Great Northern Railway


Opened: 1876

Closed: ——

Location code: E17/05

Heckington signal boxOpened in 1876, Heckington represents one of the most attractive and elegant designs used by the Great Northern.

Notable features of this particular design are the pointed tops to the locking-room windows (picked out in two brick colours) which have sashed frames. Small boards are provided at the top of the operating floor windows, to give a curved appearance. Those windows are four panes high and reach into the eaves of the roof. The bargeboards match those found on 1875 - 1878 boxes like St James Deeping, but other features compare better with Shepreth.

The mixture of "Way Out" and "No Exit" signs seem a touch contradictory!

Inside Heckington boxThe lever frame inside the box is not the original, but an 18-lever replacement provided in January 1925. However, this frame came second-hand from East Lincolnshire Junction (Boston) and must in fact be nearly as old as Heckington box itself.

Above the levers, on the instrument shelf, is a set of GN instruments. From left to right are:

  1. Non-pegger, for signalling Down trains to Hubberts Bridge
  2. Block bell to Hubberts Bridge
  3. Pegger, for accepting Up trains from Hubberts Bridge

Further to the right is a closing switch, unlikely to be used much as there is a level crossing here that necessitates the box to be manned at all times that trains run. Beside that is a cardboard box that quite possibly contains metal polish, judging by the shine on the lever handles!

Close-up view of lever frame at HeckingtonWhat is particularly interesting about this frame is that it is one of very few Saxby & Farmer frames that retained its original "rocker" or "dog" locking into recent years - the majority were been relocked with tappets long ago.

Saxby & Farmer rocker interlockingThe locking mechanism runs in a rack behind the levers, and is driven by the "rockers" which are positioned between the levers and centrally pivoted. By being connected to the catch-handle, these provide three positions for the interlocking - normal, in-between, and reversed.

This was in fact one of the earliest interlocking mechanisms whereby the locking was driven, and controlled, by the catch-handle rather than the lever itself.

In these views, levers 16 and 17 (which work the pedestrian wicket gates) have been left by the signalman slightly out of the catch to allow easier operation when needed. As wicket gates are not normally interlocked with signals and points, this does not have any effect on the working of other levers. Lever 18, the Gate Stops lever, is fully reversed.

Although the Great Northern bought frames from a wide range of contractors, they did specify lever spacing at four inches in most cases, which led to some variation from contractor's standards. This type of frame was normally provided at five inch centres.

Heckington box survives, with the layout rationalised as would be expected, as an intermediate box on the Grantham to Skegness route, but the locking has been replaced by conventional tappet locking. However, I understand that the old locking has been left in place, disconnected.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated