At the time of its closure, Kwinana signal Cabin, was the last Western Australian lever signal cabin still in everyday use on the Westrail / W.A.G.R. network. It is still located adjacent to the very busy Rockingham Road - rail overpass bridge. Originally, this cabin was located at Koojedda on the Eastern Railway in the Darling Range and itself had been built to replace an earlier cabin at that station. In design, the Kwinana cabin is almost identical to the cabin at North Fremantle.
Although no longer classified as Signalmen in the true sense of the word, the Signal Operators at Kwinana controlled a mini-network of lines into the many sidings of the industrial estates bordering the calm waters of Cockburn Sound. The area along this part of the Western Australian coast has long been established to support a wide variety of industries. Some of the traffic handled by the Kwinana cabin for these industries by Westrail are: Alumina, Bauxite, and Caustic traffic for Alcoa Australia; Coal for Western Power; Wheat for Co-Operative Bulk Handling (C.B.H.); Liquid Sodium Cyanide for Australian Gold Reagents (A.G.R.); Nickel for Western Mining Co. (W.M.C.); Sulphuric Acid for Fremantle Port Authority (F.P.A.); Steel for B.H.P.; Mineral Sands for Tiwest and general container traffic. For many years, Superphosphate was railed in both standard and narrow gauge trains, from the Cumming Smith British Petroleum (C.S.B.P.) works at Kwinana to many country centres, however this is now mostly handled by road transportation.
The Kwinana Cabin may look more like a very tall garden shed in the above view, rather than the important control centre that it was. The blinds were down not for privacy, but to ward against the hot, setting sun.
The relay room is situated behind the cabin at ground level and was, a few years before closure, expanded.
At the time of this photo, most of the points near the cabin were still worked by rodding. Now, they are all power-operated from many kilometres away.
Prior to closure, Kwinana cabin was worked on both sides with Train Control situated in the MIDSIG building at Midland. Train Control now controls not only the signalling on both sides of Kwinana but the entire area originally controlled by the Kwinana Signalmen. The stations with which Kwinana worked on either side were: Wellard - a crossing loop to the east, and Cockburn South (part of the Cockburn triangle) from where a train could be sent to either Forrestfield or Robb Jetty. The original narrow gauge line to Robb Jetty serviced Naval Base, Clarence, Woodman's Point (Munitions sidings) and Coogee. This line was worked in the latter days by Train Staff & Ticket working (Staff only), and the line removed from a point just north of the Alcoa refinery and Woodman's Point when a massive floating oil-drilling platform was constructed near Woodman's Point.
Kwinana cabin houses a 40 lever McKenzie & Holland No. 9 pattern frame, which has, in addition to the normal McKenzie & Holland interlocking, has locally designed tappet locking applied at the very back of the lower tier of rocking shafts. In addition to the levers, route-setting NX (eNtrance-eXit) panel is now situated above the levers. This panel has been added to many times since commissioning, and replaced a smaller black-faced panel controlled a smaller area around Weston Street in the 1970s, now known as 'Bauxite Junction'. Lever No. 8, coloured yellow, electrically released an enclosed ground frame called the Kwinana 'A' Frame, which was located at the Wellard end of the yard. Similarly the other yellow lever, No.38 at right, controlled the switchlocked points into the old Kwinana Loco (near 'A' Frame). Lever No.16 had the distinction of being a facing point lock on a slip-point! During the 1990s, Kwinana 'A' Frame was made redundant by alterations to the panel when the new locomotive depot was opened, and therefore Kwinana Cabin lost the official Kwinana Box 'B' title, being named simply Kwinana. The semaphore Home signal at the Kwinana 'A' Frame has been moved to the preserved Claremont signal cabin. This signal will be re-configured as a co-acting signal - as it turned out, its original role - to represent the long vanished No.5 Starting Signal on the Up Main.
In spite of the complex nature of the work at Kwinana the cabin has only ever been rated as Second Class. Those who worked the cabin, often found it is akin to playing a gigantic chess game. Shunting, and other train movements required careful planning to prevent yard congestion, or conflict with other trains traversing the internal triangles or 'balloon loops' in his area of control. The operators ability to co-ordinate this with the flow of traffic between the stations either side on only single lines, was, mostly unrecognised. The cabin should really have been rated First Class.
Kwinana's panel, looks fairly consistent in design, but behind the fascia, things are very different indeed. The slim, tall cabinet at the left of the panel houses sophisticated computer based electronics to control the extra tracks into the new locomotive depot. The re-signalling of the Wellard end of the yard saw the removal of the last motor operated semaphores in the state. The motors themselves, were first used on the three-position upper quadrant signals on the Eastern Railway which passed through Koojedda - so the 'Eastern line connection' continued! Manual signals remained at the cabin until closure - but they were not in the then present Rule Book! Another anomally about the panel which is not at all obvious from the outside, is that the variety of magnetic 'memory joggers' cannot be used on the left hand half of the panel. This is due to that half, having an aluminium backing, whereas the 'older' part of the panel (the right hand half) has steel backing plates.
Information researched and interpreted by Chris. J. E. French of SignallingWA
Photographs © by Chris. J. E. French
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KWINANA 'B' Employees
This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed