MATJIESFONTEIN

Matjiesfontein is on the electrified main line from Cape Town to Johannesburg, 314 kilometers by rail from Cape Town. The main line has always been single track over this section. It is quite well know in South Africa as wayside stop on the road between South Africa's main cities as there the whole village is monument to South Africa in the Victorian era. The place was established by a Scot, James Douglas Logan in the late 1800s, who established the place and made a reasonable fortune selling water to the thirsty trains that passed through the area.

The line through Matjiesfontein has long been under Centralised Traffic Control, which replaced the mechanical signalling around 1980. The station is unmanned, but now serves as a museum of the Victorian era, and has some railway artifacts including the original signal box, pictured on this page.

The top picture shows the main signal gantry, similar to many on main lines in South Africa that feature two passing loops in addition to the main line, making an impressive line-up of three signals high above the line. These signals are now in front of the station, showing an aspect that those familiar with railway signalling would clearly know is impossible. A London bus completes the scene!

Inside the signal box, we see a frame of 20 levers, fairly typical of wayside signal boxes that once were all over the country. The Van Schoor instruments that provided the tokens for the single line working can be on the right. Stop signal levers are painted red, distant signal levers are painted green, points are painted black, point locks are painted blue and various release-type levers are grey.

Here is the signal box diagram. One can see that each end, there was a home signal gantry of three signals, allowing entrance to the main line, loop 1 and loop 2. Each end also has a two points for each of the loops and a point lock. There are safety bars for each of the three running lines, and a switching out lever, which cover the grey levers numbered 9 to 12. Approaching from the south (left on the diagram), there was a distant signal and an outer home signal -these are bracketed together in another typical South African arrangement. From the north side, there is only a distant signal. No outer home was provided for due to the climbing gradient on the southbound approach. An up outer home at danger would have necessitated trains having to restart from stationary on the gradient.

There are no starting signals as for all South African single lines -the token effectively acted as a starting signal to proceed to the next section.

Matjiesfontein remains a monument to the many hundreds of wayside signal boxes in South Africa that have just about passed into history -one hopes it will remain in good condition to remind people of our signalling legacy.


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