Signal Box

Portobello East Signal Box

Postcard by an unknown publisher  -  Possibly Joppa Signal Box

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh



Archie Foley

Joppa, Edinburgh

Thank you to Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh, for sending me this postcard image.  There is no publisher's name and no date on the postcard.  It has 'Joppa (switch)' written in pencil on the back, but see Answer 2 below

Archie writes:

Where and When?

"Perhaps the very knowledgeable railway enthusiasts who access your site could confirm that this signal box was indeed at Joppa, and if possible give an approximate date.  Can anybody comment?"

Archie Foley, Joppa, Edinburgh:  December 17, 2006

Let's hope that the knowledgeable railway enthusiasts are not all out doing last-minute Christmas shopping!

If you can help to answer this question, please e-mail me, then I'll pass your message on to Archie. 

Thank you.      -  Peter Stubbs:  December 21, 2007




Alan Grieve

Minehead, Somerset, England

Thank you to Alan Grieve, now living in Minehead, Somerset, England, for sending the comments below.  Alan used to live in Inveresk, near Musselburgh, and helped in some of the signal boxed in the area before moving to England.

Alan wrote:

It's not Joppa

"Look at the picture of the N15 locomotive at Joppa (below).   Joppa signal box appears behind the loco.  You can see that Joppa was a small signal box with only four windows in the front.

Edinburgh Railways  -  Joppa Station  -  1957 ©

It only controlled the double- track main line and the entrance to the east end of Portobello Yard.

The photograph at the top of this page is of a much larger box."

It may be Portobello East

"Is that is tree foliage visible through the end window.  If so, the signal box could be Portobello East.

Portobello East was on a gantry alongside the footbridge where the Waverley route met the East Coast route.  It spanned the tracks, unlike most boxes.

Of course, the end windows looked out at right angles to the railway. The southern end windows faced the park alongside.

I donít know the layout inside the box, whether the signalman faced Edinburgh or London when he was at the frame, or where the entrance was."

Probably not  Portobello West

"Portobello West signal box was on the down side between the station and the entrance to Craigentinny Carriage Sidings.  It was a substantial box and had a 58 lever frame, the signalman facing the track when operating it.  The door was at the station end but there is no door visible in the photo so I think that rules out the West box."

Possibly Craigentinny

"The photo may possibly have been of Craigentinny Signal Box.  It was also quite a long box."

Alan also gave some background to his answer.  He wrote:

Helping in Signal Boxes

"I had a friend who was a signalman, at Newhailes Junction when I first met him, and then at Portobello West.   I spent a lot of time in the early 1960ís working both boxes with him in the evenings when he was on back shift, or at Portobello West when he was on the night shift.

Joppa, of course, was the next box to Newhailes so our bell communication in the Edinburgh direction was with it.  Monktonhall Junction was next on the main line to the east and there was Musselburgh at the end of the branch

Despite all this I never did manage to get into Joppa box or Portobello East box."

Move to England

"I was brought up in Inveresk [Inveresk lies about 2 miles ESE of Joppa].

I now live in Minehead, Somerset.  It's funny how things work out.  Although I never worked for the railway I am now a volunteer signalman on the West Somerset Railway."

Alan Grieve, Minehead, Somerset:  January 11, 2008




Ian Young

Fisherrow, East Lothian, Scotland

Thank you to Ian Young who wrote:

Portobello East

"This is without a doubt Portobello East, probably back in the 1930s/40s, as when I started there in 1959 the floor had linoleum on it which was bumpered to a mirror like shine.

-  The frame faced towards Portobello West.

-   It had a 94 lever Stevens frame

-   Spaces

-   Spare Levers

-  Portobello East controlled Up Fast, Up Slow, Down Fast and Down Slow lines to and from Portobello West.

-  On the other side it worked to Joppa on the East Coast Main line and to Niddrie North on the Waverley route.

-   It also controlled the east entrance/exit to Portobello Yard.

-  The heaviest pull was a set of switch diamonds Nos 21 and 43.

Ian Young, Fisherrow, East Lothian, Scotland:  September 23, 2008"




Gordon Davie

Thank you to Gordon Davie who wrote:

Portobello East

    Postcard by an unknown publisher  -  Possibly Joppa Signal Box ©

"My uncle showed me this photo on your site of Portobello East signal box.

The man in the foreground in shirt sleeves is my grandfather, William Davie.  He died in 1949.  Judging by his appearance, I  think that the photo would have been taken in the late 1930s"

Gordon Davie:  April 23, 2014




George Renton

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Thank you to George Renton who wrote:


"As for the picture of the signal box, when looking at the background, what you are looking at is the side of the bulkhead for the Brunstane Road overpass.

    Postcard by an unknown publisher  -  Possibly Joppa Signal Box ©

This was my local station when I lived there 'till 1965."

Inside the Box

"I was only ever inside the box once, for a short visit.  That's when I learned you could clean very grimy windows with vinegar-soaked newspaper."

Other Buildings

"The Station Master's Office was next door, with the permanently attached cast iron drinking cup on a chain fastened to the spigot on the wall.   The coal fire heated Waiting Room was across the footbridge on the other side."

Dark, Foggy, Frosty Night

"The foot bridge obscures the Brunstane Street bridge.  I remember one dark, foggy, frosty night, while on a marathon dog walk/run, hearing a loco, ascending what I think was the elevated South Leith right of way that is now Sir Harry Lauder connector.

The track took you up the the coal mine at Niddrie.  Anyway, the engineer was having a bad time of it. I couldn't see it in the gloom, but the engine was slipping on the rails. The classic 'shoo! shooo! shooo, shooo, shoo, start over, break traction, start over.'"

Racing Pigeons

"This high level bridge was just west of Joppa station.  Sometimes there would be baskets of racing pigeons outside the Station Master's Office."

George Renton, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada:  May 22, 2014



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