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Signalman in operating signal levers during wartime, c. 1940

Signalman in operating signal levers during wartime, c. 1940


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Filename: 34.jpg

Size: 4712 x 3306 (2.1MB)

Date: 28th February 2014

Source: STEAM Museum of the GWR

Unique Reference Number: W8 015

© STEAM Museum of the GWR

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Signalman in operating signal levers during wartime, c. 1940

A signalman in his gas mask continues normal duties at this unknown signalbox. But what is interesting about this photograph is the strange looking metal cabinet with its door ajar stood in the corner of the signalbox. This cabinet is actually a small air raid shelter for the signalman to retreat to. The shelters were nicknamed coffins as there was just enough space to fit one person. The large number of windows in a signalbox made them dangerous places to be in an air raid, so the coffins were installed to provide shelter from shattering glass and debris. The coffins were made of boiler-plate and were manufactured in the L2 (Tank) Shop at Swindon Works

STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway

Media ID 19929918

© STEAM Museum of the GWR

Signal Box Swindon Works World War 2 Coffin Gas Mask Signalman


FEATURES IN THESE COLLECTIONS

> People > War Workers

> The Railway at War > Second World War

> The Railway at War

> Signalling

> Swindon Works > Locomotive Works


EDITORS COMMENTS
In this intriguing print from c. 1940, we catch a glimpse of the bravery and dedication of a signalman during wartime. Clad in his gas mask, this anonymous hero continues to operate the signal levers at an unknown signalbox, undeterred by the chaos unfolding around him. However, what truly captures our attention is the peculiar metal cabinet with its door slightly ajar, standing quietly in one corner of the signalbox. Little do we know that this seemingly innocent cabinet serves as a small air raid shelter for the signalman himself. These shelters were aptly nicknamed "coffins" due to their cramped size - just enough space for one person to seek refuge within. The presence of these coffins sheds light on the perilous nature of working in a signalbox during an air raid. With numerous windows making them vulnerable targets for shattering glass and debris, it was crucial for these brave individuals to have some form of protection. Manufactured at Swindon Works' L2 (Tank) Shop using sturdy boiler-plate material, these coffins provided much-needed safety amidst uncertainty and danger. They stand as testament to both innovation and resilience in times of war. This photograph not only immortalizes an ordinary day's work for a dedicated signalman but also offers us insight into their extraordinary circumstances during World War II.

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