The Mount Lawley signal Cabin, was a typical example of a Western Australian Government Railways platform-mounted signal cabin. Prior to being called Mount Lawley, this location was known as Fenian's Crossing and was situated on the Eastern Railway at the eastern end of East Perth Locomotive Depot. The signal cabin was located on the Down platform of the old station, located as it was on a short, straight portion of track on an otherwise sweeping curve. The entire station was positioned on the embankment between the subway, and the present suburban stopping place situated in the cutting at Mount Lawley.
The Mount Lawley Cabin (in the monochrome picture of the station) looks almost insignificant, being tucked away behind the footbridge as it is in this view. The Signalman (Porter) can be seen at the levers inside, whilst a lone railcar stands on the Up platform. Note the Down co-acting starting signal at the end of the Down platform. Co-acting signals were provided where an obstruction, in this case a footbridge, would cause a Driver difficulty viewing a 'normal height' signal. The Up Home Signal can be seen a little further along on the same side - the 'wrong-side' of the lines to give the Drivers of trains rounding the curve the best, and earliest sighting possible of the signal. These sighting policies, whilst necessary for there time in the mechanical signalling era, were soon dispensed with when colour light signalling was introduced on the line in 1964. Colour light signals by design, give better information to the Driver, so that he can control his locomotive or train more efficiently.
Mount Lawley controlled a section of the Eastern Railway and worked on the west side with Summer Street (now the site of the standard gauge Perth Terminal) and East Perth (later named Claisebrook) - on the east side, Mount Lawley worked with Maylands.
Former Mount Lawley 'Porter with Safeworking qualifications' (attained whilst outside W.A.G.R. employment) Arthur Brean recalls that in the mid 1950s, the Signalmen at Mount Lawley were not actually 'appointed' as Signalmen, but were Porters like himself who worked the cabin as 'acting' Signalmen. Even though he, and his fellow Porter / Signalman, were employed exclusively in the working of the signal cabin, the railways seemed not to want to appoint them. In an effort to remedy their circumstances, they 'wrote in' every six months, but to no avail. In the mean time, the Signalmen were kept busy with suburban workings, which included the then new diesel railcars and the many locomotive movements going to and from East Perth Loco.
The interior view of the cabin reveals a wealth of detail to a trained eye. Notice: The signal repeater (near the Clock) for the Up Distant is of a different pattern to the Down Distant (top right corner); the gleaming W.A.G.R. designed three position block instruments and folding Train Register desk in front of the levers - another example of this was used in the Subiaco cabin. Note also, the plain 'drawn type' diagram and the painted areas around the window sashes - just where the Signalman would place his hands! This was previously thought to have only been a British practice, but now we have proof!
Arthur Brean recalls: "The Mount Lawley cabin had a 20 lever frame, but there were a few 'spares' in the middle. We used the W.A.G.R. three-position block system here, but as I had just come from Karrakatta where we used the Lock and Block system, I thought that the three-position block just wasn't as good as Lock and Block. We also had Distant Signal repeaters and Lamp indicators which told us when either of the Distant Signal's lamps went out. Some of the signals (at Mount Lawley - Ed.) were co-acting, and very tall. It was from one of these tall signals that I took the photograph (below). Our shifts were from 06:30 - 14:30 and 14:30 - until the last train to Perth."
Mount Lawley cabin controlled a Public Siding (accessed from the Down Main line), and also the eastern entrance and exit from the busy locomotive facility. Despite the entrance to the depot that it controlled being correctly signalled, it was nevertheless a 'set back move' from the Up Main line into a shunting neck. On one particular day, Arthur Brean recalls;
"An Up Train arrived at Mt. Lawley, which had been following an engine that required to set back into 'loco'. The Driver of the Up train had 'caught up' with the engine ahead, and although there were intervening signals stopping him from approaching 'the shunt', he could see the manouver happening ahead and became quite distressed at the sight of the engine coming back towards his train on what seemed to be the same line! Naturally in a few moments, the engine turned off the main and all was right, but the Driver was still shaken. Following that, new instructions were issued, and all but emergency moves into loco were sent through to East Perth."
The signalling record card shows that the lever frame and all signals were removed from Mount Lawley on 8th of March 1964. The buildings, including the signal cabin, were demolished in November 1968. Presently, dual-gauge pointwork leading to Perth Terminal occupies the site of the old Mt. Lawley station.
The photo, taken from the top of the very high - 'wrong-sided' Up Starter, shows a rare glimpse of the eastern end of East Perth Loco Depot. It shows most of the points worked by the Mount Lawley Signalman. This entire area and even the skyline is virtually unrecognisable now. The present 'Midland' suburban line follows the curve of the road before diving under the Graham Farmer Freeway between the Perth Terminal and Claisebrook stopping places.
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
Photographs © by Chris. J. E. French and Diagram of Signalling and Photograph © by W. A. G. R.
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MOUNT LAWLEY Employees
This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed