Red Wheel celebrates special rockfall signals

John Cameron CBE, vice president of the National Transport Trust (left) with Doug Carmichael, chairman of Friend of The West Highland Lines at the unveiling of the plaque. All photographs: Graham Atkins

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A Red Wheel plaque to celebrate the special ‘stone signals’ on the railway above Loch Awe and through the Pass of Brander has been unveiled by the National Transport Trust’s vice president John Cameron CBE.

The plaque and plate below it, displayed at the entrance to Falls of Cruachan station, have been funded by Friends of The West Highland Lines.

Unique on the UK’s railway network, the tripwire signalling has been in operation since 1882 to protect the railway against rockfalls down the steep slopes of Ben Cruachan.

It was the idea of John Anderson, mentor and secretary of the Callander and Oban Railway, which opened through to Oban in 1880. There are 17 signals guarding this stretch of line.

Mr Cameron explained that local railway workers nicknamed it ‘Anderson’s Piano’ as wind caused ‘whistling-like sound’ through the fence of wires above the railway.

He paid tribute to its continuing role over nearly 140 years in protecting trains.

He recalled: ‘Many years ago, I remember travelling to Oban one dark, winter’s night on the Night Mail train.

‘A signal at red appeared in front of us and an immediate brake application brought us to a safe stand.

‘We went out to inspect the line and sure enough a fairly substantial boulder was lying on the track between the rails.’

The Red Wheel is Britain’s 136th and the eighth to be unveiled in Scotland by the National Transport Trust, whose aim is to promote and encourage the permanent preservation of transport items of historical or technical interest.

Their royal patron Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Anne.

 

Pic cap: John Cameron CBE, vice president of the National Transport Trust, left, with Doug Carmichael, chairman of Friend of The West Highland Lines at the unveiling of the plaque.
All photographs: Graham Atkins