Methley Junction
Methley Junction signal box was a Midland 2a structure of 1891, at the time named Methley North Junction. The Midland tumbler frame of 26 levers you see is original to the structure, though two levers, A and B were added at the low number end at some point.

The line on which it stands was built as a through route from Derby to Leeds by the North Midland Railway in 1840, having received Royal Assent on 4th July four years earlier. The line was only under ownership of the NMR for four more years before this was merged into part of the Midland Railway's swelling empire in 1844. Nothing is known about Methley Junction's predecessor, though it was almost certainly a similar Midland signal box.

By the time I visited in August 1997, it had less then a month of life left. By this time it was working Track Circuit Block by single stroke bell both northwards to Stourton signal box, a nasty Portacabin affair of 1981 with an N-X panel, and by the same means southward to the equally abhorrent Altofts Junction signal box of 1991- merely an Individual Function Switch panel housed in a relay room.

By way of contrast, working eastwards was by Absolute Block towards Whitwood. Here stood a far more interesting type S1b 50 lever cabin of 1890, though one built by a rival company, the North Eastern Railway, whose line still to this day curves in from Castleford and the east. This line opened almost simultaneously with the NMR (later Midland Railway) in the summer of 1840 as the line from York via Burton Salmion was completed. However, the curve through to Whitwood has had a chequered past. It was closed as a through route on 30th June 1929, the southern portion being retained for local colliery traffic. Mehtley North's connections were severed by 1931 and that, it seemed was that. After a 36 year hiatus and as a result of an ultimately dead-end attempt to develop Stourton Junction as a freight epicentre, track was remodelled along the route in 1967. The Whitwood curve was reopened after the Whitwood-Methely South signal box alignment was slewed on 19th March. From 30th July, once more, Methley North signal box had a junction. Despite the fortunes at Stourton not being forthcoming, the curve survives for passenger traffic.

Back in 1960, Methley Junction's then neighbours were far more plentiful and closer at hand. Heading south under Absolute Block regulations towards Normanton and Derby on the Midland Railway, the next box south by 1m 814 yards was the impressive mass of Altofts Junction, a Midland timber structure replaced on 16th January 1995 by the aforementioned relay room.

This signal box controlled, amongst others, the 1840 southern curve of the North Eastern Railway (formerly York and North Midland) fork that met with the Midland Railway southwards. The northern curve of the fork met with the MR at Methley Junction, both emanating from the Whitwood direction.

Back on 6th October 1971, Altoft Junction's ballroom sized operating floor was emptied of its lever frame. In its place, an Individual Function Switch panel was installed at one end, making for what must have become a very empty barren workplace. Wholesale replacement of semaphores with colour lights was undertaken as far as Methley Junction.

At the same time, Absolute Block regulations were superceded by Track Circuit Block regulations between Altofts Junction and Methley Junction. Even back then, the first nails were in the coffin for signal box.

Heading north from Methley Junction along the Midland Main line, again by Absolute Block, the next signal box, 1m 242 yards away, was Methley North Sidings.

Another junction existed at Methley Junction directly opposite the signal box (the former YNM line to Castleford being immediately south of the signal box, referred to rather snappily as Methley Midland and North Eastern Junction). This other line was the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway's line via Lofthouse Junction from Knottingley and Pontefract via Cutsyke Junction. Being a latecomer, it opened to passengers from April 1850.This line, which crossed above the NER curve to Whitwood and Castleford, closed to passengers on 7th August 1968, but freight hung on for another two decades, until final closure of this route as far as Cutsyke on 23rd February 1981 The track was lifted in spring of the following year. The next signal box along this line was only 1036 yards away at Lofthouse Junction.

This early Saxby and Farmer type 8 signal box latterly had an 18 lever McKenzie and Holland type 16 frame and worked to Methley Junction by Absolute Block. For many years it was plagued by vandalism and when unmanned was boarded up. By good fortune, I have the final diagram from Lofthouse Junction! It is also noteworthy that upon its final eradication, Lofthouse Junction yielded a good deal of signalling equipment which was rehomed and saw many years of use at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway.

It is worth mentioning that Methley was a junction of such a significance as to have to this day a suburb of Methley named after it. At its peak, Methley enjoyed the lavish provision of no less then three separate stations. Methley L&Y station stood opposite the signal box on a sharp curve trending towards Knottingley. The other two were Methley South (or Joint) on the GN, L&Y and NE joint line) and Methley Midland station, north of the signal box. Needless to say, all three have passed into history.

On Saturday 13th September 1997, Castleford Station, Castleford Gates and Whitwood signal boxes closed. Two days later, a new 2 story high portacabin “Turn and Push” N-X panel signal box, located diagonally opposite Castleford Gates signal box assumed control of the area, working by Track Circuit Block to Milford Junction, Cutsyke Junction, Altofts Junction and Methley Junction.

Only five days later on 20th September, Methley Junction and Altofts Junction also followed into oblivion. Two days after that, the new signal box's area had taken over their area of control.

Though preservation attempts were made towards Methley Junction, its relative inaccessibility by road proved to be its achilles' heel.

The passing earnest seeker can still make out the outline of Methley Junction signal box today, slowly disappearing into the undergrowth. one wonders if future generations playing in the back gardens of Pinders Green Fold will ever know what little piece of history once presided high on the embankment above them.

All photos taken in August 1997
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