As he walks in the countryside, the narrator sees and later meets the signalman, whom he spots by the train tracks below him, standing "on the top of the steep cutting." The signalman seems distracted because, rather than looking up, he turns himself around and looks down the tracks.
After the narrator calls a second time, the signalman turns himself around. Then, the narrator asks how to descend and reach this signalman; however, suddenly the earth shakes and the train in "a violent pulsation" passes through and skim[s] away over the landscape. When this thundering noise ends, the narrator follows the signalman's instructions and finds a rough zigzag path down the slope.
Nearing the train tracks, the narrator notices the strange fear that the signalman exhibits as well as his gesture of "watchfulness and expectation." This reaction to him causes the narrator to stop and wonder momentarily as he reaches the spot where the man stands. Added to the "great dungeon" of the tunnel, the walls of which drip with the dampness, and the gloomy atmosphere and "forbidding air" of the place, there is a Gothic feel to this meeting.