Beechina (1) - SignallingWA

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Beechina (1)

Signal Cabins in WA


WAGR - Eastern Railway (E. R.)

Mileage:  See text below

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No. of Levers ?

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Fate: Unknown

The Beechina story is a classic example of the maxim "geography makes history" for its existence, in its three incarnations, was due to a quirk of topography that the original builders of the Eastern Railway were not able to bypass or overcome with the resources available to them. This quirk was, and is, located east of Chidlow, and consists of the valley of one of the tributaries of Wooroloo Brook into which the surveyed line had to descend before resuming its climb to the top of the grade at the location that was ultimately to become Koojedda.  As the valley could only have been avoided by routing the line many miles to the south of the surveyed route, at a cost well beyond the amount the local legislature was prepared to authorise, the surveyors had no alternative but to place the line though the valley on such a route that minimised the grades as much as the budget allowed.

The route of the Eastern Railway as surveyed and built involved a steep climb from Bellevue
to Chidlow, where the grades eased somewhat. After leaving Chidlow, the line climbed on a shallow grade to the 1050 foot map contour, before descending  over the next  6 and a half miles to Wooroloo some 300 feet  lower. The decent was by no means uniform. Approximately three and a half miles east of Chidlow the line descended a steep bank, with a ruling grade of 1 in 30 and an average grade of 1 in 35 for over a mile. Such a grade might have been tolerable in the 1880s but became unacceptable during the booming years of the Gold Rush. Although most of the traffic passing over the Eastern Railway during the gold rush period was eastbound, there still remained a considerable amount of westbound traffic for which this bank presented a significant impediment to efficient and low cost train working.

As part of the programme of improvements to the Eastern Railway that began with the opening of the Parkerville
deviation in 1896, during 1901 the Railway between Wooroloo and Chidlow.

This required the line to be deviated to a new alignment to ease the grade from a crippling 1 in 30 to a less unpleasant, but still steep, 1 in 45. This realignment consisted of a deviation of the track along a more curved alignment to the west and was to see the opening of the first Beechina. For convenience in this article the expression Beechina shall mean the first Beechina, unless stated otherwise.

It appears that Beechina as originally to have been called Manaring; however, this name was never adopted. The first official reference to Beechina’s existence was is to be found in Weekly Notice No. 52 of 1901 which announced that, with effect 19 December 1901, a Train Electric Staff station at the "43 mile" was to be called Beechina, and that it split the single line Chidlows Well to Wooroloo section, Chidlows Well being the original name for Chidlow.  The notice stated that only ballast trains could use the loop, no doubt severely restricting its usefulness as a potential crossing place.  Following some fiddling with the roads through the location, involving traffic being diverted from one road to the other, Beechina became operational as a crossing place on the 14 th March 1902, the event being reported in Weekly Notice No 13 of 1902. The Weekly Notice entry included advice of the facilities at Beechina, the entry reading as follows:

This Station is provided with up and down roads.

As this station is approached by a falling gradient on both sides engine drivers and guards must have their trains well under control when entering this station.
Runaway catch points exist on the up road a short distance in advance of the Up starting signal. Engine Drivers must not, under any circumstances, set back when any portion of train is on such points, or a derailment will ensure. These points are not connected to the interlocking.
They must not be fouled in the rear of an Up train which is travelling away from the station until the "arrival" signal has been received from Chidlow’s well or intimation received from the signalman that the train has arrived at his home signal.

Engine whistles
Main Line  …………………………………………………………………………………  1 long

Unfortunately, the Progress Plan for Beechina No 1 does not appear to have survived, making it impossible to determine the precise track layout and signalling arrangements at this location. However, a copy of a McKenzie and Holland (the WAGR's Signalling Contractor) signalling Plans and Estimates Book has survived. Its pages were prepared to show the plans of various station layouts and the estimates of costs for alternate interlocking schemes at various WAGR locations. One plan shows Beechina Number 1 (which the plan describes it  as being 43mile 65 chains from  Fremantle) with clearly annotated Up and Down roads and a set of points (unconnected to the interlocking) on the up main leading to what can only be a runaway road. Given the plan closely corresponds with the description in the Weekly Notice; it is probable that the signalling arrangements were as described in the plan.  

The plan shows the cabin was located on the south side of the track. A loop was provided, this being the down road. An 8 lever frame was installed, working Up and Down Home Signals, Up and Down Distant Signals and an Up and a Down Starting Signals. The runaway siding trailed from the Up road via a set of balanced points  a short distance from the eastern loop points,  ensuring that any runaway  wagons running downhill from Chidlow would be deflected  into a dead end and not continue on to Wooroloo. The presence of the catch points effectively meant that bi directional running on the up road was impossible, giving Beechina a feature that it shared with Karrijine.

Apart from this similarity
to separate Up and Down roads suggests that the station layout was similar to Karrijine in that there was no conventional loop; rather, the Down Main and the Up Main ran parallel to each other for several hundred yards, with a set of points at both ends connecting each line to the other. The reference to the runaway points on the Up road corroborates this; such an arrangement preventing the Up road from being used bi-directionally. The lack of bi-directional running through the two roads probably meant that, like Karrijine, only one Starting Signal was placed at each end of Beechina. The fact that there was no Whistle Code for calling to and from a siding indicates that no siding was provided. Given its location on a descending grade it is most likely that Distant and Home Signals were installed.  A cabin of sorts was undoubtedly provided, however, it is now impossible to say whether the interlocking was worked from a Signal Cabin or whether the signals were worked from a ground frame with only the staff instruments under cover. At a relatively unsophisticated location such as Beechina keeping the levers undercover was not essential, for unlike Staff Instruments (that needed constant protection from the elements) levers, Signalmen and Safeworking Porters were considered weatherproof.

