‘The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway’ (or S.M.J.) was a small independent railway company which ran a line across the empty, untouched centre of England. It visited the counties of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and a little of Buckinghamshire, only existing as the SMJ from 1909 to 1923. In 1923 the S.M.J.became a minor arm of the London Midland and Scottish (L.M.S.), then in 1948 'British Railways' 

Gone but not forgotten: "the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth"


Extracts from Blakesley Signalbox registers (kindly supplied by Robin Cullup)

Robin Cullup has kindly allowed me to put these extracts from a Blakesley Signalbox  register, which came into the possession of himself from the late Ian Lyman, onto this webpage.  The original register, which is in a terrible condition having been partially eaten by mice while at Blakesley, is now being preserved at the Midland Railway Society’s Archive at Silk Mill.  Robin must have spent a great deal of time and effort extracting and typing up this information from the damaged pages of the original.


An amusing aside on the rodent problem at Blakesley follows.  Sometime in the late ‘50s Cecil Smart the stationmaster complained to a guard of a passing train about the plague of mice that was eating his paperwork.   I better explain that dear old Cecil, a real Blakesley local character who caused no one any offence, for some unexplainable reason was the subject of many well intentioned jokes from fellow railwaymen and other visitors to the station such as Ted the coalman who passed on this story to me.  The guard advised Cecil to get some of the new metal traps that had just come onto the market.

‘Where do I get those?’ asked Cecil .

‘Woolies in Northampton’, replied the guard.

‘I’m far too busy to go there’, complained Cecil despite the relaxed nature of his job as station master at sleepy Blakesley.  To be fair Cecil also ran a smallholding and on Saturdays ardently supported the village football team, managed by Blakesley signalman Tommy Townsend.

So the guard offered to fetch some and Cecil gave him the money. These new metal traps had their instructions printed on them, harbingers of the H & S movement no doubt! They didn’t catch any of Cecil’s mice and he complained vociferously to the guard next time that he arrived at the station. The guard asked to see the traps and pretended to examine them carefully. Finally he looked Cecil straight in the eye and pronounced,

 ‘Well, no wonder.... you’ve left the instructions on them’.

 ‘What difference would that make?’ irritatedly demanded Cecil.

With a deadpan expression the guard answered ,

‘Well, you don’t expect a mouse to stick its bloody head in there if it can read what’s going to happen to it, do you?’  !!!

Dick Bodily and Robin Cullup (24/4/14)


Blakesley Signal Box Train Register

Bell Codes used in extract below


1-3-1  Non passenger coaching stock

1-4     Through freight

2-1-3  Light engine has arrived

2-1-4  ? ?? Possibly trolley arrived through section

2-2-1  Empty coaching stock

2-3      Light engine

3          Pick up freight

3-1      Ordinary passenger

3-2      Unfitted express freight

4         Express passenger !!!

5-5-5   Next block section ie. Morton Pinkney has opened *

7-5-5   Next block section ie. Morton Pinkney has closed*


* Morton Pinkney was often switched out with the section extended to the next 'Down' box that being Woodford West. Blakesley had duplicate equipment so that it could link to either box in the 'Down' direction.



Typical Day – Thursday 24th June 1937.


Up Line           Bell Code       Time arrived              Description


                        (F.J.R.Butler on duty 10.00 pm 23/6/1937).

                        3:2                   2.45 am                      12.21 am Broom – St Pancras Express Freight

                        3                      7.28 am                      7.12 am Byfield – Blisworth      Local goods

                        2:1:4               8.05 am                      Trolley returned 8.50 am Cancelled

                        5:5:5               Received X Morton Pinkney @ 8.30 am

                                                Tested through 5/2  2/5 correct

                        3:1                   9.15 am                      7.51 am Stratford - Blisworth          

                                                Clock correct 9.00 am

                        2:1:4               9.30 am

                                                Trolley arrived back cancelled at 10.20 am

                        1:3:1               11.31 am                    L/E & brake

                        3                      1.05 pm                      9.15 am Stratford – Towcester Local goods

                        3:1                   1.26 pm                      12.15 pm Stratford – Blisworth (11.15 ex Broom)

                        3:1                   5.02 pm                      4.46 pm Byfield – Towcester (return School train)                        

3:1                   7.21 pm                      6.15 pm Stratford – Blisworth

                        7:5:5               Morton Pinkney closed 7.26 pm. Tested 5/2 & 2/5

                        3                      9.45 pm                      6.55 pm Stratford – Blisworth (Attach 3)

                        1:4                   11.58 pm                    9.40 pm Broom – Olney


Down Line

                        3                      12.43 am                    11.52 pm Blisworth – Stratford  Local goods

                        5                      2.08 am                      10.40 pm St Pancras – Broom (fitted freight)

                        1:4                   3.39 am                      ? 2.00 am Olney – Broom

                        3                      5.55 am                      5.35 am Blisworth – Woodford West

                        F.J.R. Butler off duty 6.00am R Parry on duty 6.00am

                        3:1                   9.17 am                      8.55 am Blisworth – Stratford (Broom 10.47am)

                        4:1                   10.38 am                    10.46 am Blisworth – Stratford      (Mineral)

                        4:1                   12.55 pm                    ? special working

                        3:1                   1.45 pm                      1.25 pm Blisworth – Stratford

                        R Parry off duty 2.00 pm, H Drinkwater on duty 2.00 pm.

                        3                      2.32 pm                      2.05 pm Towcester – Stratford  Local goods

                        2:1:4               4.06 pm                      Trolley

                        3:1                   4.24 pm                      4.15 pm Towcester – Byfield  (School train)

                        3:1                   6.45 pm                      6.30 pm Blisworth – Stratford

                        H Drinkwater off duty 10.00 pm, F.J.R.Butler on duty 10.00 pm.


Up Line – 10 trains, 2 trolley movements

Down Line – 11 trains, 1 trolley movement


Various extracts:


Tuesday 8.6.1937                 Down 10.36 pm         Bell code 4    Express passenger

                                                Morton Pinkney closed 11.00 pm

Saturday 12.6.1937              Up 8.12 pm                Bell code 4     Express passenger

Friday 16.6.1937                  Up 12.06 pm              Bell code 4     Express passenger

Wednesday 23.6.1937         Up 3.04 pm                Bell code 2:2:1          ECS “put 1 in siding”

Saturday 26.6.1937              Up 5.56 am                Bell code 4     Express passenger

                                                Up 11.23 am              Bell code 4     Express passenger

Monday 28.6.1937                Up 12.45 pm              Bell code 4     Express passenger

                                                Down 4.54 pm           Bell code 4     express passenger  


Wednesday 14.7.1937         “Pilot working to be in operation from M Pinkney. Lineman Sheen informed of block failure. Mr Powell left here to take forms through to M Pinkney @ 1.00 pm. Pilot working in operation 1.20 pm”.

“Staff in working order & pilot working cancelled 2.30 pm”.


Blakesley Signal Box Train Register covering 1946/47


Saturday 5th October 1946

Up Line           Bell code        Time arrived              Description

                        E Kendall on duty 10.00 pm (4.10.1946)

                        1:4                   1.59 am                      11.25 pm ex Stratford

                        1:4                   4.51 am                      12.03 am ex Gloucester

                        E Kendall off duty 6.00 am, R C Salmon on duty 6.00 am

                        3:1                   9.34 am                      7.45 am Stratford – Blisworth

                        1:4                   10.46 am                    ex Barnwood

                        1:4                   11.44 am                    8.47

                        R C Salmon off duty 12.00 noon A S Allen on duty 12.00 noon

                        1:4                   1.10 pm                      10.27 am ex Stratford

                        3                      1.46 pm                      9.15 am Stratford – Towcester Local goods

                        1:4                   7.05 pm                      ? Avonmouth – Somers town “Q”

                        3:1                   7.33 pm                      6.25 pm Stratford – Blisworth

                        3                      9.33 pm                      6.50 pm Stratford – Blisworth Local goods          

                        A S Allen off duty 10.00 pm, E Kendall on duty 10.00 pm.

                        1:4                   12.36 am                    8.30 pm ex Stratford (? to Olney)


Down Line      1:4                   2.30 am                      Return 8.30 (? Olney – Stratford)

                        1:4                   2.55 am                      1.45 Blisworth

                        1:4                   5.35 am                      Return 11.25 (? Olney – Stratford)

                        1:4                   7.00 am                      ? Blisworth – Byfield

                        3:1                   9.13 am                      8.50 am Blisworth – Stratford

                        1:4                   1.02 pm                      ?

                        3                      2.56 pm                      ? 2.05 pm Towcester – Stratford Local goods

                        1:4                   4.16 pm                      ?

                        3:1                   6.55 pm                      6.36 pm Blisworth – Stratford

                        Morton Pinkney closed 7.46 pm Tested

                        1:4                   10.32 pm                    9.30 pm Blisworth – Stratford

                        1:4                   12.36 pm                    Return 4.15


Wednesday 30th October 1946.

Up Line           R Salmons on duty 10.00 pm (29.10.1946)

                        1:4                   3.45 am

                        R Salmons off duty 6.00 am, A S Allen on duty 6.00 am

                        3:2                   7.15 am

                        Moreton Pinkney opened 8.00 am Tested

                        3:1                   9.38 am                      7.45 am Stratford – Blisworth

                        (signed) H Sheen lineman 9.40 am – (no reason given)

                        1:4                   11.10 am                    (detach 2)

                        1:4                   11.49 am                    Barnwood

                        A S Allen off duty 12.00 noon. To Lamping. E Kendall on duty 12.00 noon

                        3:1                   1.06 pm                      11.58 am Stratford – Blisworth (S.O. in 1948)

                        3                      1.32 pm                      9.31 am Stratford – Towcester Local goods

                                                                                    (Attach 2, detach 1)

                        4:1                   3.04 pm                      11.35

                        1:3:1               4.31 pm                      Engine & brake

                        3:1                   5.10 pm                      4.45 pm Byfield – Towcester (return School train)

                        1:4                   6.44 pm                      4.15

                        3:1                   7.38 pm                      6.25 pm Stratford – Blisworth

                        3                      10.24 pm                    6.55 pm Stratford – Blisworth Local goods0

                                                                                    (Attach 4, detach 2)

                        1:4                   11.27 pm                    8.30 pm ex Stratford (? To Olney)


Down Line      1:4                   2.25 am

                        1:4                   4.32 am

                        1:4                   6.26 am

                        3:1                   9.15 am                      8.50 am Blisworth – Stratford

                        1:4                   9.34 am         

                        4:1                   1.57 pm                      Express freight

                        3:1                   2.50 pm                      2.32 pm Blisworth – Byfield

                        1:4                   3.04 pm                      1.30 pm Blisworth    

                        3                      3.55 pm                      2.20 pm Towcester – Stratford Local goods        

                        3:1                   4.24 pm                      4.15 pm Towcester – Byfield (School train)

                        2:3                   5.53 pm                      2.45 pm ex Olney (Light Engine)

                        3:1                   7.02 pm                      6.36 pm Blisworth – Stratford

                        Morton Pinkney closed 7.40 pm Tested

                        E Kendall off duty 10.00 pm, R Salmons on duty 10.00 pm.

                        1:4                   10.27 pm                    9.30 pm Blisworth - Stratford

                        1:4                   11.46 pm                    Return 4.15


Extracts from 1946/47 Train register

                                                Time   Bell Code       Description               

Monday 26.8.1946                1.32pm           4          Down to (?) Stratford           

Thursday 29.8.1946              12.52 pm        4              “      “   “        “

Saturday 28.9.1946              Failure of token instruments between Blakesley and Woodford West Jct. Pilot working from 9.37 pm. Trains “accepted by phone accompanied by pilotman ticket. Morton Pinkney opened & closed 3.25 am (29.9.1946). Through working established 3.30 am.

Tuesday 29.10.1946            9.50 am          4          Down

                                                3.13 pm          4          Up  “Special”

Wednesday 6.11.1946         Fogman sent for 8.15 pm

Friday 15.11.1946                1.31 pm          1:4       Down – “Special B D”

Thursday 21.11.1946           11.31 am        1:4       Down – “Special”

                                                3.15 pm          2:3       Up – “Special” (Light engine)

Saturday 23.11.1946            1.00 pm          3          “above full train unable to attach” (Local goods)

Tuesday 26.11.1946            10.47 am        1:4       Down – “Special”

Wednesday 27.11.1946      “Instructions from M T Harpur to caution all Down Trains on account of floods. Instruction received 4.30 am until further notice”.

                                                11.58 pm        1:4       Down – “Special”

Thursday 28.11.1946           11.37 am        1:4       Down – “Special”

Saturday 30.11.1946            1.17 am          1:4       Down – “Special”

Tuesday 3.12.1946               11.14 am        4          Up

                                                1.39 pm          3          Down - “Above arrived at 1.39 pm Detach 1 wagon 21mins ready to depart at 1.58 pm – found another Blakesley wagon on train no time to set back to detach before passenger train”. Cancelled forward at 2.07 pm. Following local passenger accepted at 2.06 pm, arrived 2.18 pm. Next after this:

                                                2.47 pm          4          Down

Then:                                       3.00 pm          3          Local goods shunted previously onto Up road – departs for Morton Pinkney.

Friday 6.12.1946                  Crews off local freight “Changing over”.

Friday 13.12.1946                12.21 pm        1:4       Up - “Special”

Saturday 21.12.1946            11.43 pm        2:2:1   Up - ECS

Monday 23.12.1946             1.26 pm          3          Down – “Driver refused to go on”

                                                                                    - ? engine or weather conditions (Local goods)


April 1947.

Exercise to count the number of train movements per shift.

e.g. Monday/Tuesday 14.4.1947/15.4.1947                      Up                               Down


Shifts:             10.00pm – 6.00am                           3                                  4

                        6.00am – 2.00pm                             6                                  3

                        2.00pm – 10.00pm                           3                                  5

                                                                                 12                                12


Friday 9.5.1947                     7.50 pm          1:4       Down – “Special”

Friday 23.5.1947                  3.17 am          1:4       Down – “Special”

Saturday 24.5.1947              9.25 am          3:1       Detach 1, load Cattle            (Local passenger)

Wednesday 28.5.1947         12.15 pm        4          Up “Special”

Friday 30.5.1947                  8.23 pm          1:4       Down – “Special”




Robin J Cullup 4.3.2014

Some notes about the extracts

I recently reinterviewed Bob Salmons one of the signalmen whose name appears in the register and asked him some of the questions that various people have raised with me since reading the extracts. Of the people named  in the 1937 extract he recalls that FJR Butler and Harold Drinkwater were Blakesley residents and that Harold was still one of the signalmen when Bob himself worked at Blakesley box.  But naturally as Bob was still at school in 1937 he can't provide that much information about what went on pre-war. However he sheds some light on the events of 14th July 1937, Linesman Sheen would have tried to locate the source of the signalling fault and Mr Powell who was Blakesley's stationmaster at the time became the 'human Blakesley - Morton Pinkney token' acting as pilot on trains through the section. The fault must have been sorted quickly as piloting only lasted for 70 minutes.

Bob remembers the two other signalmen who were on duty with him during October 1946. Ernie Kendall of Abthorpe was brother of Bill Kendall whose memories formed an article  in British Railway Journal No 76. Ernie was later promoted to signalman at Towcester.  A S (Stuart) Allen was a Towcester resident who worked at Blakesley signalbox.  Linesman H S Sheen may well have  arrived at 9.38am on the Stratford - Blisworth, signing the register 2 minutes later for some reason.  Bob says that he sometimes brought tokens to Blakesley when a shortage of tokens had occured if several trains had passed in the same direction without a train in the opposite direction to return one and if a further token was likely to be required. Another explanation is that he might have simply signed to show that he had arrived at Blakesley after walking a section. After all there seems to be much inconsistency in the way in which different signalmen kept the non-essential  information parts of the register.  M T Harper who advised of the flooding that down trains needed to be aware of was the signalling inspector, who could turn up unannounced at any time. Bob says that Mr Harper often travelled on good trains in order to ensure that his imminent arrival was undetected!

'Yard duties' and 'Lamping' that are referred to in the extracts occured when the stationmaster arranged for signalmen to be relieved 2 hours before the end of their shift by the oncoming signalman who worked two hours overtime.  Ostensibly this was in order to sheet wagons or service lamps on the two fixed distant signals. In actuality these duties often consisted mainly of tending Blakesley station's award winning flower beds!  Stationmaster Cecil Smart also kept a smallholding and supplied the Dower House's head gardener with cow manure in return for top quality bedding plants in abundance.

Several trains were described as 'Special' in the register.  Bob explained that these were any workings that were not in the regular working timetable and usually consisted of munitions or military equipment trains to and from Kineton, but banana trains were often listed as 'Special' too. Personally I well remember seeing special working of armoured vehicles and field guns passing through Blakesley in the '50s. Other 'Specials' included passenger excursions to and from Stratford upon Avon which usually ran on Sundays or during Stratford Mop. Presumably these passenger workings would have required a 3 -1 bell code and not the 4 bell code of the up working on 28/5/1947 which remains a bit of a mystery.  It is unlikely that in the middle of the day that it was a non stop returning excursion, perhaps it was a diverted (RAF?) troop train.

Thanks again to Bob for sharing his knowledge and memories.

Dick Bodily ( July 2014)


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Comment by Dick Bodily on July 3, 2014 at 15:02

Several questions were posed by these extracts.  I have spoken to Bob Salmons (one of the signalmen on duty in 1946-7 whose signature is seen in the extracts) and he has been able to give answers to many of these questions.  As a result I've added some notes with some of these answers to the end of this webpage and if there are any more questions that arise from the extracts I'll ask Bob about them when I see him again.


Comment by Peter S Lewis on April 23, 2014 at 10:57


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