A History of Ashburton Junction Signalling.
Ashburton Junction was, as the name would suggest, the junction on the main line where the Ashburton branch line commenced. On opening of the branch a new signal box was provided to control train movements on and off of the branch, this box was called Ashburton Junction. It was located close to mile post 222 ˝, opened in 1872 little is currently known about the box other than the fact that it was little more than a small hut with a ground frame. This hut lasted until 1884 when it was replaced by a fully interlocked signal box, most likely a GWR Type 5 brick box. It had a 31-lever frame which was probably of the double twist type but no records can yet be found to confirm this. This newer box was located a few yards east of the old hut but the old hut appears to have remained in situ for a good few years, maybe as a PW or lamp hut.
In 1907 the Ashburton Junction Down Refuge Siding was converted into a Goods Loop and the lever frame was extended to take 35 levers. 1914 saw the frame replaced with a 42-lever VT3 bar type frame, this was to enable the box to control a new facing connection on to the Totnes Quay Branch, this however was worked by a lever frame until 1923 when a new 72-lever Signal box was installed at Totnes station. This new box controlled all the pointwork at the east end of the station which had previously been worked from Ashburton Junction, this inevitably left Ashburton Junction box with quite a few spare levers. In July 1932 the branch junction was re-laid from a double lead into a single lead and on the 30th April 1933 Ashburton Junction Signal Box was taken out of use and control of its last few signals and points were transferred to the station signal box which had a new 111-lever frame installed for the purpose.
Ashburton Junction was not a block post when first opened, operating under instruction from Totnes station box, but at some point prior to 1884 it became a block post for both the main line and the branch.
When the Dart Valley Railway Company took over then line they initially ran train from Buckfastleigh to the end of the branch, in April 1985 the DVR came to an agreement with British Railways and began to run trains once more into Totnes station but owing to high charges imposed by BR this agreement soon ended in 1988 and work was started on a new station between the Hampstead farm bridge and the river Dart. This station was initially called Totnes Riverside and latterly the current name Totnes Littlehempston was adopted. The station layout was basic with little more than a run round loop which was worked by a ground frame and ground levers.
In 1987 negotiations were under way to purchase Athelney Signal Box, on the West of England Main Line between Cogload Junction (Taunton) and Somerton, for use at Totnes Riverside (Littlehempston). BR had agreed to include in the price the delivery of the box’ by rail to Totnes. The purchase of the box’ was to be funded by the Dart Valley Railway Association and was envisaged to take between two and four years to reconstructed and could be brought into full use in stages and the box could be used on two train running days and work with Staverton and Buckfastleigh Signal Boxes.