Great Northern Railway


Opened: 1898

Closed: ——

Location code: E4/07

Helpston signal boxHelpston is one of the few traditional signalboxes that you can still pass today whilst travelling along the East Coast main line in the latest whizzy 225 km/h trains.

It is located a short way north of Peterborough, and whilst no longer of full signal box status, it remains in an important role controlling a number of nearby level crossings. The crossing adjacent to the box is, of course, locally controlled although it has also assumed responsibility for this road crossing the adjoining ex-Midland Railway line. Other nearby crossings are controlled through closed-circuit television and the intensity of the work here warrants double-manning on the daytime shifts.

Close-up view of bargeboards and finialThe box was built and opened in 1898, and was not the first at this location. The c1885 box here had contained just 13 levers, but a larger box was needed here when the four-tracking took place. Even so, these seemingly large box contained only a 25-lever frame, of Railway Signal Company manufacture. At the time of construction, the Great Northern were still building brick boxes to the varied styles of the 1870's, and here we have an unusual style of bargeboard and typical grand finials adorning the roof.

The box itself was enlarged in June 1923. A clue to this can be seen in the imbalanced layout of the locking-room windows although the neatness of the modification is commendable. It isn't clear why this rebuilding took place, but it may have been in order to provide gate wheel equipment - the gates may have been hand-worked before that date.

Some local resignalling took place in 1971 and the frame was removed and replaced by a panel. The box ceased to be a block post on 29th June 1975 and assumed its present role of "crossing keeper".

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated