Along the line, there were many level crossings on the Eastern Railway, and these crossings were protected by nothing more than glorified farm gates which were to be opened and closed by those using them. An item on Page 3 of the Daily News of Thursday 6th of March 1884, highlighted the danger: "Persons having occasion to use them should be particularly careful to leave the gates at the level-crossings on the railway closed and properly fastened. At this season of the year, when cattle are very liable to stray at night - when, of course, - the danger of obstruction on the line is greatest— even extra precaution in properly securing these gates should be taken. It was noticed by a passenger by the last up-train last night that the second or third gate on the Perth side of Claremont was not closed."
Further news items in May of 1884 report that in regard to the Level Crossings that were provided with official Gate Keepers, that their 'allowance' for performing such a responsible duty was a mere 10 shillings per day, with three shillings deducted for lighting, and their hours of attendance at the crossings being from 7.30 a.m. to 11p.m. The same newspaper column also announced the proposal to erect a factory and appliances to manufacture soap on a large scale. This was hoped to not become another 'bauble', but this did indeed prove the case.
The press carried several items of interest in the first few months of 1886 about the impending contruction of a new railway station at Claremont. One of these, published in The Herald of Saturday 6th March 1886 was a quip about the two 'stations' in the area: "They are going to have a station at Claremont, not a police station, but a railway station, perhaps the first would do the best business." Later that month, the West Australian printed an article that showed how envious other municipalities were of the new station, by the fact that the Fremantle Municipal Council was calling for the Commissioner of Railways to improve the station building at North Fremantle. On the 11th of March 1886, a longer article appeared in the Daily News which described the station building and strove to promote the area as "Who would not wish to live in Claremont?" Mr. Philip Reilly's quote to erect the station building for £1,669 13s 8d was accepted. Notification of this brought criticism in some quarters with North Fremantle again being cited as a more worthy recipient of better facilities as that town already had several hundred inhabitants, whereas "there were not a half-dozen houses within a mile of Claremont station", this being carried on Page 2 of the 'Inquirer and Commercial News' of Wednesday 4th August 1886.
The next major advancement in railway safety was announced in The Western Australian of the 9th September 1886 when the Staff and Ticket system of working had been brought into operation between Fremantle and Perth. This was to ensure that two trains could not be within a section of single line between two adjacent Staff Sections at the same time. It was the same type of working adopted by many other railways at the time and did go a long way towards stopping collisions of trains on the single line of rails between stations. Unfortunately, such safety measures could not prevent collisions within a station, and the details of just such a head-on collision at Claremont station were published in an article read on Wednesday 11th April 1888 which is too long to publish here, and generated many follow-up articles and letters and ultimately led to the dismissal of the Claremont Station Master.
In trying to mitigate future problems such as the above collision, signals had been provided within the next two years, but even these were not without controversy. On the 15th April 1890, Claremont Station-master Mr. E. Massey reported to Mr. Geo. Roberts, who held the dual position of "Traffic Manager of the Eastern Railway and Station-master Perth," that the 'Up' Points indicator had been turned around by Ganger O'Byrne, so that it showed a Green light for the Main Line and a White light when the points were set to the loop. [Editor's Note: the 'Up' and 'Down' directions were opposite to the current definitions, therefore the 'up' points being referred to here were the points at the Fremantle end of the station, the very site of the collision two years earlier, hence the Station-master's worry about confusing aspects]. The Traffic Manager was aware of the Rule governing such signals, and quoted same in a memo to the Commissioner of Railways on the 16th April 1890: "Rule 58 is as follows :- Fixed Shunting Signals, consist of point indicators to control shunting operations. Point indicators are fixed at the entrance to Station yards and shew a green cross by day when opened for the siding and a green light at night. If open for the main line they shew white light at night and a white disc by day."
Mr. Roberts also requested that the Ganger rectify the signal as soon as possible. In points two, three and four of his report, Mr Roberts included the following concerns and observations:
"2. I respectfully draw your attention to the fact that on this particular day we conveyed more passengers and ran more trains than has ever been done on the Eastern Railway before, and I submit that to make any alterations in signals at any station much more at an important crossing station like Claremont, without everybody concerned being fully notified of such alteration, is endangering the lives of the travelling public as well as our own servants.
3. I would further point out that this was done without reference to me or any notification being received from you or the Inspector of Permanent Way. The result to say the least of it caused great confusion at Claremont Station. I spoke to the Inspector of Permanent Way the same morning on the platform and he informed me that he had written to you with reference to the matter.
4. 1 would quote for your information Rule 108, page 93, book regulations Victoria Railways which I respectfully submit, is applicable to the case in question. "No new signal must be brought into use, nor any alterations made in the position or use of any existing signal without the authority of the Traffic Manager, and instructions for working all new signals must be issued by the Traffic branch." Mr. Geo. Roberts' concerns do indeed sound justifiable and were backed by the rules.
In a letter to the Traffic Manager dated 21 April, 1890, Claremont Station-master E. Massey clarified the signalling layout in use at Claremont: "Sir, — I most respectfully wish to call your attention to the Semaphores recently erected at this station, before coming into force. There are three Semaphores, one distant signal approaching from Fremantle which shows the arm on the left hand side of the post, and one semaphore approaching from Perth, which shows the arm on the right hand side of the post, which is contrary to Rule 55.
There is one "home" semaphore with two arms, one on the left hand side, approaching from Fremantle which is the "home" signal for up-trains, and one on the left hand side, approaching from Perth which is the "home" signal for down-trains ; the arm of the distant semaphore approaching from Perth, being on the right hand side, will cause the drivers to take one signal on the right hand, and one on the left. I also wish to call your attention to the position in which the throw-over gear is fixed. it is about 50 yards apart. I would like some one to come and inspect them before they come into force."
The Commissioner of Railways, Mr. C. T. Mason replied to the Traffic Manager and requested that they meet at Claremont on the 21st April. The meeting did eventuate and included a Mr. Hayden the Inspector of Permanent Way. An inspection of the various concerns were discussed, during which some animated antics which included the raising of a walking stick to Mr. Roberts and abusive language was uttered by the Inspector. Mr. Roberts, upon requesting an apology of the former was chastised by the Commissioner. Mr. Roberts, did however make several recommendations for improvements to the signalling at Claremont. The problems at Claremont were brought to public notice in an article by Jas. W. Wright on page 2, of the Inquirer and Commercial News of Wednesday, 4th June 1890. The piece described the signals in use at Claremont at the time, and how they were not sited 'correctly'. Ultimately, the Traffic Manager Mr. George Roberts, was charged with insubordination and demoted in rank, being appointed to the lesser role as Station Master, Fremantle - a post he refused to take up, and he was dismissed on 27th May of the same year. Whether Mr. Roberts' suggested improvements were carried out immediately has yet to be discerned, but only a year later the signalling at Claremont was about to change.
A 'Proposed' Signalling plan submitted on 15th July 1891 by railway signalling contractors McKenzie and Holland can be seen in the slide show at the top of this page. The track layout of Claremont station in those times was very plain indeed. This was due to the sections Fremantle to Claremont and Claremont to Perth being worked under the rules for single line working, as being the mid-way point between the Port and the City, the crossing of trains here was an absolute necessity.
As one can see in the images, the two platforms were identified by arrows to show the directions of train movements. Trains to Fremantle used the platform with the main Station building (the bottom track on the drawings), whilst the trains to Perth used the second platform. You will note that I purposely did not use the word 'island' when describing this platform, for whilst it may have been built in such a way, the drawing does not depict the line close enough to the platform edge to serve as a passenger platform. Indeed, the 'Description of the Levers' on this drawing state that it is indeed a 'Siding'.
In lieu of definite evidence to the contrary, it would seem that this proposal was adopted, probably to rid the station of the stigma of the preceding signals and the scandal associated with same. Also, the previous recommendations that the operating levers for the signals to be 'brought together' did find favour in the proposal. A list of the levers is as follows:
- Up Distant Signal (Existing)
- Up Home, new Iron Signal
- Up Starting, new Iron Signal
- Facing point Safety Lock Bar
- Facing points
- Spare Lever
- Siding points and safety catch
- Facing points
- Facing points Safety Lock Bar
- Down Starting, new Iron Signal
- Down Home, new Iron Signal
- Down Distant - present signal taken 60 yds further out.
- In the images, Fremantle is on the left and Perth is on the Right; The terms 'Up' and 'Down' in use at the time are opposite to those in contemporary use, as the directions were switched in 1899.
- Notes on the plan stated that the 'Locking apparatus' (the lever frame) was to be provided with a shelter, but this does not show on the photo of the lever frame and station after completion.
- "No 7 Points and Safety Catch" were worked in 'correspondence', i.e. they worked as a pair when the No. 7 lever was pulled. This was to provide what is termed 'flank protection' - meaning that any wagon rolling out of the siding would be de-railed before it could collide with a train on the line to platform 2.
- The 'new Iron Signal' type referred to and worked by Levers 2, 3, 10 and 11 were most likely of the type shown in illustrations in the McKenzie and Holland signal contractors catalogue. These signals were of wrought iron, and resemble the Saxby and Farmer type, and had a spectacle plate bolted to and worked with the signal arm as a single unit, but was weighted to return the arm to danger should the 'down-rod' or control wire break.
On 1st of September, 1892, Page 10, of the Appendix to Working Time Book No. 1: "The undermentioned fixed Signals are to be observed:- Claremont. - Approaching Claremont from either Perth and Fremantle a single-arm Semaphore is fixed and used as a “Home Signal.”
Also included in the same document, The Staff and Ticket system was changed due to the opening of North Fremantle as a Staff and Ticket Station. The North Fremantle to Claremont section colour now being CERISE; the Claremont to Perth Section remained BLUE. In both cases, the form of the Staff was 'Round' (this had to be officially stated as there was a plan to develop a variety of different staff head shapes). Additional to this, on the same day, the Railway Telephone was provided at Claremont with the ring of 'B' (one long and three short) rings.
Claremont was also seen as a convenient place to which new locomotives which had been assembled at the Locomotive Works there could be trialled. Such was the case on 18th of October 1893 when the first of the 8 new 'K' Class Tank Locomotives arrived as a 'test run'. Reported in: The Western Mail 28/10/1893
In yet another possibility, this time reported in the West Australian of 18/03/1895 - Claremont was mentioned as a possible site for the re-location of the Railway Workshops - eventually the Midland Site was chosen, but this did not meet with universal approval amongst many employees or Fremantle business owners who could see the loss of trade would affect them badly.
In a letter dated the 2nd June 1895, the General Traffic Manager Mr. J. Davies, wrote to the Minister The Hon. Mr. Venn:The body of the letter is as follows:
"The Hon. Mr. Venn, - Some time ago I asked that certain stations on the Eastern Railway should be fitted with signals, interlocked with switches, etc. Nothing, however, has been done in this direction, except at Claremont, and some of the stations are very much in need of signal protection. May I ask you again to give this matter your consideration? Northam, Spencer’s Brook, Clackline, Chidlow’s Well, Midland Junction, Fremantle, Perth
And Smith’s Mill, especially, should be protected. If Smith’s Mill had been protected with signals and safety sidings, interlocked one with the other, I do not believe the accident reported to you in my memo, of 13th April would have occurred.
There can be no doubt that our signalling is most loose and inadequate.
To spend money in signals, interlocking gear, etc., is far more advantageous to the Department than to pay heavy claims on account of accidents which may occur for the want of proper signalling.
The above letter shows the high regard the interlocking of the Claremont station had on the safety of trains, but also addressing the financial impacts of possible future claims against the Railways - a forerunner of things to come.
On the 15th of April 1896 Claremont appeared on the 'List of Signals at Stations' advised that the 'Up' and 'Down' Distant, Home and Starting and the Siding Signals were all interlocked.
Also, in regard to the Staff and Ticket system on the same day, it was announced that with the opening of Cottesloe as a Staff and Ticket Station. The Cottesloe to Claremont section colour remaned CERISE - form of Staff: however changed from Round to 'Oblong'; the Claremont to Subiaco Section remained Dark BLUE - form of Staff: Round.
1897 witnessed significant changes at the Claremont Station, and perhaps not surprising, the signalling at the station changed as well, although not without further controversy, as will be seen.
The first change applied, in January, was a small one perhaps, but it brought the previously ridiculed signals at Claremont, North Fremantle and Lion Mill into line with all the other signals on the rest of the line. This change was to the 'Back Lights' of signals, meaning the light which emits from the back of the signal lamp. This of course is the same light (oil lamp flame) that would show the forward indication to the Driver of a train approaching said signal, and which colour altered due to the 'Spectacle Plate' moving the Red or Green glass in front of the lamp. The 'Green' glass was actually a blue colour, which, when the oil lamp light glowed its yellow-tinged light through the blue glass turned the light emitted to green). The Back Light then, was changed to show a 'white light' (un-coloured) to the Signalman when the signal was in the "On" position - which meant "Danger". This enabled the signalman to, 'at a glance' know if the signal lamp was still burning, and also to ascertain that the signal was indeed displaying the "Red" - Stop aspect (in the case of Home or Starting Signals) and of course is what is now known as the 'Fail Safe' indication of a signal. The obscuring of the 'back light' was achieved using what was called a 'Back Light Blinder' which was a curved metal fitting attached to and worked at the same time as, the pivot which actuates the signal. So, if the Back Light went 'out' when the Signalman pulled the lever for that signal, it was a fair indication that the signal was therefore showing the 'proceed' indication to the Driver of a train.
Also in January, a directive was issued to ensure that at stations where two platforms were provided, that trains must always be worked onto the respective 'Up' and 'Down' platforms.
The Eastern Railway was rapidly reaching the limit of the traffic that it could handle as a single line system, and the long proposed duplication of the line was to be opened in 1897. With the expected increase in frequency of trains brought about by the lifting of single line working requirements, the job of working the interlocking and Absolute Block Working apparatus was identified as a future seperate role from the Station Master, and on the 2nd of February 1897 the first Signalman was appointed to Claremont. On the day of the opening of the Duplicate line, which introduced double-line working, using Winter's two-poisiton Absolute Block instruments, a second Signalman was appointed.
The first Signal Cabin installation at Claremont was made redundant on the 7th April, 1897 when the interlocking was connected to the New Signal Box. See Claremont (2)...
NOTE: This page is under development - please check back later, however, if you have any additional information on this signal cabin, it would be most welcome - please use the e-mail form provided.
Any additional information on this signal cabin would be most welcome - please use the e-mail form provided on this page.
Information researched and interpreted by Chris. J. E. French of SignallingWA
Sincere thanks also to Mr. Kim Roberts, a descendant of Mr. Geo. Roberts for supplying information of the incident in the 1890's
Additional reference: "Station Masters of WA" by J. Austin 2011
Photographs courtesy of RHWA Archives and are credited beneath each image.
This page is copyright, and permission must be sought from SignallingWA before this page is used for any purpose other than personal education.