The Downpatrick and County Down Railway is celebrating a very special Christmas gift.
The local heritage railway in County Down, Ireland, has taken delivery of a semaphore signal gantry kindly donated by their colleagues at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway.
They needed a signal which had three arms to control the point where the Inch Abbey and Ballydugan lines meet, and knew there were none left in Northern Ireland, so it turned its attention across the water, never thinking that anything would come of it.
The main line railway into Stirling was still using old semaphore signals and, more importantly, the same type as used by the Belfast and County Down Railway.
Although all the signals from Stirling had been offered to the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, they didn’t need one of the gantries on offer and, through contacts between Bo’ness and Network Rail, kindly offered the second bracket signal to the Down-patrick and Co. Down Railway.
Donald McLeish of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society said: “A friend of mine who used to visit signal boxes would delight in telling of the signalman at Stirling sometime in the 1970s who said ‘Aye, ye’d better have a good look now, because it’ll all be gone by next year’.
‘‘Of course, the semaphore signalling there has been under threat of modernisation down through the decades but has always managed to survive until now.”
He added: “Over the years though, as signal posts arrived from other locations and storage space became scarce, the limited scope for use or display began to affect the collecting policy so that when we were informed earlier this year that the signals at Stirling were definitely coming down we thought that only one or two might be appropriate, so we were happy to let the smaller one go to the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway for use on their line.”
Railway civil engineer chief, David Crone, said “The chance to get something as close to what was originally here in Downpatrick was too good to miss and we are immensely indebted to Walter Watson’s Steel who transported the signal on a return load from a major job they are working on in Scotland.
‘‘I think the Network Rail people were very surprised at the speed they were able to collect the signal!
‘‘This is a fine example of heritage railways working together in a common cause.
“We are fairly certain that this signal will draw renewed interest from filmmakers due to the authenticity of it as a backdrop piece.