GNR Somersault signal

Signal boxes of the

The vast majority of Great Western signal boxes were designed and built by the Great Western themselves, but when demand was high, contractors boxes of various types were provided - especially in the more remote areas.

Please click on the thumbnail images for more information on each location.

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Hartlebury Station

McKenzie & Holland provided a number of boxes in the early years of the Great Western. Hipped roof examples, like that shown here, were built up to 1875.

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Home-built boxes after 1875 generally had brick bases and timber top portions (although the brick often extended up to roof level at the rear) with windows sections divided into nine small panes. The timberwork comprised vertical boarding and was surmounted by a hipped roof.

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A large number of McKenzie & Holland boxes of their later design were erected on the Great Western from 1875 onwards to supplement the GW's own resources.

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SarnauPage includes views of lever frame

In 1880, a change was made to gabled roofs. The design changed little otherwise, although the full height bricking of the back no longer featured.

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Concurrently with their 1880 design, the Great Western introduced a McKenzie & Holland lookalike which was used on the northern lines which until c1885 had been exclusively catered for by contractors. Features of that contractor that were adopted were finials on the steep roof and (in some cases) the provision of a porch. The timberwork normally stretched down to operating floor level, unlike the example here.

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Brymbo Middle Crossing

Full standardisation throughout the system was achieved in 1889, based on the c1885 design but with a shallower roof outline. Roof finials were retained, but most boxes were constructed entirely in brick apart from the small section above the windows and the gable ends.

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Cowley Bridge Junction

This example of the 1889 design has been heavily modified over the years. The box has been extended to accommodate a larger lever frame and an external porch has been provided.

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Roskear Junction

Another fine example of the 1889 architecture. Those built after 1893 featured a row roof ventilators - these have been removed from this example but their former position can be clearly seen.

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Reading Main Line West

This non-standard design was used for two large boxes erected at Reading around 1896.

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A dramatic change in design was achieved in 1896 with the reversion to hipped roofs and the provision of a three-over-two window pane arrangement that became a trademark of the GW. Most were built in red brick, using blue bricks for corner decoration. This altogether attractive design continued to be used right through to 1927.

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A good quantity of the 1896 design were built in timber, too, which looked equally handsome yet functional.

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Exeter RiversidePage includes views of lever frame

For reasons of economy, a gabled roof was provided on temporary boxes erected after 1900, but this feature began to be adopted for more permanent boxes built after 1921, continuing in use through to 1933. The particular example here erected in 1943, but was brought second-hand from another location.

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Green Lane Crossing

Most examples of the gabled variety were built entirely in timber, but a few appeared between 1921 and 1933 with brick bases rising up to the window line, as shown here.

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Haverfordwest Station

During the 1930's the Great Western flirted with new technology to see how it could be used in signal box construction, but most experimental features did not find favour. The design shown here included concrete lintels above the locking room windows and asbestos roof tiles. The traditional window arrangement was also abandoned in the interests of simplicity and economy. Boxes of this type were built between 1935 and 1946.

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Lansdown Junction

During the second world war, boxes erected at strategically important locations were solidly built in brick so that they would resist light bomb blasts. A reinforced concrete flat roof was provided, too. Although designed to be functional rather than attractive, it is interesting to note the reappearance of the distinct Great Western window design.

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Fosse Road

Peacetime designs changed again in 1947, whereby the windows of the 1935 design were modified again to become a one-above-one pane arrangement. This design was introduced in 1947 but continued to be utilised by British Railways. Tis example was not erected until 1950.

The name of the Great Western outlived the Grouping of 1923, but of course its size expanded as the smaller companies in its area were absorbed. With nationalisation of the railways in 1948, it became the Western Region of British Railways.