London & North Western Railway


Opened: c1870

Closed: 2004

Location code: LM10/27

Not all signalling on the London & North Western Railway was provided to the lavish levels of Chester No4! In contrast to the high standards of signalling provided on main lines, the LNW allowed rudimentary facilities provided on lesser lines in the 1870's to survive, and on just one line in the UK these still survive.

When signalling was first provided on the double-line branch between Bletchley and Bedford, simple interlocking was provided at each station. This consisted of an eight or ten lever frame open to the elements. The signalman's facilities were provided for by means of a hut or within the station buildings. Two signal boxes (if you can call them that) from this era remain in use on this line.

This view shows the nine lever LNWR "Sketch 446" Key Interlocking ground frame that was in use at Millbrook, although this was not the original frame here. It is called a Key Interlocking frame because the levers release large keys (Annett's Keys) which in turn unlock the crossing gates and also ground frames working crossovers and siding connections. This simple system saved the cost of extensive point rodding. In 1990, the lever frame shown here was replaced by a BR(LMR) model of 10 levers. As these modern frames are not as weather resistant as the LNW type, it has been enclosed in a perspex shelter.

Signal repeaters are mounted on a shelf above the levers, but the block instruments are inside the cabin. Those at the adjacent box of Ridgmont are inside the station building.

The signalbox nameplate with rounded ends is of LMS origin. This would have been provided when the suffix "Station" was added in the 1930's when a new box opened nearby at Millbrook Brick Sidings.

The only surviving ground frame at Millbrook, working a crossover road, is also of interest. It is worked by the last operational foot-catch operated lever. I must try and get a photograph . . .

There have been many plans to modernise the signalling on this line, but it took a long time coming. Finance was eventually justified for a new power box named Marston Valley to control the entire line, and this box closed on 23rd July 2004. The box has been saved locally for preservation.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated