trains. A permanent Assistant Station Master never seems to have been re-appointed to Baker’s Hill. Part of this reason may have been due to the rise in importance of Koojedda. Koojedda was both located barely one and a half miles from Bakers Hill, and was at the very top of the grades from both Bellevue and Spencers Brook, supplanting Baker’s Hill title as the station closest to highest point on the line. After the mid-1930s it rapidly grew to become the most important Safeworking station between Spencers brook and Chidlows, being equipped with a large cabin, a turntable and several storage roads, dwarfing Baker’s Hills facilities and rendering it redundant as a location to divide loads except in the most pressing of circumstances.
Like most stations on the Eastern Railway, Baker’s Hill was worked to its capacity during much of World War Two. Following the end of hostilities it returned to its pre-war normality, the only change of note occurring in 1947 when its name was changed to Bakers Hill. A number of other stations lost their genitive construction at the same time, although it is not clear whether this was due to a post war shortage of good grammar or apostrophes. By this stage, the proverbial writing was well and truly on the wall as far as Bakers Hill’s future was concerned. The 1922 Royal Commission (see Geraldton’s entry) had recommended the introduction of automatic signalling between Bellevue and Spencers Brook, but due to the onset of the Depression it had only reached Koojedda by the time that the onset of World War Two postponed any further extension. Following the end of the War the plans were revived, and the decision was made to proceed with the installation of automatic signalling through to Spencers Brook, although funding priorities were such that the project was not to be completed until 1959.
On the 29th October 1959 the section Koojedda to Clackline was converted to automatic signalling. Bakers Hill’s signal box was closed and the two position semaphores replaced with three aspect colour light signals. The crossover and the siding were retained, worked from a small ground frame at the east end and a point lever at the west, both controlled by switchlocks. By this stage the siding was probably used only to store the occasional defective wagon, as local traffic on the eastern railway between Spencers Brook and Bellevue had all but disappeared. The following May, Baker Hill’s Station Master was withdrawn, reducing Bakers Hill to the status of an unattended siding. In December 1965 the crossover and the points at the east end of the siding were removed, probably to enable recovery of the redundant points and switchlocks.
Bakers Hill was closed on the 13th February 1966, being made redundant by the new dual guage line through the Avon Valley. The track through Bakers Hill remained in use for the next 15 years to enable ore trains to service the pig iron plant at Wundowie, however, Bakers Hill was to play no role in moving this traffic. Today there is little to indicate that a signal box ever existed at Bakers Hill. At the time of writing the rapidly deteriorating platform remains, where a sharp eye can pick the location of the rodding tunnel and the trackbed of the sidings. In a few years even these traces will have disappeared leaving the nearby concrete signal post bases the last obvious remnants of this once important Safeworking location.
Information researched and interpreted by Justin Smith of the Signalling Interest Group of W. A. with additional information provided by Chris. J. E. French of SignallingWA
Photographs © by David Beazley and W.A.G.R. - Diagram of Signalling from the "Plan and Estimates Book" courtesy of Rail Heritage WA Archives
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BAKERS HILL Employees
|This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed|
|Asmutaitis, Herbertas||26/02/1958||Safe Working Porter|