Great Northern Railway


Opened: 1877

Closed: 1985

Location code: E9/10

Maud Foster signal boxMaud Foster box was once to be found just north of Boston, on what is now part of the Grantham - Skegness route but once played a more important role in the complex network of lines in East Lincolnshire.

The box dates back to 1877, which is interesting as in those early days of primitive signalling there would have been little to justify the provision of a proper signalbox here. The box has never had any layout to speak of, just three level crossings within a very short distance of each other to protect. The only possible reason that comes to mind for its existence in such early days might have been that the line was not always double track and the box may have marked the end of a single-line section. Maybe historians of the area with better knowledge than me can answer this.

The architecture is unusual. Whereas most Great Northen boxes of the ear were primarily brick construction, or alternatively all-timber, Maud Foster has an all-timber top on a brick base. In other respects, it bears all the hallmarks of GN 1870's design, with the panelled brickwork and ornate bargeboards and finials. Notice the sash windows to the locking-room, relating it most closely with the style seen at St James Deeping.

Inside Maud Foster boxInside the cramped box a twelve-lever McKenzie & Holland frame was squeezed, along with a capstan wheel to operate the level crossing gates on the Frithville Road that crosses the line outside.

This frame did not date back to the opening of the box; the original lever frame was a cumbersome affair built by Ransomes & Rapier known as a "horse-rake" frame, as illustrated at Vickers Gun Range Siding.

Lever 1 (pulled over, with the yellow cloth on it) was the interlock with the gate wheel for the level crossing outside the box - you can just see the wheel in the edge of the picture. Levers 2 and 3 work the pedestrian wicket gates at this crossing. Notice how these two levers aren't quite latched in the frame so that the signalman can easily swing the levers over when needed. Lever 4 is a rather faded spare (it should be painted white!) whilst 5 is the Up Distant and 6 the Up Home. Lever 7 is an electric release to a ground frame controlling "No 8 Level Crossing" a short distance further to the north. It is painted part blue and part brown which is the usual colour scheme for ground frame releases. Levers 8 and 9, again eased out of the catch, control the pedestrian gates for the "No7 Level Crossing which is just the other side of the dyke, a short distance to the east, and lever 10 works the gate lock for the hand-worked gates at this crossing. Finally, 11 and 12 control the Down Home and Distant.

There are no luxuries of interlocking between the block instruments and the levers - if the signals were only free to be pulled when Line Clear has been received there would be a white stripe on the levers concerned.

The block instruments themselves are delightful examples of Great Northern "combined" instruments, with the bell at the top and both up and down line needle indications in the one case. A Great Northern Railway diagram is mounted behind the instruments.

Indicators on the shelf are confined to a repeater for each distant signal. In between is a plunger that probably sounds a bell when No8 Crossing is required to be closed for the passage of trains.

As at High Ferry, the next box down the line, a closing switch is provided although it was laterly rarely used.

On 12th April 1981, the line was singled and the box was reduced to the status of "ground frame" to continue to control the three level crossings. This situation did not remain for long, for the crossings were automated and the box taken out of use on 30th June 1985.

View track layout plan for Maud Foster 1978

After reading this page, Dennis Lister kindly researched the origins of the name of this box and came up with the following:

According to Pishey Thompson, the author of History and Antiquities of Boston 1856, traditionally Maude Foster was the owner of land through which the new-cut drain would flow and that she gave consent for it on certain conditions, including that it should be named after her. By the time that the box was built, Maude had become Maud. There is also a windmill nearby (built 1819) bearing the same name. Strangely, this wasn't the only signalbox bearing the name. There used to be a gate box called Maud's Bridge between Scunthorpe and Doncaster. Not many miles from Maud Foster is the village of Mavis Enderby. If there ever was anyone of that name, I don't think the village was named after her because it is one of a trio of Enderbys - Wood Enderby and Bag Enderby being the others. Wood could have been a family name but I very much doubt if any lady would willingly be associated with the latter!

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated