Mokine was a child of the program of improvements designed to enable the WAGR Eastern Railway to cope with the enormous increase in traffic that accompanied the 1890s gold rush, Mokine was opened as crossing loop on the 18th June 1897. Mokine was situated at the 55 1/2 mile peg, as measured from Perth.
Prior to the opening of the loop Mokine was no more than a stop where locomotives could take water, an 800 gallon tank having been installed there prior to 1892, or drop off or collect wagons from the dead end siding located there. Located near the midpoint of the ten mile long climb between the then existing staff stations of Spencers Brook and Clackline, Mokine was a logical place to install a loop to divide this section and increase traffic capacity.
For the first few months of its existence Mokine was bereft of "Safety Appliances" (as the WAGR quaintly described point indicators and signals), it not being equipped with point indicators until the end of October 1897. Three indicators were provided - these almost certainly equipping the loop facing points and those accessing the siding. These arrangements lasted until May 1898, when the signal box was opened. Somewhat surprisingly, the opening of the signal box at Mokine was not the subject of a dedicated entry in the Weekly Notices. The only official WAGR reference concerning the opening that the author has been able to locate is the addition of Mokine in the list of stations interlocked a list which, at the time, appeared regularly in the Weekly Notices.
The only other contemporaneous records of its opening located by the author to date is a report in the West Australian of 3 October 1898 reporting on the Commissioner for Railways annual report for the year ended 30 June 1898, in which he reported that Mokine was one of a number of locations that had been interlocked.
Unfortunately, neither reference gives any indication as to the signalling arrangements at Mokine. Given the importance of the Eastern railway the WAGR would have provided, at a bare minimum, Up and Down Distant and Home signals, and probably installed Up and Down Main Line and Loop Starting signals.
Mokine was located in a dip on a sweeping curve. It was approached by a falling grade from both directions, the descent from the east being particularly long (approximately half a mile) and steep, with the grade of 1 in 45. Up trains departing Mokine faced a short quarter mile climb of about 1 in 50, the track then descending on a more sedate 1 in 400 before resuming the climb (through the site of what was to become the 54 1/4 Mile Box) on a more pleasant 1 in 200 for about another mile before steepening significantly all the way to Koojedda The loop was 820 foot long and was probably located on the North side of the station with the siding being located on the south, accessed from the main. A feature of Mokine’s siding was that throughout its long life it never appears to have been anything other than a dead end accessed by a set of points trailing in the Up direction, that is, the only way it could be used was for an up train to stop on the Clackline side of the points and shunt back into the siding. It was classified as a class 4 station, the lowest level in the WAGR station hierarchy. At the time of its opening a porter in charge was appointed to oversee the dispatch of trains, and attend to the local passenger and goods business. In June 1898, the WAGR reclassified this Safeworking position to the new category of “Officer in Charge”. Throughout its existence as an attended station, Mokine’s operations were overseen by a gentleman of this capacity. Although Mokine was not of sufficient importance to justify the appointment of a Station Master, the WAGR provided the officer in Charge with a sturdy brick house which, at the time of writing (2013) still stands.
In its capacity as a crossing loop Mokine worked with Clackline to the West and Spencers Brook to the East. The electric staff system was used, the sections being Clackline - Mokine, staff blue with an oblong head, and Mokine - Spencers Brook, the staff being red with a round head.
Mokine was undoubtedly a busy location. The combination of steep grades throughout the section Spencers brook to Clackline coupled with the relatively low haulage capacity of WAGR locomotives probably saw a daily succession of Up trains proceeding west through Mokine, with crossings thrown in to make life interesting. For at least part of its existence as a crossing loop Mokine was manned around the clock, having night porters and night officers working the cabin during the time that the day staff were off duty. No doubt due to its being approached by a steep falling grade in the Up direction, Drivers and guards of Up trains were enjoined to approach Mokine cautiously, the 1901 General Appendix stating that "they must keep their trains well under control on the approach" from that direction. The same entry provided that where a crossing was to take place, the Up train had to be brought to a halt at the home signal before it was to be admitted into the station. While this procedure was no doubt necessary to enable traffic to move safely, it must have made life difficult for drivers of many up trains who were prevented from using the momentum gained on the decent from the east to help move their trains over the sharp rise immediately to the west of the station.
Mokine’s life as a crossing loop was to be relatively short, although somewhat eventful. Perhaps the most famous, or notorious, incident its career occurred in September, 1904 when the locomotive of a sleeper recovery train, running tender first, derailed about a mile to the west of Mokine. This resulted in the death of the driver, and injuries to the fireman and five gangers riding the train. The casualties were taken to Mokine where they were rendered first aid by Mr C Ferguson, Mokine’s Officer in Charge; unfortunately neither his skills nor those of the doctors at the nearby Northam Hospital were able to save the life of driver Nicholson.
Duplication of the Eastern railway began in the early years of the twentieth Century and by September 1907 the duplication between Karrijine and Clackline was opened. Duplication of the section between Clackline and Spencers Brook was completed some 10 months later, opening on the 28 th July 1908. Mokine signal cabin was closed on this date, becoming an unattended siding. The single line sections Clackline - Mokine and Mokine - Spencers Brook were abolished and absolute block working, using Winters two-position Block instruments, was introduced on the new double line section Clackline - Spencers Brook. Some of the signalling on the up line was retained in order to protect trains shunting the siding, these signals being worked from a ground frame. The changes were, paradoxically, to see the Mokine entry in the next General Appendix expanded somewhat, the relevant (1912) General Appendix entry now reading:
THIS STATION IS INTERLOCKED
Up trains are worked from a small interlocking frame controlled by Annett’s key which is kept at Spencers Brook. After shunting operations are completed the signals must be returned to the "off" position and the key left at Clackline, to be returned to Spencers Brook by the first available train.
This siding must be shunted only in the daytime, except when the signals are lighted.
One curious feature of Mokine’s signalling history is that it contained elements of the histories of most of the signal boxes installed as part of improvements to the Eastern Railway introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like Karrijine it was opened to improve the capacity of then single line Eastern Railway and was fated to be closed as a safe working location once duplication reached it. Like Bakers Hill it was to have an existence both as a siding, and as Safeworking location, after its loop was removed, and like Wundowie, it was to be closed then reopened several years later as a seasonal block post.
Increased traffic levels saw Mokine, along with Wundowie being reopened as a block post in January 1924. Weekly Notice 2 of 1924 announced that, with effect from the 14 th January 1924 Mokine was to be switched in; unfortunately for the staff involved the boxes opening hours were between the hours of 4pm and 8 am daily. It now had a full complement of Up and Down Home and Distant signals, the distants being fixed at danger, while the homes were worked from a ground frame. Presumably cost considerations precluded the provision of a cabin, a saving probably appreciated more by the beancounters in the WAGR accounts department than by the station staff. Following its reopening Mokine worked with Spencers Brook to the east and Clackline to the west, no other locations between Mokine and either Clackline or Spencers Brook existing during the period in which Mokine was open as a cabin or Block Post.
An oddity which coincided with the opening of Mokine and Wundowie was the authorisation of permissive block working between Wooroloo – Baker’s Hill and Clackline – Spencer’s Brook sections on both the up and down lines. From the mid 1880s to the introduction of automatic signalling, WAGR safeworking was based on the principle of absolute block working, in which only one train was allowed to be in a block section at any one time. Permissive block working was a form of time interval safeworking (in the loosest term!) which allowed for two trains, travelling in the same direction, to be in the same block section at the same time. However, the relevant (1922) Rulebook provided that it was applicable only to staff and ticket working, was only to be introduced with the express authority of the Chief Traffic Manager, and the driver of every such train was to be issued a special notice advising him that the preceeding train had not yet been reported at the next block station in advance. Presumably, the Chief Traffic Manager allowed the rules to be somewhat "bent" to allow for the introduction of this working onto the double line absolute block working territory on the Eastern Railway, although for how long it lasted is not known. The Weekly Notices are silent on the matter, suggesting that the working was short lived, or quietly forgotten.
Like Wundowie Mokine was to undergo a number of closures and reopening after its re-establishment as a block post, its openings and closures roughly coinciding with the annual wheat harvest seasons. However, its life as a block post was to be short, In June 1925 the relevant Weekly Notice reported that it, and Wundowie had been closed until further notice. Unlike Wundowie’s closure, Mokine’s closure as a Safeworking location was not a seasonal shutdown, it was to be permanent.
In 1925, the WAGR had plans to station a bank engine at Clackline, in order to bank trains from Mokine to Bakers Hill. This would have enabled a single FS goods engine to haul a through load of 475 tons from Northam to Midland without the need to divide the load between Spencers Brook and Koojedda. Crossovers were to be installed at Mokine, and installing a down advanced starter was seriously considered so as facilitate this working. The signal committee even went as far as to travel to Mokine, complete with flags, poles and periscope to determine the best location for this signal, however, this plan was to come to naught. In late 1925, the WAGR abandoned the plans to install the proposed crossovers at Mokine, deciding that the more favourable grades at the 54 mile and a quarter mile rendered that site a more suitable location. Accordingly, in November 1925 the Down signals were removed. In January of the following year Mokine was formally closed as a Block Post and the nearby 54 mile 25 chain Box opened in lieu. The Up signals remained to protect the siding, these consisting of an Up Distant and Home worked from the ground frame by guards of trains shunting the siding. The provision of a signalled intermediate (i.e. in section between signal boxes) siding on the Eastern Railway was not uncommon. Similar arrangements existed at Spring Hill, Wundowie and at a departmental siding located between Clackline and Bakers Hill. Mokine’s entry in the 1923 General Appendix was reworded to effectively re-state what had been provided for in the 1912 General Appendix. As far as Mokine was concerned, the wheel of history at turned full circle, although it is arguable that the wheel had made two complete revolutions in the process of returning Mokine to the status of an unattended siding.
Mokine’s semaphore signals were to remain in place until 1960. In June of that year, the long delayed extension of automatic signalling along the Eastern Railway finally reached Mokine. The lever frame and the Up signals were removed. An automatic switchlock was installed to gain access to the siding, the switchlock being protected by a new colour light signal at the Spencers Brook end of Mokine. As with the case of Bakers Hill the siding was probably used only to store the occasional defective wagon, as local traffic on the Eastern Railway between Spencers Brookand Bellevue had all but disappeared by the late 1950s. Unlike Bakers Hill, Mokine was to retain its siding to the very end of its existence.
Mokine was closed on the 13th February 1966, made redundant by the new line through the Avon Valley. The track from Spencers Brook to Wundowie remained in use for the next 15 years to enable ore trains to service the pig iron plant at that latter location, however Mokine was to play no role in moving this traffic. Today there is little to indicate that a signal box ever existed at Mokine. The railway formation has disappeared beneath a road, obliterating all traces of the platform and track beds. All that remains are the station master's house, a rapidly decaying loading bank and the occasional ghost, silent witnesses to this once important Safeworking location.
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 Justin Smith of the Signalling Interest Group of W. A.
Last updated by the Author 28/06/2015
Photograph and Diagram of Signalling by WAGR courtesy of Rail Heritage WA Archives
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