Claisebrook (formerly known as East Perth) signal cabin, along with most Westrail suburban signal cabins, was de-commissioned and demolished as a result of the electrification of the Perth suburban rail system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For many decades prior to this, it formed an imposing structure at the east end of the island platform at Claisebrook station.
The Signalman here controlled the junction on the Eastern Railway, from which the South Western Railway curved away and ventured across the long, timber, "Bunbury Bridge" over the Swan River on it's way to the terminus at Bunbury in the state's lush South West - dairy farming country.
Apart from controlling this important junction, the Signalman also regulated the passage of locomotives and shunted service trains into and out of the western end of the East Perth Locomotive Depot, and the East Perth Power House.
Several other sidings were also serviced over the years, including the Perth Electric Tramway Siding, but the Signalman was generally kept very busy with the suburban train working, and with locomotive movements between East Perth Loco and Perth (also known as City) Box 'C'.
Most of these movements were carried out along what was originally called the "Engine Road", but which later became known as the "Independent Main Line".
On the 11th of December 1955, the 'Independent main' was converted to Automatic Colour-light signalling. This line ran parallel to the 'Up' Eastern Main Line, and today forms the 'Up' Armadale suburban between Claisebrook and Perth.
The opening date of the East Perth signal cabin is thought to be 1896 as the overall design does match other cabins built around that time. This however, is yet to be determined by SignallingWA due to the fact that the official W.A.G.R. record card for this cabin could not be found when these cards were copied. As with Claremont Cabin, access to the cabin was gained via an additional set of steps from the passenger's footbridge. The footbridge in this case, spanned not only the station platforms and main lines, but in later years, the entire diesel railcar depot. This facility later became the depot for the new Electrical Multiple Unit railcars (EMUs). The relay room for the East Perth signal cabin (by then known as Claisebrook) was fitted up under the Interlocking room, and could be accessed via a set of narrow steps leading down from the footbridge to the platform below.
East Perth (later Claisebrook) worked on the western side (Up side) with Lord Street; Moore Street and Pier Street (formerly known as Mackie Street), which were all level crossing 'gate boxes'; and Perth (also known as City) Box 'C'. As it was a junction, it also worked with Summers Street; Mount Lawley or Maylands on the Eastern Railway, and Goodwood or Rivervale across the Swan River on the South Western Railway.
The East Perth (Claisebrook) signal cabin housed an 83 lever McKenzie & Holland No. 9 pattern frame, and for many years the Signalman had to operate a gate wheel to work a set of level crossing gates just below the cabin on the eastern side. In addition to the gate wheel itself, levers No.80 (Wicket Gates); No.81 (Wicket Gates); No.82 (Stops) and No.83 (Gates) controlled the protection of this road crossing.
Editor's request for information: Can anyone advise what colours were applied to the aforementioned levers? A variety of safeworking systems had been used in East Perth / Claisebrook over the years, including Electric Staff (large and miniature), Sykes Lock and Block and Three-Position Block instruments of the unique Western Australian design developed by Signal Engineers Harold Dowson.
The later pictures show the cabin very much in colour light signalling days, with large numbers of Union Switch & Signal Company 'approach lock time releases' and Siemens General Electric indicator lights being evident.
During the years of Electric Staff working between East Perth, Goodwood and Rivervale these sections were subject to some interesting experiments. It is reported, though yet to be confirmed from official records by S. I. G. W. A., that a system of Automatic Staff Exchanging was trialled at these stations. This required special trackside and locomotive-mounted equipment and it is believed to have been quickly discontinued. Former Rivervale and East Perth / Claisebrook Signalman Ron Coleman recalls: "The Staff Exchanger was to save the Block Boy from having to leave his duties in the cabin to give or receive the Staff, and was in use until C.T.C. was introduced between the cabins."
The policy of 'cutting down' the lever handles was begun at East Perth (Claisebrook) when the remote control of signalling was introduced between East Perth and the then (1955) new Rivervale box. The Signals and Telecommunications Engineer of the day was Donald Charles Curtis who came to the W.A.G.R. from New Zealand. The idea that the levers should be cut down came about because the Signalmen at East Perth were used to pulling heavy point or signal levers. Because some of the levers now worked points or signals electrically and only had electric lever locks attached under the frame - and therefore no weight, the Signalmen could very easily damage the electrical equipment attached to the levers if the same force was applied to them as a mechanical signal or points required. Such was the thinking of the day, however, if this was destined to become a standard feature of boxes then it was not applied throughout the system - as can be seen by viewing other pages on this site.
As one might expect, the complexity of the work at East Perth / Claisebrook required the experience and ability of Special Class Signalmen, and the cabin was also provided with Block Boys to aid the Signalman in the performance of his duties. The cabin was attended 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Even after the level crossing was closed, the Signalman had no respite. In 1955, the Goodwood Signal Cabin was demolished due to colour-light signalling system being installed across the Bunbury Bridge, and a small panel was provided for the Signalman to work the various points and signals at Goodwood for the Belmont Park racecourse and entry to the Swan Portland Cement works sidings at Rivervale. This was a logical development, and it gave the Claisebrook Signalman the ability to co-ordinate the flow of traffic across the single track timber bridge with the other traffic passing through his local area of control. This single line working lasted until well after electrification. Eventually, a new double track concrete structure called the 'Goongoonup bridge' was constructed to replace its aging predecessor, ending the days of 'crossing delays' forever.
In addition to the Goodwood panel, the Signalman in later years, was also required to operate the Perth Terminal panel. Perth Terminal, is the terminus for standard gauge passenger services in Perth, and is built roughly on top of the original Eastern Railway main lines and the site of he East Perth locomotive depot. It is visible from the footbridge at present day Claisebrook. Above the platform and station facilities at Perth Terminal rises the modern, multi-story edifice known (when built) as the Westrail Centre, the current home for Train Control. Train Controllers, now housed in a single room air-conditioned office environment, using multi-million dollar computerised equipment, operate the entire suburban network and all of the lines previously operated by the large panels situated in the Midland Signalling Centre (known as Midsig). This caused the loss of most of the Signalman's jobs at the remaining suburban signal cabins at a time when the average age of signalmen was 35 years. The demolition of most Metropolitan cabins and therefore heralded the end of 'traditional' signalling here in Western Australia.
Of the signalling equipment of East Perth / Claisebrook only little remains. One piece of old East Perth remains however - the bottom part of a cast iron level crossing gate pivot post can be seen at the site - this can be seen in the first photo of the above slide show. The smaller, original 'East Perth' illuminated track diagram is currently held in storage at the Bennett Brook Railway - Whiteman Park. Of the other two signal panels and the later 'Claisebrook' diagram located in the Claisebrook cabin (as seen in the photos on this page), as far as is known, the only survivors are the Goodwood panel (also at Bennett Brook Railway, but which now shows however, the results of many alterations towards the end of its working days) and the facia of the Perth Terminal panel (now in the SignallingWA Collection) - the console of which was reportedly just tossed out the window during the demolition!
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
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Photographs © by Chris. J. E. French, Jack Stanbridge courtesy of Rail Heritage WA Archives and by W. A. G. R.
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EAST PERTH (2) Employees
This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed