South Eastern Railway


Opened: c1883

Closed: 1971

Location code: S47/24

Blackwater signal box
Photograph 15/1/68, from the collection of Dr J W F Scrimgeour

The South Eastern Railway completed a tentacle reaching Reading, far into London & South Western Railway territory, in 1849 but of course only rudimentary signalling would have been provided at such an early date.

Proper signalling and block working was established in the 1880s with boxes built on an ad-hoc basis as demands required. That at Blackwater, just north of Farnborough, was one of just a few on the entire South Eastern system to be erected by Dutton & Co.

The architecture may be compared with Highland Railway boxes such as Georgemas Junction although Blackwater features the conventional horizontal boarding). The porch is not integrated as neatly as on most boxes of Dutton design.

Blackwater signal box
Photograph 7/55, by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

The box contained a lever frame of Dutton's design, easily identified by the curiously curved catch-handles although these are half-moon shaped in cross section instead of being circular and rod-like as illustrated at Leyton.

When new, the frame consisted of 19 levers controlling a crossover, two siding connections and locking the hand-operated gates of a level crossing at the far end of the station.

Later expansion (a second crossover and a private siding into a gas works controlled by a ground frame) necessitated extension to the lever frame at both ends and by 1920 the total was 22 although the level crossing had been replaced by a bridge.

In this photograph, a mixture of Sykes' and Walkers instruments adorn the shelf. The Walkers instruments (see Rye) controlled the block sections and the Sykes' instruments exist solely for interlocking between certain signals.

Sykes' signal interlocking was a cumbersome equivalent to track-circuiting but in its time it must have been cheaper to install. It identifies the potential for a train to be between two signals by detecting lever operation. The furthest instrument in this view controlled the Starting Signal (18) and after the lever had been operated it could not be pulled again until the next signal ahead had been cleared and replaced. In this instance, that signal was the Advanced Starting Signal (9), which has an instrument of its own (on the left) which only allows the lever to be fully replaced (releasing 18) after a treadle ahead of the signal has been activated by the train, proving it has proceeded on its journey.

By 1959, this arrangement would have changed, as track-circuiting was provided in connection with a new Intermediate Block signal in the section to Farnborough.

Today, the line survives as part of the Tonbridge - Redhill - Guildford - Reading route but Blackwater box closed on 5th September 1971.

All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated