Reader's Memories - SignallingWA

Go to content

Reader's Memories

Signal Cabins in WA


Welcome. This page is in response to information gathered from readers via the e-mail forms located on the various pages of the Signal Cabins in WA site. SIGnallingWA thank the authors for their permission to use this information to make these pages seem less technical, by adding their memories and stories. We hope you enjoy these recollections and would welcome any further additions.

SIGnallingWA Editor advises that the content is necessarily anecdotal by nature and is the work of the individuals who supply the information. Therefore no responsiblility as to authenticity of the information is either implied, or assumed by SIGnallingWA. Minor corrections however may, if necessary, be applied in the interest of readability. Please contact SIGnallingWA by e-mail should you wish to submit an article.


04/09/2017 - David Thackrah remembers his time around the railways, Circa 1953 - 1954:

"I was a very keen “block boy” assistant (very interested volunteer) at the East Perth signal box after I had met Alf Durrant, of black Humber car fame! I would turn up when Alf was on afternoon shift through until about 9pm if I recall. I know I was ‘helping” in the dark quite a few times. I lived the other side of the Loco sheds in East Perth.

I had previously been “experience getting” in the Mount Lawley box and, once I think, in the Maylands box. I learned the signal nomenclature of Home, Starter and Distant signals.
Due to the Lord Street bridge (Guildford Road subway and the footbridge) at Mount Lawley the Starting signal had a two-arm (co-acting signal, Ed.) semaphore at the west end of the platform, and a single arm Home signal. The Up Distant was mounted on a high pole at the top of Mt. Lawley clearly seen by drivers leaving Maylands. The suburban D class hauled trains and got up quite a “gallop” coming over the Mount Lawley bank from Meltham and Maylands.

East Perth had a Distant  signal on the Up Main 200 metres after the Lord Street bridge. I don’t think it was lowered at (green) any time, due to the traffic around East Perth cabin.

The weakest link at East Perth was the crossing of 'Light Engines' coming back to Loco along the Eastern Down Main passing East Perth No. 1 platform and facing a Dolly signal to cross over the Up Main along platform 2 to enter the road into Loco. The crews looking forward to knocking off would literally hurtle out from Perth "C" Cabin and expect the road to be set for a cross over.

In the elegant dance going on above them in the East Perth cabin the signalman would be very alert to any suburban hurtling toward East Perth on the Up Main  because we only had one home semaphore protecting the “cross over” of light engines. A buzzer sounded when they past the Distant signal and if it went off close to a crossing being set up, the Box would have to rapidly reverse any track setting for an approaching light engine. I always thought it safer to bring the light engines into the platform and halt them before displaying the green dolly thus giving the Box time to allow a passenger train unimpeded approach to platform 2.

So I used to fill in the log book and watch and help in need. We had yard shunting going on to the south for the power station and engines would ooze out of the dark, short of the southern main with rakes of wagons. They would set back until formed into empties to go back to Collie via Rivervale.

The signal levers were black for points, light blue for lock-bar and red for signals. I think there was one white one which was a gate release lever we never used.

The suburbans for Armadale chuffed down the Eastern main and crossed over at the western ende of East Perth station platforms to platform 3. We sent a miniature electric staff down a winder device strapped to a circular cane with a leather holder for the staff. The engine driver or fireman men would grasp the cane as they set off toward the power station  and the bridge to Rivervale.

Again the cross-over to begin the southern main journey was carefully inputted as traffic was blossoming on the Up main from Mount Lawley.

Mount Lawley was “cut in” during the day so goods trains would manage over the Mount Lawley bank in between the faster suburban steam hauled units that sometimes were held due to a goods train struggling. Fortunately this loss of speed occurred away from East Perth.

At night between 6pm and 9pm we had the Kalgoorlie Express and Westland to deal with and then No. 96 down Goods in between. The freight service emanated from Perth Yard at Perth "B" cabin.

From memory the action in the East Perth cabin was like a ballet tied into the music score of the  timetabling. After some years the signalman (Alf) would develop a sixth sense if something unusual was to occur. The most frequent was a Light Engine despatch from Perth "C" Cabin which did not appear within 3 minutes. Acting to set the road was suspended or the setting reversed due to the exposure to the eastern Up main. We would halt the offending engine heading for Loco at the platform.

East Perth serviced the locomotives coming into traffic from Loco. The crew member would call from as phone at the Dolly on the Exit Loop and cabin would set the road for the Engine Road (later to be known as the Independent Main, Ed.) with a section to Moore Street. Perth "C" Cabin would be notified of the light engine approaching I think by Moore Street where there were gates for a main street that crossed the tracks. I think the Light Engine bell code signal was '4 pause 3' and then '2' for departure on the Block system.

I was, and still am, amazed how all that mechanical levering operated points, locked them into position and then released the relative signal lever. You had to know which signal lever operated which dolly or semaphore because after setting the road only that signal would be set to green or amber if a distant.

The Engine Road fascinated me with the steamies fresh out of loco huffing on their way to Perth "C" cabin and Perth "B" cabin.

There was always (in the daytime) a “D” class loco on the centre road off the Main Perth Platform held there as a “bank” engine if a suburban train was disaffected by a breakdown.

I recall the Block Boy at Perth "C" Cabin telling me on the phone how things got held up if they had to lurch the emergency engine out along the main under the Barrack Street bridge and set it back on to the suburban at platform 6 left without a loco. The trains were for Midland from Platform 6 and I think Armadale from Platform 5.

Moore Street and Lord Street were there for the Gates. I am not sure if they had semaphores to hold up traffic if the gate was open. I believe Perth“C" cabin was able to lock up these cabins somehow if they set their roads for traffic departing Perth station. In the night this included goods trains leaving for the country and the Kalgoorlie express. I think the gates were left closed at night.

I recall the Diagram for East Perth was very complicated due to the triple junction and the Power Station siding. However I was able to master understanding how to set a road from observing and studying the plan above the frame. I also mastered using the Sykes Lock and Block system and the Electric Staff unit to Rivervale."

Back to content