Apart from the similarities in layout, Beechina
was to share a number of similarities with Karrijine. Both were located on deviations of the original main line. Both were installed to divide long sections over steeply graded sections of track. Both were to have short lives due to the advent of duplication, and both were to serve as the junctions of double to single line working for the duplication that was to end their existence. Finally, both were to have their name perpetuated after their respective boxes closed, although Beechina’s name was to be used for many years after Karrijine had been forgotten.

A Station Master was appointed to oversee the efficient dispatch of trains through Beechina
, the first such gentleman (a Mr. H. H. Hardy) being posted with effect 19 December 1901. He remained at Beechina until October of the following year when he was replaced by Mr. J. H. Howe, who remained at Beechina until its closure. Mr Howe remained with the WAGR until 1932, spending the bulk of his post Beechina career at Hovea. Both gentlemen were assisted in their duties by Night Officers, a very necessary requirement at what must have been a busy location.

was to have a short life. In 1904 a start was made on duplicating the Eastern Railway eastwards from Lion Mill (later named Mount Helena) and by December 1905 the duplication had reached Beechina. On Sunday the 10th December, the double track to Chidlows was opened. A temporary junction, where the double line became single, was opened the "43 and a half mile" and called, appropriately, the "Beechina Temporary Junction". Whether the junction was located at the half mile peg, or this distance was a rounding to the nearest quarter mile is not readily apparent, making it difficult to determine its location relative to the cabin. Up Home, Distant and Starting signals, along with Down Distant and Home signals were installed. The frame in the cabin clearly was redundant, as the points and signals were worked from a ground frame located on the Up side. However, the cabin was probably retained to protect the staff and block instruments, as it is very difficult to see how the cost of installing a new cabin - or even a hut - to install the instruments could be justified when the junction was only to have few weeks’ life at most. By the time of the temporary junction opening double line block working (almost certainly using Winters two-position Instruments) was in force between Chidlow and Beechina. The relevant Weekly Notice (No 50 of 1905) announced these additions and advised train crews that as Beechina was approached on a falling grade from the Down direction trains should only be accepted on "section clear but junction or station blocked" working, a  feature of double line block working only. Electric staff working was retained on the section to Wooroloo, with double line block working (probably using Winters instruments) applying to Chidlow on the new lines.

A careful reading of the relevant Weekly Notice raises the intriguing possibility that there were in fact two cabins at Beechina
, the 1901 cabin and one at the site of the temporary junction, some distance from Beechina. Unfortunately, as the surviving records do not enable one to pin down the exact location of the cabin that was opened in 1901 (the reference to the box being at the "43 mile" unfortunately being too imprecise to locate it with any degree of confidence) it not possible to state whether the temporary junction at the 43 and a half peg was in fact the eastern points of Beechina loop. A perusal of the first detailed map of the area known to the author (on the Imperial General Staffs 1943 'inch to the mile series', map sheet for Mundaring,) which shows the 1901 deviation, does not settle the question. It reveals that there were two locations, at the 43 mile and the 43 and a half mile, where the track was straight and level enough to install a loop.

However, the fact that the Weekly Notice specifically referred to a ‘temporary Junction’ at the 43 and a half mile
suggests that this junction was not part of the 1901 box's interlocking. Had the junction been placed at the east end of the 1901 boxes interlocking it is difficult to see why the WAGR would have gone to the trouble of identifying the location as a temporary junction, and announcing that the signals were now operated from a  ground frame. Presumably, the junction arrangements could have been incorporated into the interlocking without the need to identify from where the interlocking was operated; a simple description of the new signal arrangements would have sufficed. Similarly, Beechina was a well-known location and specifying the mileage of the junction points would have been unnecessary had the junction been within Beechina station limits. If the junction was in fact not part of the 1901 box’s interlocking then one can be fairly certain that there were two boxes at Beechina, as a box to keep the Safeworking instruments was essential, and it would have had to have been located as close to the junction as feasible to minimise delays particularly when handling the Train Staff.  In the authors opinion the possibility that there was a temporary box installed at Beechina after the 1901 box cannot be dismissed out of hand. If so, then given that the duplication opened on the 20 th December 1905 this would render this box (if it existed) as possibly the shortest lived one in WAGR history.

Duplication of the line from Beechina
to Wooroloo was completed in mid-December 1905, with the official opening occurring on the 20 th December 1905. The signals and points were withdrawn from use and removed.  Beechina continued to be used as a stopping place for the next few weeks; however, by mid-January 1906 this practice was discontinued and Beechina was expunged from the WAGR s operations. However, as is related in the page dealing with the second Beechina the second decade of the 20 th century was to see the locality reopened as a safe-working location, which, like its predecessor was to be eliminated by the WAGRs efforts to overcome the operational difficulties imposed by the geography that determined this locality’s history.

Information researched and interpreted by Justin Smith of the Signalling Interest Group of W. A.

Any additional information on this signal cabin would be most welcome - please use the e-mail form provided on this page.

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BEECHINA (1) Employees

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