The Railways would be unable to operate without an efficient Signalling system. From the early days of time interval signalling with a train being dispatched after a certain period has passed from the preceding train down to the modern Network with large Power boxes handling a large area by colour light signalling and track circuiting from one location, mechanical and electrical machines had to be devised to make the system work.

As modernisation has taken place many examples of the workings of the system have survived and are readily available to purchase. An interesting collection can be obtained of the more common items without a massive injection of cash and we will show some of the items you can obtain below. We would advise against buying a Signal Arm as once you get it home you will realise just how big it is! The instruments are more manageable and interesting.

Many sections of track were Single line as this reduced the cost when first constructing the railway. A system had to be in place to stop two trains travelling in opposite directions on the same section of track so a system of Keys, Tablets and Staffs were used that would be carried by the driver who had the right of access to the track. These are now very collectable as the section names were on the items.


Miniature Staff Steel Staff with brass plates


Brass Key Token Steel Key Token with brass plates.


Fibre Tablet Brass Tablet Brass Tablet with Steel Rim


Alloy Key Token GWR Key Token Carrying Hoop

A selection of the machines that housed these items are shown below. Each would hold a number of the Tokens (around 30) and one could only be released with the cooperation of the Signalman at the other end of the section.

Single Line Tablet Instrument Single Line Key Instrument Single Line Min Staff Instrument

This picture shows the instruments inside the preserved Romsey Signalbox.


Within the Signalbox were a selection of Instruments that gave information about what was happening on their sections of track and also bells to attract the attention of the Signalman to ask permission to send a train through into their section.

GER Block Instrument LNWR Block Instrument LSWR Block Instrument MR Block Instrument


GWR Block Bell LBSCR Block Bell MR Block Bell GWR Block Gong


GWR Signal Repeater LBSCR Lamp Indicator LMS Track Circuit Indicator LSWR Signal Repeater

A selection of brass and bakelite cased Signal Repeaters.


 Each Instrument had to be labelled to show what it referred to and generally brass or later ivorine engraved plates were used. These could be attached to an instrument or to the framework of the box next to the instrument. These are now very collectable as they are small and often have names of long closed stations on them. Examples of the ivorine plates are shown on some of the instruments pictured above.

Pictured below are a selection of Brass Shelfplates

GWR early hand engraved GWR machine engraved GWR later hand engraved
Caledonian Railway North British Railway North Eastern Railway


Inside each Signalbox would be a diagram showing the signals and points controlled from the box and these have become very collectable. Some are still in their original frames and often quite small. Many are unframed and often can be quite long and not easy to display.

As you can see from this brief guide there are many different items that can be collected to trace the history of railway signalling and they are available at prices to suit all budgets. A few other signalling collectables are pictured below.

Signalbox Telephone LBSCR Repeater SR Bell Push GWR Lever plate

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