Sunday, 27 March 2011


One thing that was very unusual about Kirkby Stephen East - in fact unique I belive on the old North Eastern Railway - was that it had electric lighting. I don't have the date of installation to hand - it is in Keith Richardson's book - but I seem to remember that it was installed around 1906 and it was driven by the little hydro-electric generator at Stenkrith.

This wasn't just an advantage in terms of better lighting at the station building - although 'Barnie' had gas lighting well into the 1950's. It was an even bigger boon to signalmen who everywhere else on the Stainmore line had to go through the  daily ritual of 'lamping' - filling up the old paraffin lamps and then climbing those narrow iron ladders on signal posts in all weathers to change the lamp and ensure that the lights kept burning.

On a sunny June day 'lamping' was fun, but of course if a lamp blew out on a stormy December night - and they often did! - then the signalman had to light a new one and struggle along the track in the storm and up that iron ladder and change the lamds over in the dark. A difficult and dangerous job and a lonely one too at a box like Stainmore or Belah where you were probably the only soul for three or four miles around.

Down in Kirkby Stephen East Box or the Junction Box I guess they just switched the electric lights on at night. But there must have been the occasional bulb to change in the dark. I wonder if anyone can remember how it was done?

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