The Quintinshill Conspiracy

The day to day working of the Caledonian Railway Company, including its constituents and successors.
caley739
Posts: 201
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:59 am

The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by caley739 »

I've just noticed this book on the Amazon website (£25.00 discounted to £16.25). Has anyone read it yet? Does it shed any new light on the disaster? The one review posted so far on the Amazon site does not really provide many clues. Is there "startling new evidence" or is it merely a rehash of already known information plus some speculation and theory?

Tom Robertson
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jasp
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by jasp »

Went to the book launch in Carlisle.
Sounded interesting, the main "new" theory is that the relieving signalman was epileptic and had a seizure just at the critical time. The authors also reckon that both signalmen were paid off to take the blame and looked after by the Caley.
I did check the price on Amazon for comparison but did not purchase since I do not think I would read the book.
Jim P
NickTindall
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Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:02 pm

Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by NickTindall »

Have not read this, but one thing from the two main previous books (Hamilton & John Thomas) on the accident has always seemed a bit odd. That is, the story that the early turn signalman at Quintinshill was only late on duty when he got a lift on the local, and the local was recessed at Quintinshill for the express to pass. Surely it wouldn't be decided to put the local inside at Quintinshill (and not, say, to run it to Kirtlebridge) until the express was about ready to leave Carlisle - by which time the early turn man, if he was still at home, would be late for work anyway, whether he walked or managed to get the local. In other words, he would be late for work every day, not just when he got a lift. Another version of this would be that he actually got the local most days, if not every day, and on the days when it didn't go inside at Quintinshill the driver merely dropped the signalman off at the box and went on his way. This latter theory is actually quite appealing because that would mean that most days the signalman would have no reason to be concerned about the local once he had alighted from it and could dismiss it from mind - which he evidently did on the day of the crash. Any other ideas, anyone?

Regards to all

Nick T
jim mac
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by jim mac »

This book is currently on sale in The Works stores at only £4.99 and having made representations to the publisher, they are now prepared to offer CRA members the same price plus p&p. Full details of how to order at this price will be added to the website and will be included with TTL123 due in January. Apologies to those who have bought a copy at the full price.
jim mac
Dave Lochrie
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by Dave Lochrie »

Thanks for the tip-off Jim, I had decided I probably couldn't justify the cost as quoted, but I popped into my local Works on Wednesday lunchtime and picked up a copy.

I don't have Nick's professional insight but I have always felt that many of the facts didn't add up. It always seemed odd that in the days when staff could be dismissed, without any right of appeal, for seemingly minor misdemeanors, that following their periods of imprisonment both Meakin and Tinsley were re-employed by the Caledonian (albeit in a lesser role). There has long been a need for a book which looks at the evidence again and with an open mind to the wider non Rule Book aspects of the case, especially as we approach the hundredth anniversary.
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However I'm not convinced that this is that book. In places the emotive writing would not have been out of place in a contemporary tabloid account. Too much of the theory relies on the single epilepsy possibility for Tinsley, without any real evidence to support this. All of the symptoms exhibited by Tinsley in the immediate aftermath are equally acknowledged now (but not then) as symptoms of post-traumatic stress. It is unlikely that Tinsley would have been able to conceal evidence of any previous attacks and there is no evidence of any subsequent episodes. My 27 year old godson died 18 months ago during a epileptic fit, despite advances in medicine over the last 100 years, it is still a difficult condition to conceal or manage.
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I'm not disputing the implications of a cover-up or political interference, but there isn't sufficient factual basis to the main proposition in the pages of The Quintinshill Conspiracy. It does a good job of setting the historical context and the railway aspects are mostly well explained for a wider audience. There were too many contributory factors for there to be a single overlooked aspect which makes everything fall into place -no matter how hard you may want that to be the case.
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Dave L
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caley739
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by caley739 »

I'd never heard of "The Works" until Jim's post and like Dave I was disinclined to spend full price on the book. Recently I spotted the local branch and when I investigated they had a single copy of the book. So I duly invested £4.99 and I'm glad that I did so. After a first reading I have a better understanding of events especially after the accident.

To central questions like "was there a cover up?" and "were the signalmen unjustly treated?" I think the answer is a resounding YES to both. Lax signalbox procedures were not the only contributing factor th the accident. The Caledonian chain of supervisory procedures is shown to be woefully lax and inadequate.At the trial all of the expert witnesses were Caledonian employees, especially Robert Killin, Assistant Superintendent of the Line. His very selective and down right misleading testimony was accepted without significant challenge. The Caledonian effectively made the case for the prosecution.

After the dust had settled Alexander Thorburn,Gretna stationmaster and immediate manager of the signalmen was transferred to the remote backwater of Biggar. At the other end of the scale W H Blackstock,Carlisle District Superintendent ended up at Oban. Neither move could be described as a vote of confidence from Caledonian management and seem to be significant demotions.

The authors explore the political situation at the time and make clear that a weak and unpopular goverment was suffering numerous setbacks in the conduct of the War. That the signalmen were facing criminal charges so soon after the accident, before the results of any enquiry were known, seems like a kneejerk reaction to deflect attention from wider failings in government and its institutions. The railway companies were major institutions and had considerable political influence.

The government of the day was probabley every bit as corrupt, devious, and incompetent as any present day administration. Institutions like the Railway Inspectorate and the legal system were subject to political pressures to produce acceptable results.
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jimwatt2mm
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by jimwatt2mm »

caley739 wrote: After the dust had settled Alexander Thorburn,Gretna stationmaster and immediate manager of the signalmen was transferred to the remote backwater of Biggar.
Careful! You are treading on dangerous ground there! Biggar may have been a remote backwater as far as the Caley were concerned, but don't let the locals hear you say that! These days it's a very vibrant little town!

Sorry to go OT. :oops:

Jim W
caley739
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by caley739 »

Jim W
No offence intended to you or any other Biggar residents. :oops: In my distant past I lived for a short time in Coulter not so far away so I am familiiar with Biggar. I also lived for a couple of years at Cartland near Lanark. There my usual train watching spot was Craigenhill Summit and more than a few illicit visits to the signal box were enjoyed.
Happy days!

Tom Robertson
Last edited by caley739 on Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
jimwatt2mm
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by jimwatt2mm »

caley739 wrote: No offence intended to you or any other Biggar residents.......Tom Robertson
No offence taken, Tom! :) I'm presently living at Hyndford Bridge, but hope to move to Biggar in the near future.

Jim W
John Lindsay
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by John Lindsay »

Biggar - a remote backwater? Not always (see photo below)!

Also, the stories of my Great Grandfather and his father before him (as Alex Thorburn's predecessors) would indicate that it was a busy little town back then too - though usually not as busy as at the time of the Highland Games at Peebles in 1906 when the attached photo was probably taken.

Cheers

John
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lindsay_g
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by lindsay_g »

This is getting further and further away from the topic!

On the signal in the foreground of busy Biggar, the lamp seems to have something like a bar running vertically down from it which ends in a bracket attached to the post. What is this arrangement?

It's also a good photo for studying coach roofs with many shades of grey in evidence, varying roof heights and curvatures, etc.. The coach in the foreground (the experts will be able to identify this - I'll be able to do likewise when the definitive coach book is published) has rainstrips which are in evidence on all other similar coaches (judging by the pattern of vents) but all other coaches (barring one) are devoid of rainstrips. Why the demarcation?

Lindsay
Dave Lochrie
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by Dave Lochrie »

I've re-read my earlier post and it reads much more negative than I had intended, to the extent that I'd like to give a more balanced crit of the book.
The writers have uncovered an incredible amount of additional material from a wide range of sources and this alone makes the book more thorough than any of the previous works. Very little of the new material relates to accident itself, but the ability of the authors to go through the subsequent Enquiries (official and unofficial), the various Coroners Hearings and the Trial and the political negotiations to secure early release, and to identify the, at times, ridiculous inconsistencies in these, enables the layman (such as I) to not only understand the proceedings but to understand the actions of those representing "the Establishment" in the correct historical context.

I now understand why the BoT Enquiry, both the never closed (only adjourned) Public Enquiry and that written by the Caledonian and submitted to the BoT was so pathetic compared with those for lesser accidents. And why by restricting it's findings to rule breaking on the part of Tinsley and Meakin, it was able to ensure that Coroner's Enquiries did likewise when they would normally be expected consider all aspects contributing to death, thus gas-lit wooded carriages, traffic overcrowding and hypocritical management were absolved of any responsibility, despite, especially in the case of the former,clearly contributing so much to the deathtoll.

