Dorset Joint Railway
Signalling at Bailey Gate
The railway station at Bailey Gate was located in the county of Dorset at the southern end of the 'main line' of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR). The southern part of the S&DJR was constructed originally by the Dorset Central Railway (DCR) as a single-track line running north-westwards from Wimborne to Blandford, but later the line through Bailey Gate was converted to double-track. The station was actually close to the village of Sturminster Marshall and originally it was named after that village when it was first opened on 1-November-1860. However after the DCR line was extended northwards beyond Blandford the station was renamed in 1863 (probably to avoid confusion with a new station further north at Sturminster Newton), the new name 'Bailey Gate' being taken from the turnpike gate on the nearby main road. Bailey Gate was the first station north of Wimborne and had Up and Down platforms, with a goods yard on the Down side behind the station and another siding on the Up side. Adjacent to the goods yard was a dairy, which provided regular milk traffic to the railway throughout its existence. A local road crossed the railway by an over-bridge No 220 immediately to the north of the platforms.
|Bailey Gate station looking south||Bailey Gate signal-box||Bailey Gate station looking north|
S&DJR trains originally had to reverse at Wimborne in order to run over the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) to Bournemouth. To ease this problem a new "cut-off" line was constructed eventually, which left the S&DJR route at Corfe Mullen (about 2 miles south of Bailey Gate) and ran south-eastwards to join the L&SWR at Broadstone Junction. Known officially as the ''Poole & Bournemouth Junction Railway", the new line was brought into use for goods traffic in December 1885 and for passenger traffic in November the following year (1886). Although the actual divergence from the original DCR route was at Corfe Mullen there was no physical junction there; instead the Wimborne and Broadstone lines continued north-westwards as parallel single-lines as far as Bailey Gate station, where the actual junction was made at the south end of the station. Bailey Gate then became an important location in controlling the passage of trains onto or off the southern end of the S&DJR, until further changes in 1905 when the junction was moved to Corfe Mullen, after which it reverted to being an ordinary intermediate station.
Bailey Gate signal-box nameboard
The earliest known reference to any signalling at Bailey Gate is a mention in the S&DJR Officers' Minutes for 8-November-1876 (Public Record Office file RAIL/626/16) of the decision to provide a signal-box there. Minute No 389 stated "Box to be fixed at the Wimborne end of the up platform at Bailey Gate and signals worked from it. Points to be bolt-locked. Estimated cost £130." At that time there was probably a limited number of passing-loops on the ex-DCR single-line (see the RailWest page on S&DJR Early Signalling), but the reference to 'up platform' would seem to imply there was already a passing-loop with separate Up and Down platforms at Bailey Gate. Although the signal-box which existed at Bailey Gate in later years was of the S&DJR TYPE 1 style used during the late-1870s, and was sited not far from the south end of the up platform, that may not have been the original 1879 location (there is further discussion on this matter below). The opening of the new junction in 1885 would have required additional signal and point levers, but it is not known whether the original 1879 lever-frame was extended or replaced at that time.
In the S&DJR Working Timetable (WTT) Appendix 7 dated 1-March-1886, and also the succeeding issues 8 and 9 for 1886 and 1889 respectively, there are references to separate 'Station' and 'Yard' signal-boxes at Bailey Gate, with details of the bell-codes for use between the two boxes. From plan evidence the 'Station' box was situated on the Up side of the line between the Blandford end of the Up platform and the road overbridge, whilst the 'Yard' box was located on the Up side adjacent to the junction points at the Wimborne end of the station. However it is clear from careful reading of the WTT Appendix details that in fact only the 'Yard' box was a 'block post' controlling the single-line sections, with the 'Station' box being merely a ground-frame (GF) to work the points at the north end of the station. Because of contemporary Board of Trade restrictions on the distances for the mechanical operation of points, it was a common feature at many S&DJR passing-loops at that time for the points at one end to be worked by a GF locked from the signal-box (which probably was worked by a member of staff who went to it as required). However most such GFs are barely mentioned in the various WTT Appendices, so it is unclear why the example at Bailey Gate warranted detailed instructions.
The new line to Broadstone was the first single-line section of the S&DJR to be worked by the Electric Train Tablet (ETT) method (being so listed in the WTT Appendix 7 dated 1-March-1886) and used Tyer's No 1 ETT instruments. On 4-November-1886 the same method of working was introduced on the single-line sections to Blandford and Wimborne Junction (S&DJR box). Whilst the location of Bailey Gate signal-box at the junction between the Wimborne and Broadstone lines might be useful for a signalman to control the junction and the exchange of the various single-line tablets, for the earlier period (when it is believed that there was just a simple passing-loop and sidings) it would seem to be much further away from the station than had been the practice elsewhere on the S&DJR. Certainly it was not a location that might be described as "the Wimborne end of the Up platform", so was the signal-box moved (or replaced) when the junction was opened, and did that change take place in 1885 or at some later date?
In 1900 a new temporary siding was provided at the north end of the station in connection with the preparatory work for the doubling of the line to Blandford. This siding was on the Up side of the line, but accessed by a connection which trailed into the Down loop. The new siding was inspected for the Board of Trade by Major Pringle, whose report dated 18-October-1900 is in PRO file MT6/971/9 with the diagram shown below. The old 'Station box' GF was utilised to control the new connection to the siding, whilst in the 'Yard' signal-box a new lever 'A' was added to the left-hand end of the lever-frame to act as a release lever for the new siding.
The new double-track to Blandford (together with a new signal-box at the intermediate station at Spetisbury) was brought into use the following year (1901). The GF was abolished and the pointwork by the road-bridge was replaced by a trailing crossover between the new Up and Down lines, with ground shunt signals at each end. Lever 'A' was re-used to work the crossover and an additional lever 'B' was added to the lever-frame to work the associated ground signals. (This was a push-pull lever, which stood normally in a mid-way position; pulling the lever back worked one signal, pushing the lever forward worked a different signal.) An Up Advanced Starting signal was added (worked by lever 15) and a treadle 'A' was provided some distance in advance of it to release a back-lock on lever 15 (there is more information about back-locks in the RailWest page on S&DJR Sykes Instruments). The revised layout can be seen in a diagram on page 86 of the OPC book "An Historical Survey of the Somerset & Dorset Railway", although it is labelled erroneously as being for the period from 1885 onwards. ETT working between Blandford and Bailey Gate was abolished and the new double-track sections Blandford - Spetisbury - Bailey Gate were worked by the standard S&DJR block telegraph.
The OPC diagram shows also the addition of two more push-pull levers (Nos 21 & 22) to control new ground signals for the existing sidings. Although the precise date for that change is not known, as it required the addition of extra levers then it may be assumed to have taken place before the subsequent layout alterations of 1905 yielded some spare levers. The OPC diagram also shows the signal-box in a new location closer to the station, adjacent to the point leading into the Up Siding, but in order to understand the various issues surrounding the signal-box relocation it is necessary first to look ahead to the abolition of the junction in 1905.
In 1905 the use of two parallel single-lines south of Bailey Gate ceased when a physical junction between them was constructed at Corfe Mullen and a new Corfe Mullen Junction signal-box was opened on 16th April that year. The junction at Bailey Gate was removed and thereafter the two lines from Bailey Gate to Corfe Mullen Junction were worked as ordinary double-track and controlled by the standard S&DJR block telegraph. (It may be assumed that the two ETT instruments at Bailey Gate were transferred to the new signal-box at Corfe Mullen Junction, as the latter now controlled the single-line sections to Broadstone and Wimborne Junction.) Facing crossover points 12 were removed, together with the associated Facing Point Locks 13 and 14, and also the redundant Down 'junction' signals (5, 6, 7, 8). In the Up direction the actual signals 17 and 18 were removed also, but their levers were re-used for the remaining Up Home and Up Distant (previously 19 and 20). The Down Advanced Starting signal (4) was renewed as a single straight post some distance further towards Corfe Mullen, and ground signal 21PUSH was relocated to the Down line end of crossover 11. The diagram below is taken from PRO file MT6/1373/4.
It is known that after the junction had been removed in 1905 the signal-box was much closer to the station, next to point 9 leading into the Up Siding (as shown on the 1905 diagram above). One can speculate that this relocation was intended to provide a better position for overall control and sighting of the revised layout, as well as dispensing with the need for the ground-frame at the north end of the station. What is not clear is exactly when this relocation took place - did it happen in 1901, or 1905, or at some intermediate date? On a diagram copy amended to show the proposed 1905 alterations, the signal-box was shown as being already in its post-1905 location with no mention of any relocation. Similarly a layout plan for the same period shows the Up Siding extending further south than in 1900, through what had once been the site of the signal-box at the junction. (From comparison of that plan with one in PRO MT6/971/9 it would appear also that points 9 had been moved further away from the end of the Up platform, in effect shifting the entire siding southwards.) It would appear therefore to be a reasonable assumption that the signal-box had been relocated before the junction abolition in April 1905. Unfortunately all available photographs show the signal-box in its post-1905 location and there are none known which can be dated precisely to the 1901-5 period.
The signal-box that appears in photographs of Bailey Gate is a S&DJR TYPE 1 box, as would be expected for a construction date of the late-1870s. If a new signal-box had been constructed at the junction in 1885 (or later) then one would expect it to have been of the S&DJR TYPE 2 style, or even a S&DJR TYPE 3 structure if renewed when relocated nearer to the station circa-1901/05. In later years the signal-box had a brick base, but one may assume that was a new construction to accept the older wooden superstructure when the signal-box was relocated. Whether the original 1879 signal-box was an all-timber construction, or just a wooden superstructure on a brick (or stone) base, is a matter of conjecture. The lever-frame numbering post-1905 equated to that of the pre-1901 layout modified by the known changes post-1900, so it would seem a reasonable assumption that, when the signal-box was relocated circa-1901/05, the existing lever-frame was re-used rather than a new frame provided.
After the removal of the junction in 1905 the basic layout at Bailey Gate remained unchanged for many years, except for some minor alterations such as the relocation of the Up Home signal (17) about 50 yards further from the signal-box on 28-March-1915 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 248). Indeed a 1930 copy of the signal diagram shows the installation still to be essentially the same as the 1905 arrangements. However on 24-March-1932 (S&DJR Signal Instruction 322) a new 'Down Siding No 2' was provided, which was connected to the existing Down Siding (now renamed 'Down Siding No 1'), and this new connection utilised levers 12 and 13 for its points and ground signal.
At some unknown date between 1932 and 1955 one of the pair of ground signals worked by lever B PULL was removed, with the remaining ground signal being used to control both routes. Then in 1955 an additional 'United Dairies' siding was provided on the Down side, but this had its own separate connection to the main running line. For this alteration levers 14, 19 and 20 were brought into use for the new points and ground signals.
The station was closed to general goods traffic on 5-April-1965, although the milk traffic continued. On 3-May-1965 the Up Siding was taken out-of-use, points 9 were disconnected from the lever-frame and clipped and padlocked, and signal 22PULL was abolished (Weekly Notice P/EW16). On 6-March-1966 passenger services ceased on the whole of the S&DJR and so the station was closed to passengers. Although most of the S&DJR was now closed a few sections remained open for goods traffic and this included the line from Broadstone as far north as Blandford.
During 1966 the Up line was taken out of use and the Down line was worked thereafter as a siding for traffic in both directions. The arms and lamps were removed from all the signals and white marker lights provided on the posts of the former Distant signals (1 and 18). The signal-box was reduced to ground-frame status and all its levers were taken out of use except for 10 and 14, which controlled the two sets of siding points. Down Siding No 1 was clipped and padlocked out of use and the trap-point at the exit from Down Siding No 2 was connected to lever 10 instead of 12. Warning boards worded 'STOP DO NOT PROCEED WITHOUT PERMISSION' were erected at each end of the revised layout to face approaching trains. Various dates have been quoted for this work, but according to Weekly Notice P/EW27 it took place on 24-July-1966.
The ground-frame was closed on 7-May-1968 and the last remnant of the old S&DJR line in Dorset was closed finally on 6-January-1969. All traces of Bailey Gate station have disappeared now under the development of an industrial estate. The road over-bridge has been removed, with a new roundabout built on the site, and the trackbed northwards has been obliterated by a housing development.
© CJL Osment 2001 & 2016
Station photographs courtesy Keith Pfrangley collection, signal-box photographs WCRA collection.