Bowesfield Junction, 1980

I took these images on a visit to Bowesfield signal box one Saturday afternoon during 1980. The box always interested me due to its complexity of junctions, and the volume of traffic it controlled at that time. The following day, I went on to photograph a number of signals and junctions that came under the control of this iconic location.

Photographs and details courtesy of Steve Edge Robinson.

16 thoughts on “Bowesfield Junction, 1980

  1. Bill Adams,
    Why was it called the ‘Cuckoo’ Railway? Did the electric locos have a two-tone horn that sounded like a cuckoo by any chance. I have often wondered.
    The electrification of the Shildon-Newport section was due to the foresight of Sir Vincent Raven, CMEE of the North Eastern Railway. He later promoted the electrification of the main line from York to Newcastle in the years immediately after the first World War, a scheme which very nearly happened and for which a prototype main line loco (No.13) was built, designed to run at 80mph. How different the development of the railways would have been if that electrification had gone ahead.


    • David, it was the Cuckoo railway long before Diesel came on the scene. Tree lined and bushes hid the line and in my day of youthful transgression was a place to go bird nesting (we knew no different) the call of the cuckoo could oft be heard unlike today when we hardly see a House Sparrow.
      It was the cuckoo Railway in my Fathers youth so must have taken its name from the many nesting places along its route.
      Frank (Phil)


      • Hi Frank. I think all railways were called Cuckoo Railway as kids we knew that the railway from Fussicks Bridge was called Cuckoo Railway.


        • True Bob. I run along the walkway behind my house (on my boot scooter) the old railway line from Hartburn to Norton, the secret fruit along that track would feed a lot of people. Hazel pears Brambles Sloes Elderberry, the odd Apple, all probably grown from seeds thrown from train windows over one hundred years, railway men did cultivate sections whilst they waited for a signal during the war years. Wild life lived in peace and was plentiful, we knew many bird calls now seldom heard and the Cuckoo was prevalent in those days. How many children have heard a Cuckoo call today I wonder.


  2. I found this a most interesting article on the Bowsfield Lane signal box and Juction. I had not realised what a big box it was. It is nearly three times the size of most boxes. I can now see why my Father Joseph Kidd went to work there at the beginning of the first world war. The Railway had the glamour at that time of Concord and trips to the Moon.
    Dads (Joe) first job with the NER was as a Lampboy filling all the paraffin lamps that were required by the NER railway company around Stockton and Thornaby in the early days of rail travel.
    He obviously intended to become. a qualified signalman as he did work in the Bowsfield Lane Box with other fine Senior men.
    However somebody shot the Kaiser’s Cousin, and we plunged into the Great War 1914-18. Kitchener and the Country “NEEDS YOU”.
    (that means YOU) and being patriotic off you went.

    Joe, and Freddie his Bowsfield lane schoolfriend, both left the NER and signed on, into the East Riding Yeomanry (Cavalry} at the Majestic Hotel Harrrogate. Their war was in Egypt at the same time as “Laurence of Arabia”. In fact the Camel Corps was formed mainly from volunteers from the Cavalry from all over this Country. Laurence was indeed a hero, having taken Akabah with the help of his rag tag army. Somebody decided not to honour Laurence’s promises to the Arabs.

    Today we suffer the consequences from this decision. Rot starts somewhere and I suggest this was the start of the rot we have today in a Government and Opposition that fight like rats in a cage.

    The Chief Whip has no control over a howling mob, I dread to think of future consequenses that could occur.
    I do not believe that Boris Johnson lied to the Queen, if he did, then he certainly should not be Prime Minister.
    Joseph and Freddie did not go to fight for what we have today. Neither did the millions who gave “their all” and died for this country.
    You see what memories are stirred up just thinking about BOWSFIELD LANE JUNCTION BOX AND SCHOOL
    J.Norman Kidd FIMPT (Hon}


    • Norman, The Balfour declaration in 1917 caused misery and mayhem in my time too. I saw the end of the Mandate in 1948, it was certainly not what Lawrence thought he had fought for and as you say will not end in our lifetime.
      Many Railway men volunteered for both world wars and railways were essential for the movement of troops in all fighting areas.
      I had some weeks at Longmoor the Royal Engineers Railway Depot, now a museum. You hear about the fighting but not about the Men who lay lines right up to the front and run in the supply’s under fire. It takes a brave man to do his normal job under fire and yet they are always there willing and able.


  3. Yes, the photo shows the old entrance to the box, dated at that time, the most interesting part of the photo is the extension to the right of the steps, at this this time it was the loo, which I used a few times when I was the Signal Inspector for the area, but before the advent of personal comforts, this was the switching room for the overhead electrical line equipment, (Yes the area had an electric system before the West Coast and East Coast main lines) the system ran from Shildon to Newport yards (Thornaby) via the Saint Pasture Branch, known locally as the cuckoo rail, which ran through Thorpe Thewels and down Hartburn Junction.


    • As a 19 year old, I spent a great afternoon there in 1980 with an old boy called Tommy Smith. He had a great knowledge of the box and the local area workings, and even let me signal a few trains.
      A few years later, I moved on to a Signal Inspectors role in Newcastle.


    • I pass this signal box quite often as I drive along the A66 and have recently noticed that someone has ‘acquired’ the Bowesfield name plates from both ends of the building. I hope they have gone to a good home and don’t appear on ebay!


        • Don’t worry Bill it’s in a good home with quite a few others including Eston West Old Town and Old River. Hope you’re well Bill


            • Ray was my brother who painted it on the side when he was a book lad there in the late sixties he left to go hiking on the continent when he returned he settled in Hastings, sadly he died aged seventy in March this year he was a character who enjoyed and lived life to the full his full name was Raymond Ashley Philip Armes but he always got called Ash by his friends


  4. One of the busiest junctions on the North Eastern railway system, with three routes in one direction, and two in the other. During steam days, several loco’s could be seen here, coming from the Thornaby direction, and waiting together for the right of way. Twenty four hour operation. Sadly with the demise of rail freight, in favour of road,during the 60’s and 70’s, and the closing of Thornaby depot, with most of the Newport marshalling yard system, the junction is only a shadow of it’s former days. However this has happened all over the UK, and is now typical.


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