The BoT Enquiry was undoubtably a whitewash, it was rushed and for whatever reason fell considerably short of their usual standards, and Coroners Enquiries were superficial, even the trial defences were no more than functional. That a "deal" had been done has always seemed obvious, the book shows that this had probably been "sanctioned" at a much higher level.
The only point the writers were unable to verify is why?
The epilepsy theory is convincing as to why (nearly) everyone would stick to the script, but my worry was it is little more than that.
But why is it that we seem unable to accept that Tinsley had brief but fatal lapse in concentration, as he himself implied?

Do I have a better suggestion? -no I haven't which is why it is always easier to be a critic of other peoples work (I do lecture!).

On the eve of the accident's centenary, the writers have applied modern investigative journalism techniques to this story, but it's still incomplete and very subjective, maybe we must accept that we may never know the full story, which, of course, is the ideal ground for any good conspiracy theory.

Dave L
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tony brenchley
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by tony brenchley »

Did we not have a speaker at the AGM a few years ago who gave us a very clear account of the events at Quintinshill and his own conclusions which were somewhat at variance with the published accounts. I can't remember the guy's name or the details of his analysis but I recall he was a railway professional with a detailed knowledge of signalling practice. I don't remember any mention of epilepsy. Somebody must know his name and perhaps he could be invited to contribute something to the Forum or even TTL based on his talk.

Tony B
IBrown
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by IBrown »

The only account I have read of the accident was the one given in 'Red for Danger' and that was back in 1966/67 when I'd just joined the railway.

The first 'conspiracy' I heard mentioned was during a TV program aired at the time of the unveiling of a memorial plaque on the bridge near the site of the accident, when an interviewee alleged a large sum of money was discovered by police at one of the signalmen's home after the accident (the person inferred stopping the troop train had been a deliberate act of sabotage paid for by the enemy). I didn’t give any credence to that, but apparently it was a suspicion within Government at the time:-

http://www.dgstandard.co.uk/dumfries-ne ... -30637934/

One of my former work mates in Glasgow Control in the 1970’s worked beside Tinsley at Carlisle (both in non-signalling roles). Tinsley told him he didn’t clear the signals for the troop train.

More recently, our Councillor for Bonnybridge (now a Baillie) was instrumental in having a memorial plaque erected at Larbert station, where soldiers billeted locally had boarded the troop train. Billy is a bit of a historian, and he told me that the bodies of two children were recovered from the troop train, but were never claimed. His account is that the coaches to form the train came from Maryhill, and it was thought they came from there / stowed-away there?
Jim Summers
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by Jim Summers »

Tony mentioned a talk on Quintinshill. He is right.
It was by Alan Mackie, who was indeed in a very senior signalling position in BR and beyond. He is an acknowledged expert, and his interpretation is authoritative. My particular recollection is how he laid out the traffic working, which provided for the late-running of the down express, and the pressures on the railway at the time.

Jim S.
duncan
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by duncan »

Looking at the epilepsy theory, I think this deserves further investigation, do we have a medical expert in the house ?

I believe that there are 2 forms of epilepsy, the 1st where the individual has the classic fits and the 2nd where there are no fits, the individual just freezes for a short period (seconds ?) then recovers, unaware of what has happened.

If the signalman had the 2nd type then it is possible that no one knew of this, if he had been seen to freeze, then others may have thought he was ignoring them or in a dwam.

Could he have had this type of small attack when entering the box & not been aware what was happening?

Very interesting book with its insights into life & society 100 years ago. I would recommend it for this if nothing else. Very easily obtained from the Works by post (just a satisfied customer).

Duncan
JimG
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by JimG »

I see that the topic has cropped up in the SignalBox forum.

http://forum.signalbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=433

JimG.
IBrown
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by IBrown »

I don’t think it helpful that Duncan or the book concentrate on Tinsley or his medical condition. The book states in the days following the accident Tinsley’s doctor prescribed ‘bed rest and not to be interviewed or removed from his home by anyone’ as he was having ‘fits’. Epilepsy according to web sources was not fully described until the late 1880’s and in 1915 post traumatic stress disorder wasn’t described, named or recognized as such - in WW1 it became known as ‘shell shock’. The accident at Quintinshill was traumatic in the extreme.

