While Zim and I had been making our efforts to obtain the Holy Grail (or railway signal as most people might have considered it), we’d shared our progress with a couple of other friends, Boo (don’t ask, it’s a long story) and Ian (just to prove I wasn’t the only one in our group with a boring name). At the time, we were a tight-knit foursome. We’d started at the Comp at the same time, so had known each other half our lives by this point.
Having heard about our exploits on the viaduct, both Boo and Ian had been interested and seemed impressed when we finally secured our prize. Several pints were shared in celebration after the event, with Boo in particular expressing regret that he hadn’t been able to participate.
And so all went quiet for a week or two until Zim made an announcement: “I was looking out my office window today. They’ve replaced it!”
“I thought you said we could nick it because it wasn’t in use.”
“It isn’t in use.”
“Well, why have they replaced it then?”
This discussion went on for some time, but eventually we concluded it was time to give Boo the opportunity he wanted.
A few nights later, three young men set off down the train line tooled up for a signal extraction. This time, the bolts were fresh and didn’t need anything like the amount of effort the first one had caused us. Within a quarter of an hour, we had Boo’s booty in our bag and were walking back the way we’d come. That’d teach British Rail.
Another week or so passed before Zim made his next announcement. “I was looking out my office window today…”
And the discussion we’d had before was resurrected, resulting in the same conclusion. There was no rail traffic on that line, hadn’t been for a long time, and there was no practical reason for putting that signal there. This was becoming a matter of principle. I’d put in several nights’ effort. It was my turn to get one.
I don’t think Boo came along on this occasion. Why would he? But it didn’t take long. The bolts were still fresh and the removal took only a few minutes before we were on our way again. After making several late-night trips for the benefit of others, now I had a signal to call my own.
It’ll come as no surprise to discover that, within two weeks, Zim was again agitated by the replacement of the signal. Because there was no obviously good reason to have one in place and, I have to say, there’s still none we’re aware of to this day.
We roped Ian in to join us for a midnight excursion – after all, he might as well have this one!
So we headed out on a now familiar path to retrieve what we were fast starting to think of as our birthright.
Sadly, Ian wasn’t in luck. When we arrived at the signal post, the ladder had been removed, cutting off any means of us reaching the signal. Presumably BR had decided enough was enough.
After getting over our initial frustration, we could see the funny side of it. Both BR and us were getting frustrated by the situation – albeit for completely different reasons – but it was some anonymous bureaucrat who had come up with the plan to finally thwart our intentions.
For several years, my own signal was kept on display in my house in much the same way as any other trophy might be. Eventually, I passed it on to my son. Not because I considered it to be a family heirloom, but because he was going through a phase where he loved trains. He’s grown out of that phase, but he still has the signal. And here it is, in all its glory…
I should add here that, as far as I was aware at the time, there was never any risk posed by us taking those signals. That said, Zim himself has indicated in a comment on Part One that there was a good reason for the signal to be there. Hopefully he will enlighten us in the comments here.
That aside, with maturity (I know some would question that assertion), I do recognise that this is not a course of action I would recommend to readers. Not only does it involve theft, but there was the potential for any one of us to injure ourselves as we stumbled about in a slightly less than sober state in the dark on a train track. But sometimes there are times when our actions are less than honourable, yet reflecting on them brings a smile to the face. This is one of mine and I have no regrets about it.
Incidentally, in more recent years, Zim has worked on resurrecting that train line for use with old locomotives, and was delighted to return the original signal to the post it had been on all those years ago. I only wish I’d been there to see it.