Fremantle Box A
Fremantle Box 'A' was located on the western side of Fremantle station's island platform. Although all trace of this platform has long since vanished, Fremantle Box 'A' had for many years assisted Fremantle Box 'B' in handling the passenger trains into and out of this once very busy terminus.
An old interlocking diagram (undated) of Fremantle to hand, indicates that Fremantle station was once planned to have no less than seven platforms! These seem to have been extensions to the existing three main platforms and added two bay platforms on the town side. For a great deal of the station's life there was a pedestrian subway joining the island platform to the main platform, and an overall roof which covered all of the main platforms making a 'train shed'. With this visual obstruction between Boxes 'A' and 'B', a special series of bell codes were used for rapid, descriptive interchanges of information. In fact, the codes were very similar to the special codes used between Perth Box 'B' and Perth Box 'C'.
As seen in the photo above, Fremantle Box 'A' seemed to have been surrounded by battery boxes, bridges and signals in this view taken in the 1970s. Note the adjusted height of the footbridge to clear standard gauge loading on the single line between Fremantle Box 'B' and Robb Jetty. It also must have been ackward for the interlocking fitter, as there isn't much room 'tween decks!
The exact opening date of Fremantle Box 'A' 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 Fremantle Box 'B' photographs and track diagrams of the Fremantle station area around the late 1890s and early 1900s fail to show any sign of this cabin.
It is most likely that the cabin was built in 1906 with the completion of the new Fremantle station at the end of Market Street. It has now been determined that Fremantle Box 'A' was close to the former location of the South Quay Cabin, which of course, has been long gone.
One of the hazards of having a cabin so close to, and beneath a footbridge, was the ocassional loud noise on the roof when some enterprising person decided to 'stir' the Signalman up by dropping something onto the roof. This type of activity usually came completely by surprise and startled a good many Signalman over the years.
Fremantle Box 'A' housed a 22 lever McKenzie & Holland No. 9 pattern frame, and for many years there were a number of 'slotted' semaphore signals governing moves between Boxes 'A' and 'B' over the scissors crossing between the main platforms, and the handsome 3 doll bracket semaphore Home signal for the narrow gauge at Cliff Street. As he was closer to the Cliff Street signals, the Box 'A' Signalman was supposed to watch the white-painted counterweight (pulled by the Signalman in Box 'B') rise before placing his lever to reverse to set the required Home signal to 'Proceed' - unfortunately for the Signalman in Box 'B', this was not always the case! A 1928 diagram of Fremantle Box 'A' reveals that the cabin boasted two distant signals at the time, both on the Robb Jetty line. No. 21 was the 'Inner Distant from Jandakot' and No. 22 the 'Outer Distant from Jandakot'. By 1964, only one Distant signal was used, the Outer Distant (No.22) became a 'fixed Distant", and lever No. 21 then worked the Up Outer Home - then still a semaphore signal. With the coming of the standard gauge line, No. 21 was converted to a searchlight signal and was mounted high above the line, beside its Box 'B' worked eqivalent (lever No. 45) on the footbridge over the line near the Fremantle fishing boat harbour and the Fishmarkets. No. 12 points and catch points crossed the standard gauge, and because of this they were in need of control by the Signalman at Box 'B'. This was acheived by the use of a permission lever, No. 55, coloured YELLOW, situated in Box 'B'.
The Fremantle Box 'A' Signalman therefore controlled the lines at the western end of Fremantle, (the start of the Eastern Railway), and the entrance to the narrow gauge section to Robb Jetty (formerly the Owen's Anchorage line). In the days before colour-light signalling, control of this line was by Train Electric Staff, however the type of instrument (large or miniature) has yet to be determined by SignallingWA and will no doubt be clarified by continuing research. One physical clue to the use of a Staff Instrument in this cabin however, is a wooden shelf and bracket no wider than a single bell unit mounted high on the wall at the Robb Jetty end - this was always used for the staff bell. Directly below this are shallow, yet wide, cupboards which were once used to house the Staff Instrument's LaClanche cells (wet batteries).
The Signalmen here in the late 1970's were 'Third Class' and worked two shifts, which changed around 1300 hours similar to the arrangement of times for the Signalmen at Cottesloe. The cabin was 'cut out' by pulling certain control levers and then just locking the door. To the best of our knowledge, Block Boys were never rostered in this cabin! During the period of the closure of the Fremantle to Perth suburban passenger service, the Fremantle Box 'A' signalman was withdrawn and the Box 'B' Signalman was provided with a rickety push-bike to cycle down to Box 'A' and work the controlled signals - now there was a time!
After this cabin was made redundant on 22nd September 1985, it was moved to the 2 foot gauge Bennett Brook Railway at Whiteman Park, Middle Swan (near Perth). This was initially to control rail traffic through their 'Central' station, however the group have since been successful in obtaining the larger and higher former Subiaco cabin which will now take over this role.
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 and Paul Hrebtiewsky and Rail Heritage WA Archives
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FREMANTLE BOX 'A' Employees
This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed
|Casey, William H.||Signalman - 3rd Class|
|Clarke, George W. N.||29/08/1928||Signalman - 3rd Class|
|James, Austen A.||18/12/1949||Signalman - 3rd Class|
|James, Austen A.||29/02/1956||Signalman - 3rd Class|
|Simmonds, William J. J.||27/04/1958||Signalman - 3rd Class|
|Asmutaitis, Herbertas ||07/10/1959|| |
Signalman - 3rd Class
|Gawlik, Kurt ||02/06/1977 ||Signalman - 3rd Class |