Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3

Coffee Pot Tales #3

The third in the series on London Underground’s coffee pot signals! Since publishing part two, the discovery of an old photograph of Earl’s Court station has prompted some changes hence this becomes an extra post, however it will be important in relation to a later post covering one of London Underground’s most unique coffee pot signals (yes there is one – you just need to look for it – so different from the others!)

As there are no records I deducted from my research that coffee pot signals began life around 1911 or 1912. The publication of one photograph on Twitter this week of Earls Court during what is said to be the year 1910, doesn’t show well not very visibly, at least two pairs of coffee pot signals on the westernmost canopy above platforms 3 and 4.

Another photograph I found taken two decades later shows a fantastic close up of these signals (a crop which is shown below) and by comparing the one from Twitter, one can see the Metropolitan District railway was using coffee pots, possibly as early as 1910.

The one problem with this is a cross-reference with the LT museum site claims the dates in question are actually 1911, so unless Old London has proof the date is 1910, I’ll stick with 1911 as perhaps the earliest start date for installing coffee pot signals across the underground network.

Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3

Earls Court in 1910 – possibly it could be slightly later. Source: Twitter. (Note: Tweet now deleted thus a screencap is used.)

Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3

I took this picture last weekend after seeing the above tweet – thus a before/after for comparing. Its as near a perspective to the original as possible. It was a miserable day & the light was very poor so not a brilliant photograph.

The next couple of pictures show the western end of the Earl’s Court platforms in c1930 and late January 2018, especially its a crop to show in close up the coffee pot signals on platform four. This bit was modernised in the mid 1930s thus these particular coffee pot signals had likely been removed by the time those works were undertaken – possibly they were replaced by Westinghouse repeaters.

Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3
Coffee pot signals at Earl’s Court in the 1930s.

These coffee pot signals are unusual ones because they have four lenses instead of two. In those days where bi directional working was possible (eg trains could reverse at the platforms in question) these examples would be found. There’s STILL two non functional coffee pot signals of this type to be found on the London Underground system and both of those are at stations where train reversals were once possible.

There is a comparable picture on the LT museum site (though its not as good as the one above) showing the other pair of coffee pots on platform three.

Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3

The same exact location where these coffee pot signals once stood.

It seems coffee pot signals were an easy and convenient means of providing simple repeater signals for these semaphores. Yet being so useful they outlasted the semaphores and thus became part of the modern LT colour light signalling schemes until about the 1930s. The western half of Earl’s Court was rebuilt in 1934 and I assume these coffee pots were then replaced by more modern signals. At other stations they of course survived because there was no rebuilding work undertaken and did the job anyway.

These signals are clearly tied in with the use of semaphore signals (some of which can be seen in the first Twitter pic.) A better picture of the station’s signals (these are by platform 2 eastbound) are shown on this Tweet:

Hyde Park Now-Coffee Pot Tales #3

Earl’s Court in 1905 apparently. I think it may have been a bit later. Source: Twitter. (Note: Tweet has been deleted thus an archived image is used.)

The coffee pot signals were clearly in use as repeaters for platform staff or train guards who stepped onto the platform as part of their duties to check the road ahead was all clear. Its amazing to see the how the 1934 rebuild replicates the old layout hence the present canopies at the western end are exactly where the originals stood.

Since this is an extra post, it seems prodigious to mention Baker Street. I can’t show the picture as its LT’s domain however it shows the Bakerloo did have coffee pot signals. This picture was taken in June 1979. Whether these were installed in the very early years of the 20th Century (as part of works across the lines belonging to the Underground Electric Railways company) I couldn’t say. The Bakerloo had a fair bit of signal renewal after the line was split with the section to Stanmore becoming the Jubilee Line in 1979 thus these coffee pots were replaced by more modern signals because evidently the system had to be largely rewired in order to separate the Jubilee line section from the Bakerloo at Baker Street.