Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 23, 2018
Webpage updated: May 11, 2019




Hemerdon Siding Signal Box, the last on the site, was recorded in 1955 as being 239 miles 20 chains milepost mileage from London Paddington Station via Bristol Temple Meads Station, the original route of the Great Western Railway.  It was on the Down side.  The ruling gradient approaching Hemerdon Siding Signal Box was 1 in 150 falling and soon after passing the Box became 1 in 41 falling down Hemerdon Bank towards Plympton Station.

When the South Devon Railway Company built the main line from Brent to Plymouth it was only single track, broad-gauge, as this was cheaper to build.  The single line stopped at Hemerdon Junction, where a Signal House was erected to control the transition from single line to double line for the last few miles in to Plymouth.

Following the Great Western Railway Company's gauge conversion of Friday May 20th and Monday May 23rd 1892 the line from Cornwood Station to the top of Hemerdon Bank was doubled and this required a new signal box, which was opened on May 14th 1893.  It was brick built, measured 17 feet 1 inch by 12 feet, and had 17 levers.

In 1907 the Down and UP sidings were converted into loop lines and this required a new signal box to house a 29-lever  frame.  This box was on the Up side of the line and was painted green on the back at the insistence of a local landowner to blend in with the countryside.  The Box was opened on April 2nd 1907.  The loops were converted to take passenger trains as from July 29th 1927.  This box was constructed of timber and by 1930 was riddled with woodworm and declared unsafe for working.

Box 3, the last at Hemerdon, was built of brick from the defunct Brixton Road Signal Box on the Yealmpton Branch.  The Box was opened on November 18th 1930.  It was slightly smaller than box 2, only 21 feet in length as compared to 25 feet, and contained 30 levers.

During the British Railways era Hemerdon Siding Signal Box was open continuously and the passing times of all Down freight trains had to be reported to Plymouth Control.  Hemerdon Siding Signal  Box was the holding box for the "Is Line Clear?" requests from North Road East Signal Box: it only requested "Is Line Clear?" from the next Box, usually Ivybridge Signal Box as Cornwood was only opened for traffic purposes, when the "Train Entering Section" code was received from either Plympton (if switched in) or Tavistock Junction boxes.  Consequently it was the starting box for "Is Line Clear?" in the Down direction.

The Down Loop was 1,360 feet in length and officially  held 60 wagons plus engine and guard's van while the Up Loop was 1,215 feet long and could officially accommodate 58 wagons plus engine and van.  Each Loop had catch points at both ends.  Because the Box was in the centre of the Loops the Guards of freight trains in either direction were required to notify the Signalman that their train had arrived in the Loop complete with the tail lamp on the last vehicle.  The speed into the Loops was regulated to five miles per hour.

If fog or falling snow prevented the Signalman from seeing clearly his Up Home Signals he had to call out the fog signalmen.

Hemerdon Siding Signal Box was closed on or as from December 17th 1973.


  With grateful acknowledgement to the late Mr Laurence 'Larry' William Crosier (1929-2010) of the Great Western Railway Company (1943-1947);
British Railways (1948-c1994); the Plymouth Railway Circle, the Lee Moor Tramway Preservation Society, and the Signalling Record Society.