Midland Railway


Opened: 1892

Closed: 1979

Location code: LM43/33

St Albans South signal boxThe box depicted here was the second at this location, replacing in 1892 the original 1877 structure which had only contained sixteen levers. The larger box was required in connection with the quadrupling of the Midland main line.

Originally, the second set of lines were for goods traffic only, but these were upgraded to passenger status in 1903.

The box is of standard Midland Railway design, being to the same style as Bolsover, which was used between 1884 and 1900. Later boxes, such as Upper Portland Sidings, had end windows to the same height as those in the front wall, and most, like West Hampstead, had larger panes of glass and less dividing bars.

As originally built, the box was not as long as it now is - the furthest section was added in the late 1950s in anticipation of the installation of a larger lever frame which never took place.

Inside St Albans South box A peek inside the box reveals a Midland Railway lever frame (with "tumbler" interlocking) comprising 44 levers. This was installed in 1906 to replace the original one, but the increased size of interlocking tray (behind the levers) caused it to fit up close against the back wall, giving rise to all sorts of problems for maintenance and alterations.

For this reason, a scheme was drawn up in the 1950s for replacement by a 55-lever tappet interlocking frame, which necessitated a northward extension to the box. This frame was delivered but never installed. After sitting outside in a wagon for a while, it was removed for installation at Kentish Town Sidings, whose needs were evidently greater.

The young lady replacing the signals behind the Peak-hauled express on the Down Fast is Lesley, who was "booking girl" at the box in the mid-seventies.

The block shelf contains Midland Rotary Interlocking blocks to Napsbury and marks the northern limit of the use this type of instrument for the London area. To the north, BR standard blocks are in use to Harpenden Station box.

The box was declared to be a historic monument and "listed" through being a local landmark and, unusually, the interior contents are part of the preservation order. After closure, British Rail made several, unsuccessful, efforts to have the building removed to an alternative site. A group has been formed who are progressing well with restoration of the box in situ, the latest news can be found on their web site.

Track layout plans for various dates.
Box instructions for 1975 (large image).
Special Instructions for the working of APT test trains in 1975 (large image).

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated