Sandford Station history……
Brian Hillier’s Replica Sandford and Banwell Signal Box Diagram
We have recently acquired a splendid replica Signal Box Diagram. Sadly, the signal box which stood line-side and opposite the Goods Shed has long since gone, having been demolished in the mid 1960’s. The Diagram would have been positioned above the block shelf and its various instruments, giving the Signalman a plan view of the signalling and track-work layout immediately to his front and extending to the station limits to either side. The box opened in 1905. It had a 31 lever frame controlling the single ‘up’ and ‘down’ main line and also the ‘up’ and ‘down’ goods loop. Congresbury would have been the ‘up’ direction and Wells the ‘down’ direction. East of Wells, towards Witham, the ‘up’ and ‘down’ directions were reversed. Other detail on the Diagram shows the Sandford quarry branch access including the Goods Shed and mileage sidings, additionally semaphore signals, home and distant, disc or ground signals and facing point locks (F.P.L’s) and other point work. As far as we are aware, the layout at Sandford remained very much the same until closure, some track still being in situ in 1966.
Those of you who enthuse over signal boxes may be interested to know that the box was one of the ‘hip roofed’ design and classed as a G.W Type 7B.
Mr Brian Hillier
One of your committee met Brian many years ago through the Great Western Society at Didcot. At that time the signalling project on site at Didcot was still in its infancy. Brian produced the Box Diagrams for both Radstock and Frome boxes on the demonstration branch line. Last year Brian was tracked down in his retirement in Somerset, where after some gentle persuasion, he agreed to produce the Diagram now in our possession!
More recent dealings with Brian reveal that he was born and bred in Cheddar, educated at Wells Blue School and became interested in signalling at a very young age by befriending the Signalman at Cheddar Box. Access to the railway was eased as his father was a Cheddar coal merchant who later bought out the business of Mr. Alfred Perry who operated a small fleet of private owner wagons.
From 1948 onwards, Brian became professionally involved with the railway by becoming a member of the Signal and Telegraph gang (S & T), covering Congresbury to Cranmore and all stations in between.
The gang’s ‘duties’ also covered the Wrington Vale Line, work being scheduled on a monthly basis.
Around 1952, promotion took Brian to Bristol and then onwards to the Signal Engineering and Drawing Office at Reading. Here he was employed on drawing and design work, planning and estimating, and testing and commissioning signalling schemes.
Visitors to our station should be impressed with our modest but interesting block shelf display now repositioned in the Booking Office. However, the crowning glory is the colourful Box Diagram now on display.
We look forward to welcoming Brian and his wife Janet when they visit us in due course.
Contribution by Bob Lovell.