No single act, person or omission can cause a catastrophe – that requires a combination of circumstances to act together in a negative way. This was a time before track circuits that are both a visual aid to the signalman and an additional safeguard which can prevent a train being signalled into an already occupied line. But the Caledonian still had a safe system of work in place and the three chief actors at Quintinshill – the two signalmen and the local’s fireman – chose not to work to it as was laid down, especially Meakin who long before the accident happened, well knew that every running line would soon be occupied by trains that weren’t going to be departing anytime soon. Those extraordinary circumstances alone demanded the use of every human and signaling reminder appliance available to make sure no mistakes were made.

Meakin had correctly analysed the position well in advance - the ‘plan’ that morning was his. He knew with the arrival at Quintinshill of the coal empties from the north and the local passenger from Carlisle that all his running lines would be occupied by trains for some time. He knew Tinsley would arrive off the local and that he would have to deal with that train first – the up loop ran in front of the box and if he had brought the coal empties into it first, Tinsley would not have been able to cross the line safely to get to the box. Long before the trains arrived and BEFORE he accepted the coal empties from Kirkpatrick, Meakin should have had the points set for it to run into the Up loop and placed a collar on the Up main home signal lever, and the Up main to Up loop home signal lever as a reminder (1) that the Up main was to be kept clear (and protected) for shunting the local passenger on to it; and (2) the coal empties were to be kept at the Up home signal until after the local had been shunted from Down to Up main.. He also knew he would be relieved soon and as he would probably not complete ‘the plan’, reminder appliances for the signalman coming on duty would be a must, in addition to a comprehensive handover covering the trains standing at, and those approaching Quintinshill.

The Accident report rules appendices also confirm that the arrangements which applied on BR Absolute Block lines in more recent times also applied back in 1915 on Caledonian lines: when trains are delayed at a signal, a designated member of the train crew is required to go to the box to (1) remind the signalman of the presence of the train and the line it is standing on; and (2) ensure that the signalman has protected that line by checking that the lever for the protecting signal (or points) has a collar on it.

Going by what I witnessed in the 1960’s – On the fireman’s arrival in the box the signalman would first draw the trainman’s attention to the lever in the frame which controlled the stop signal (or points) calling out its number before pointing to the corresponding signal (or points) number on the box diagram. The fireman would then sign his name, train, time of entry and signal number in the train register book. The signalman would then countersign the entry.

The local passenger’s fireman, Hutchison, did go to the box, he did sign the train register but he failed to check that the Up main home signal lever had been collared. He reminded the signalman of his train’s presence, but he failed to ensure that the line on which it was standing was properly protected.

While the direct cause of the accident was a combination of disregard of duties by all three men, their managers were equally at fault – if there had been a history of disregard of duties, then they should have known about it and put a stop to it. The accident had happened on their watch and they too had to be removed from office there. Remember too Corporate Manslaughter was only coined after the Hatfield derailment in 2000, after the 7th consecutive major rail accident under Railtrack, after which that Organisation was wound-up. But who was Corporately responsible for the railway in War-time Britain in 1915? As far as I know, it is still the case that the Crown cannot prosecute itself.
NickTindall
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by NickTindall »

Have just managed to read this through. Good new info, but irritating in the way that in several places, what are initially presented as suppositions are described as though they were proven facts just a few pages later without any intermediate evidence being given. Plus of course, a tendency to deal with anything which doesn't fit with the conspiracy theory as necessarily being part of the cover-up. Questions still to be answered - if Tinsley was prone to epilepsy why was he employed as a signalman, and if he was prone but had concealed this from his employers, why did the CR choose to cover this up after the accident rather than say that they hadn't known?

By the way, has anyone else noticed that the putting of the down local through the road at Quintinshill involved working a loaded passenger train over a set of unlocked facing points, and restoring it to the down main would involve the same thing again? No FPLs on the trailing crossover, but it was a not-infrequent manoeuvre... another failure of local and HQ Ops management.

Nick T
IBrown
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by IBrown »

I finished the book last night. I found most of its allegations ‘proved’ only by the authors’ own personal opinions that they were, rather than by persuading me, the reader. It was also quite difficult to follow in places, especially when their own personal opinions were inserted into what should have been straight quotations from specific sources, e.g. Accident Reports. I’m still struggling to identify the Secret Report ‘printed on Caledonian Railway Company headed-notepaper’ signed by Druitt and dated September 1915, deposited in Kew Archive? Druitt’s report was dated May 1915 but wasn’t sent to the Caledonian until September.

There was nothing presented to prove Tinsley suffered from epilepsy before the accident, and it was mentioned only once at his trial at High Court, Edinburgh but never entered as evidence by his defence. In fact the defence seems to have presented no witnesses, medical or otherwise. The authors also assert that Tinsley’s re-employment as a Lampman was an accommodation because ‘he dealt only with lamps’. If this was a Signal Lampman’s job – then it’s unlikely that a person prone to epileptic fits would be capable of doing it as it would involve him being more on and about the line than he ever was as a signalman. The job requires him to climb signal post ladders to remove the lamp in use, maintain and refit it. Early signal posts were usually very tall (to give the driver a ‘sky background’ view of the signal, wherever possible) and it wouldn’t be the best place for Tinsley to be during a seizure.

IMO what the authors did achieve was excellent social and political context of that time. The insight into railway operations was also interesting and much of it was still recognisable over 60 years after the accident – e.g. the same type of block instruments were still in use in some of the boxes which Motherwell SC replaced in mid 1970’s - as was the Authority to shunt passenger trains through points which become facing and not fitted with point locks, providing the points were close to the box and the signalman could clearly observe the movement ... as was the case at Quintinshill.
JimG
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by JimG »

I note an interesting message about Quintinshill on the Signalling Forum today

http://forum.signalbox.org/viewtopic.ph ... =30#p63524

and the pointer in it to a review of the book on Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1757JLM ... 7JLMLSTWHK

JimG.
Jim Summers
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by Jim Summers »

Thanks for finding the Amazon review, Jim.

I suggest all interested in this business should read this well-constructed and knowledgeable piece.

Jim S
jim mac
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by jim mac »

Alan Mackie gave a very knowledgeable talk on the event at a recent AGM and his review of the book will appear in TTL123, due mid-January.
jim mac
NickTindall
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by NickTindall »

The Amazon review is excellent, thanks to Jim for finding this and pointing it out.

On a detail of the accident, the box diagram indicates that the trailing main-to-main crossover, unsurprisingly, had no facing point locks. This didn't stop Meakin from putting the local - a loaded passenger train - through the road via this crossover, and he would have repeated this in the opposite direction but for the crash. The text also suggests this shunt move was not an infrequent occurrence. Was there any dispensation from the obligation to lock facing points for loaded passenger train moves at that time, does anyone know? I do recall reading an internal inquiry report into an incident in the early 1960s following a similar pair of moves, this time at Broughty Ferry, involving transferring a loaded dmu from down main to up bay for train regulating purposes (they had got into a tangle at Dundee with a late-running Aberdeen up behind the local dmu), and back to the down main, all again without the protection of FPLs on the trainling crossover concerned. The incident had occurred when the dmu driver, who had not changed ends in any of this and was therefore driving from the rear out of the up bay, decided it was time to go without actually checking that he had the road. Result, one and a half dmu vehicles firmly in the dirt having run through the signal and the trap points at the exit from the bay.

A point that the book's author could have checked without problem was that of visibility from a signal box with lever frame at the front, compared with at the back. Whilst the suggestion is that having the frame at the back compromised visibility because the signalman worked with his back to traffic, anyone who has been in a signal box with a front frame will recognise that seeing anything through the front windows when the view is obstructed by frame, block shelf, block instruments, bells, signal arm repeaters, lamp repeaters, box diagram, etc. is difficult, and that if the TR book is then against the back wall, the visibility of events outside is not at all good. With the frame etc at the back, the signalman at the TRB against the front window has an excellent view of all the trains he is recording.

Regards to all for Xmas and New Year, Nick
IBrown
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Re: The Quintinshill Conspiracy

Post by IBrown »

Nick, I've been in a few ex-Caledonian boxes with frames at back and front of the box. The frame never ran the full length of the box so even with the front - framed boxes, e.g. Mossend No4, the floor space just inside the front corner windows was always clear on each side of the frame, and the signalman could stand there at the open window conversing with trainmen and others at the front of the box. Trains 'approaching and going way from the box' were normally observed through the side windows, irrespective of whether the frame was front or back of the box. The height of the box also governed how much you could see out the front; e.g. Fullwood Junction, also front-frame, was so tall that the feature most visible at the front was the top of the cutting.
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