Perth Box C (2) - SignallingWA

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Perth Box C (2)

Signal Cabins in WA

PERTH BOX 'C' (2)

WAGR - Eastern Railway (E. R.)

1938 WAGR MAP Mileage = 0

Lat:  31.952101 S

Long:  115.861248 E

Next Down Signal Box:

Next Up Signal Box:

Lord Street (1) & (2)

PERTH BOX B

Quick Facts

Opened

Closed

Circa 1896

1987

Mechanical

Electrical

85 Levers

Illuminated Diagram

Demolished - Part of lever frame on display on site

Perth Box 'C', also known as Perth (City) 'C' cabin was one of the busiest cabins in Perth. In addition to handling the normal suburban passenger working, through Goods trains had to be 'slotted in' between the passenger services. There was also much Goods traffic into and out of Perth Parcels for attachment to or detachment from the many country expresses arriving and departing this state's capital. The cabin seen here is the second 'C' cabin situated near the Barrack Street bridge. The exact opening date of both this cabin, and the previous cabin is yet to be determined by SignallingWA as the official W.A.G.R. record card for both these cabins could not be found at the time when the cards were copied. This view of the rather imposing, and very substantial 'C' cabin located on the West side of the Barrack Street was taken from the old footbridge entry to Nos.6 and 7 platforms. Of course, both the heritage listed cabin and the footbridge are now just memories. The former timber 'C' cabin was situated on the eastern side of the Barrack Street bridge. It is a pity that this second cabin had not been built on the eastern side instead. If it had, then there might have just been the chance of saving the structure from demolition in the 1980s when it was destroyed and replaced with a car park. It is believed that the building shown, was a 'classified' structure, yet it still succumbed to the onward march of progress - and the mighty car.

During its history, Perth Box 'C'
worked on the western or 'Up' side with William Street Gate Box; Perth Box 'B'and on the eastern side or 'Down' side with Pier Street (previously named Mackie Street); Moore Street; and Lord Street - all of which were level crossing (or gate) boxes and East Perth (later named Claisebrook).

Perth Box 'C'
accommodated an 85 lever McKenzie & Holland No. 9 pattern frame. For many years, there were a number of controlled semaphore signals governing moves between Box 'B' and Box 'C' in Perth.









These were either worked by the mechanical 'slotting' method, or in the case of the 'UP' Home Signals (known as 'Gallipoli' by Loco Drivers) by the use of electrical 'controlling'. Above a number of these controlled signals on the Box 'B' side, were a fine array of miniature semaphore arm signal repeaters in highly polished brass and glass fronted cases. These indicated to the 'C' cabin Signalman if a signal out of his sight had 'obeyed the lever' and if not, alerted him to the need to tighten the signal wire to that signal as necessary.

With only months to go before being demolished, the Block Boy is still keeping up with the laundry, with yellow 'dusters' hanging out to dry under the diagram. The dusters were used by the Signalmen in order to keep the highly polished lever handles from getting rusty by sweaty fingerprints. Even though this part of signal cabin life continued as normal, the dreaded 'white' levers are beginning to make their presence felt. The lever frame itself was destined for an ignominious fate. The 85 levers (cut off just below the floorplate level) presently reside on a plinth in the car park walkway - no doubt some person's idea of a 'salute' to the former, proud, signal cabin. Such a tragic waste.


In addition to directing trains to and from the various platforms and goods roads, the 'C' cabin Signalman controlled the up and down main lines of the portion of the Eastern Railway which passed between Perth and East Perth (Claisebrook), and "the engine road" which later became known as the "Independent Main". In 1896, control of the double line mains was conducted by Winters two-position block instruments, however these were eventually replaced by Sykes Lock and Block. When the Sykes instruments were themselves replaced by automatic colour light signalling in the 1960s, the "Independent Main" was worked as a 'single line, colour-light signalling section' and the despatch of trains to East Perth (later named Claisebrook) was by means of a speaker system like that used between Perth Box 'B' and Box 'C'.


This view of the 'black' illuminated track diagram in Box 'C' has already suffered from various covering over and painting out of tracks and signals. This being brought about by the rationalisation of tracks for the then looming constructon of a multistory car park and preparations for the Perth electrification Project. Many of the semaphore signals in the station area at this time were replaced with 3 aspect searchlight signals, some being fitted with stencil type indicators. On the diagram, it is apparent that there is a train somewhere on Platform 7 & 8, and by the single red light on the lower right hand side, a train is approaching on the Independent Main from Claisebrook. The two stays above the diagram once held a separate lever pull-chart, the diagram has survived but we wonder, where did the pull-chart end up? As the car park construction gained momentum, the cabin was replaced by a small 'NX' computerised control panel placed in Perth Box 'B'.


The Signalmen here were 'Special Class', working four, six hour shifts until a change in the Industrial Award 'brought them into line' with all the other Signalmen. As with Fremantle Box 'B', the cabin was attended continuously, all year round. Morning and afternoon Block Boys were rostered on for most days, but not usually Sundays. During Royal Show week, the Block Boy had to keep up with the work of two busy Signalmen - not an easy task I can assure you!


Information researched and interpreted by Chris. J. E. French of SignallingWA

Any additional information on this signal cabin would be most welcome - please use the e-mail form provided on this page.

Photographs © by Chris. J. E. French and Rail HeritageWA Archives

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PERTH BOX 'C' (2) Employees

This list may not be complete and does not yet include employees who worked here without being appointed

Name

Appointed

Position

Memories


1952 - Former Block Boy Kingley Beckwith (left), 16 years of age at the time, is pictured in the W.A.G.R. photograph above with Signalman Bill Kenndy in Perth 'C' Cabin. Kingsley recalls that the photo was for inclusion in a recruitment pamphlet seeking Junior Workers.


17/08/2013 - Former W. A. G. R. Employee Chris J E French remembers:
"
I was working in Perth 'C' Cabin on a particularly hot summer afternoon. The air in the signal cabin was very humid as in those days the cabin was provided with a rather large, but caster-equipped evaporative air cooler. This tended to make all the paper work 'sticky' and the occupants of the cabin a bit 'grumpier' than normal. I do not care to name the Signalman on duty that day, but he was quite a short chap and very close to retirement, so his temperament at putting up with the weather and the trains was a bit strained to start with.


Anyway, as our luck would have it, just as the afternoon peak started in earnest, the signalman was working a points lever - and he remarked that it seemed a bit harder to return to 'normal' (the normal positions for points levers is 'back' in the lever frame (i.e. away from the Signalman). When it came time to pull the Facing Point Lock lever, to secure those same points for the next train movement the lever only came out half-way and stopped. Facing Points Lock levers need to be in a proper position, or else the signal lever needed to show the train driver that it is okay to proceed cannot be pulled. The Book of Rules states that in a situation like this, the Signalman should re-try the points, that is, to operate the points to 'reverse' and then back to 'normal' again to dislodge whatever was possibly stuck in the points. This he attempted, twice, as fast as he could as he knew that delaying any of the peak hour trains could have deleterious effect on the rest of the timetable for that afternoon and worst of all, make more work for himself later. In hindsight, he probably realised that he should have re-tried the lever when he first found it was harder to work than normal. Now that stress was being added to the mix of environment and temperature, the working conditions were becoming unbearable. So, I decided to do the only thing a good Block Boy could do, I told him that I'd go down and see if I could see what the problem was with the points.


Rushing down the long staircase of 'C' Cabin, and then along the track that led into Platform 3 under the Barrack Street Bridge, I was reminding myself that the fault with the points could have been any number of things. I was only a few months away from taking my final exam to become a Signalman myself, and therefore I looked upon this a bit of a test. It could of course, have been any one of a number of different things - a broken or displaced rail, a piece of ballast caught between the point blades, or just a misaligned Facing Point Lock. I dismissed the latter almost immediately, as the points were very well maintained and the points-oiler had only been through earlier that day - I had seen the entry to that effect in the Train Register Book made by the morning shift Block Boy.


When I got to the points, I was relieved, yet saddened. Relieved, because it was none of the rail or maintenance issues that might take time to rectify, but saddened because something had lost its life in causing us this problem. A hapless Pigeon, probably looking for grain spilt from some of the wheat wagons of a previous goods train, had wandered between the blades of the points, just as the points were returned to 'normal' by the Signalman. Naturally, with the amount of leverage, and the weight of the point blades, the poor thing didn't stand a chance - especially so, after they were tried again and again. The problem then became that it was necessary to remove the 'obstruction'.


As there was no trackside telephones in that part of the yard, I moved as far away from the points as possible - so that I was in a position that my short Signalman could see me from his vantage point in the cabin, and I used the special hand signals that the points-oiler chap and Line and Signals Gang members used when they needed to have the points set a certain way. Instantly, the Signalman knew what was needed and moved the points to assist. On the way back to the points I picked up a discarded piece of timber that I'd noticed on the way, and I used this to extricate the Pigeon's body. One NEVER places any part of one's being in points - just in case. As soon as the bird was removed, I resumed my trackside signalling position and gave the Signalman the signals to move the points back to normal; test the Facing Point Lock and then I gave the "All Clear" hand signal. I rushed back to the cabin, knowing that the trains would be starting to move again quickly and that he would be too busy to do my work as well as his own to clear the backlog. As it transpired, there were only a few, minimal delays, but if we had called out a gang and waited for them to turn up things would have been a lot worse."

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