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The Leicester Gap (Hardback)

The Last Semaphore Signalling on the Midland Main Line

Transport > Trains & Railways

By Michael Vanns
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 173
Illustrations: 200
ISBN: 9781473878570
Published: 11th July 2018



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Until 1987, there was still a busy stretch of British main line railway where traditional Victorian operating practices were used to control the movements of both express passenger and a variety of freight trains.

At the heart of the former Midland Railway main line from St Pancras to Sheffield, the 45-mile section between Irchester in Northamptonshire and Loughborough in Leicestershire was equipped with semaphore signals worked from twenty-three mechanical signalboxes. It was the last main line in the country where this once-standard arrangement remained virtually unchanged since the days of steam. This pocket of mechanical signalling was christened The Leicester Gap, because Leicester was to be the site of a new power signalbox, the last in a chain of just five that would control the whole of the Midland Main Line into the twenty-first century.

From 1984 when resignalling work started, to 1987 when it was completed, the author photographed as many trains passing through the Leicester Gap as he could. This book is the result of those efforts.

All photographs have informative captions, and appropriately illustrate the narrative in each chapter.
This is an outstanding book, very highly recommended.

Railway Correspondence and Travel Society

This is a high-class work, well produced and with copious good illustration. It will be of particular interest to students of signalling, but will also appeal to the general railway enthusiast.

Wessex Transport Society

About Michael Vanns

Michael Vanns was born in Newark-on-Trent in 1956. After studying history and history of art at Leicester University, and a short spell at Tamworth Castle Museum, Michael joined the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in 1978. He remained there until 2009, working on a variety of projects starting with the Elton Collection which examined the Industrial Revolution through contemporary prints, drawings and books. He is the author of ‘Witness to Change: A Record of the Industrial Revolution’, an appreciation of the Elton Collection published in 2003. He was involved in museum education and in a number of large Heritage Lottery funded projects, including the refurbishment of the country’s best preserved Victorian decorative tileworks, and the recreation of a small town Victorian street. For both these projects he was responsible for designing the displays and, in the case of the latter, the choice of buildings that were to be reconstructed.

During his career he has also written and had published 13 books, all but two on railway subjects. These include a number of works on British railway signalling as well as ‘The Railways of Newark-on-Trent’ (Oakwood), ‘Rail Centres: Nottingham’ (Ian Allan) and ‘Severn Valley Railway: a View from the Past’ (Ian Allan).

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