Robb Jetty (2) - SignallingWA

Go to content

Robb Jetty (2)

Signal Cabins in WA


WAGR - Marshalling Yard

1938 WAGR MAP Mileage = 15

Lat: 31.959538 S

Long:  115.899941 E

Next Down Station:

Next Up Station:



Quick Facts








Signal Panel

Fate: Demolished

The Robb Jetty Panel was one of the last W. A. G. R. panel boxes to be completed during the building of the Standard Gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Leighton in the 1960s. Situated atop a high, purpose-built brick tower, the Signalman was afforded sweeping views of both the marshalling yards beneath him, the many lines under his control, and a generous portion of the Indian Ocean as well! This picture shows the Robb Jetty tower in the last days of it's existence with narrow and standard gauge yard tracks already having been lifted. The ground floor section of the building extended behind the tower proper, and housed the lockers, showers, and amenities room for the once numerous shunting staff and Per Way gang which were employed at this once very busy marshalling yard. The Safe Working Technician occupied part of the first floor, along with the tower's airconditioning plant room and the Staff Instrument battery room. A small store room, and the spacious, well laid out relay room occupied the second floor.

The panel controlled the immediate yard only, but it was an important re-marshalling point for Narrow Gauge trains to and from Kwinana via Perth and Fremantle (before the dual-gauging of the line was completed between Forrestfield and Kwinana). Standard Gauge trains also shunted here on their way from Forrestfield to the docks at Fremantle via the Leighton marshalling yards.

The panel controlled the immediate yard only, but it was an important re-marshalling point for Narrow Gauge trains to and from Kwinana
via Perth and Fremantle (before the dual-gauging of the line was completed between Forrestfield and Kwinana). Standard Gauge trains also shunted here on their way from Forrestfield to the docks at Fremantle via the Leighton marshalling yards.

The Robb Jetty Signalman worked trains between Cockburn North (inland), operated by the Signalman on the 'South West' panel of the Midland Signalling Centre (Midsig), and the Fremantle cabins, Fremantle Box 'A' for narrow gauge and Fremantle Box 'B' for standard gauge. The lines either side of Robb Jetty could have been regarded by the casual observer as double track main line, except that they were one of each gauge! Just to add interest, there was a diamond crossing just inside the yard at the Power House end which remained in place after the panel closed.

Unfortunately, the removal of the marshalling yards and introduction of Train Order working sounded the death-knell for the Robb Jetty Panel and the building was heavily vandalised just before being demolished.

The original narrow gauge line to Kwinana via Coogee, Woodman's Point (Munitions sidings) and Naval Base branched off at Robb Jetty. This line was worked in the latter days by Train Staff & Ticket working (Staff only), and was effectively severed when a massive floating oil-drilling platform was constructed near Woodman's Point. The sidings along this route, like Robb Jetty with its abattoirs, power station, potato depot and salt works, serviced a variety of industries.

The console in which the panel sections were set is believed to have been lost, but the five panel sections and all their 'innards' survive! The panel was fitted with miniature key-switches (like those used in telephone switchboards of the era). The signal switches were located 'geographically' on the panel diagram adjacent to representations of the signal they controlled, whilst point and switchlock release switches were mounted in a row along the bottom of the panel. For many years, there were separate Train Register Books for both gauges of trains, but as traffic frequency decreased, only one book was used. Oh, and yes, for those with sharp eyes - they are HOLDEN car ash trays built into the front of the panel!

In a possible effort to confuse novice operators, the telephone on the desk part of the console is actually a two-way radio! For some peculiar reason, the radio was fitted into a standard phone case, with a red 'transmit' button near the earpiece, and a volume control where the dial should have been. In addition to the earphone speaker, an extention speaker for the radio was placed under the console's desk. The radio was also fixed on the 'Robbs Radio Channel'. Leighton marshalling yard, shunted by Robb Jetty locos and staff (a daily occurrence, when traffic required) worked on a different radio channel. This meant that the Robb Jetty Signalman had to contact either Kwinana or Metro Control to get a message to them if need be, or to have them change channels if more detailed information was to be relayed. The microphone over the center of the panel was for the replying to the numerous yard telephones. Apart from a switch on the panel which the Signalman pressed when he wished to speak, a foot switch was also provided under the 'radio-phone' for this purpose. The yard phone speaker was behind the grille on the right hand end of the panel.

The Narrow Gauge line to Cockburn North was, (at the time of the photo above), under Train Electric Staff regulations. Railway Signal Company 'miniature' instruments were used, and, as the Narrow Gauge line crossed the Standard Gauge at Spearwood - junction for the Bibra Lake sidings (originally the branch line to Armadale via Jandakot), an Auxiliary Instrument was also provided at both Spearwood and Robb Jetty. The four instruments worked in the same circuit, (Editor's Note: Similar to the arrangement previously used at East Avon), so that only one Staff could be withdrawn from any of the instruments at any one time. The electric staff on the narrow gauge section was withdrawn when colour light signalling was finally installed on this line in 1982.

The view from the panel was always extraordinary! The Signalman however, did not always spend his time staring out of the window, as he worked the panel by facing away from the ocean. The yellow GE wagons seen in the photo at right were narrow gauge four wheelers awaiting scrapping. Hundreds of such wagons met their fate in the old power house coal sidings, being broken up and burnt by private contractors. Just out of shot to the left, were the two roads which formed the stock wagon wash-out. Apart from the narrow and standard gauge main lines, all these tracks were lifted and very rapidly 'rehabilitated' to give better public access to the beach.

One thing that became apparent when the yard was designed, was that the close proximity to the ocean, (and the shipping lanes), the lights from the signals could cause problems for ships using the nearby port of Fremantle. The signal lights might be mistaken for navigation lights and so had to be carefully 'sighted', and in some cases specially dimmed so that they could not be easily visible to shipping movements at night. One can only imagine the problems a mis-directed signal could have caused!

The panel at Leighton would also have had similar concerns if it had ever been completed. The Robb Jetty Signalman found he had some sighting problems of his own. Indications on the panel were very hard to see when the sun was setting over the ocean. Lowering the Venetian blinds to see the positions of trains and point settings was the only option. All in all, Robb Jetty Panel was a very pleasant place to work with its air-conditioning, view of the ocean and the beach and challenging work.

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  and Diagram of Signalling and Photograph © by W. A. G. R.

Buy this page or View your SignallingWA Shopping Cart

This page is copyright, and permission must be sought from SignallingWA before this page is used for any purpose other than personal education.

ROBB JETTY (2) Employees

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




Back to content