Islington Junction Box

If you’ve ever found yourself stuck at Clyde Street lights as a coal train lumbers past (OK, so that’s everyone in Newcastle) then you’ll have had a few moments to contemplate the Islington Junction box.

Poor old thing! The Wife and I were discussing it just the other day, trying to remember when it stopped being manned. (She said “staffed”, though when I challenged her to name a single lady signalperson she knew she was cornered. Ha!) She certainly remembers seeing the “signalperson’s” car parked down the side in recent years, but no more.

Islington Signal Box

Then, in the strange way that these things happen, some scamps sent me these pics of the inside. So that’s what it looks like! I’d bet a dollar that very few signal ladies would be able to wrassle any of those levers back and forth. Is that an iron spiral staircase in the background? And a comfy viewing armchair? All very intriguing.


I’ll take it that this is the reverse view, not that there’s another entire bank of levers.


I got a few pics of discarded rubbish and general detritus too. It’s all very poignant, a whole stack of attendance books that were probably filled in with great care and diligence over many months and years.


And, I’m not sure if this is reassuring or not, a list of instructions.

ISB instructions

“Noooo! DOWN! I said 164.500 down, not 164.376 up!”

5 Responses to Islington Junction Box

  1. What a sexist rant! I’ll bet many many many single ladies could pull those levers.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Actually, you’re right. If many, many single ladies gathered together I’m sure that, with their combined strength, they could indeed move one of the levers.

  2. Alex says:

    Hi Mark,

    A link to repudiate the comment above:

    Flemington Goods Junction's first female signaller

    with the photo taken at Flemington Goods Junction signal box in Sydney instead of Islington Junction. Different lever configuration though, pistol grip power assisted (most likely compressed air assisted similar to Newcastle Signal Box). The levers at Islington Junction signal box would definitely have been of the ‘armstrong’ mechanical type. I noticed in the photo that the signal plate numbers and the locking handle towards the top of the lever were all removed- you can see the holes in the lever about a third way down from the top of the lever that the pivot pins passed through. Check this link for some really good photos of how it looked in operation:

    Sad to see this signal box disappear, it was a bit of a local landmark and you could always guess when the Clyde St gates were about to be lowered because you would see the signalman standing at the western end of the box gauging the right moment to lower the gates. I’m assuming the controls to lower the gates were located at the western end of the box. Some of my early experiments with black and white night photography were here. Certainly seemed like a beacon at night with all the surroundings dormant and the signal box was that one constant of human activity, radiating light into the surrounding darkness.

    All the best,

    • Mark MacLean says:

      WOW! What a great pic of Margaret Tomlinson! Margaret: where are you now?! I’ll bet you’ve got stories to tell …

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Those photos of the interior of the signal box are so poignant. It was particularly sad to see the sheet of A4 paper that I’d found on the floor (‘Quick reference to signal no.s’) pinned up and in use. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: