Southern Railway


Opened: 1928

Closed: ——

Location code: S37/10

Canterbury West signal boxOf the two stations at Canterbury, that on the former South Eastern Railway (Canterbury West) was the most substantial and by comparison the London, Chatham & Dover's offering was distinctly meager.

The West station possessed four running lines through the station, with platforms only on the outer ones. Each end was originally controlled by a separate box (Canterbury West Nos. 1 and 2) but the Southern Railway erected a box on a gantry across the tracks at the eastern end of the station to control the entire layout in 1928. It is alleged the box came second-hand from Blackfriars Junction, but it would appear to be a standard Southern Railway cabin constructed in timber to reduce the weight when mounted in this commanding position.

Inside Canterbury West boxStepping inside, a 72-lever frame of the South Eastern & Chatham's standard design is found, although rationalisation has caused a number of levers to be painted white as they are no longer used. This type of frame was jointly patented by the SEC and Sykes and is the only frame type that the latter has been involved with that seems to have gone into mass-production. The type was introduced in 1907 to supersede the crude designs of the London, Chatham & Dover (see Canterbury East) and of the South Eastern (as at Edenbridge). The quadrant plates are similar to Saxby & Farmer's Duplex frames, as at Warsop Junction) so it would appear this design came as "the best of all worlds".

Whilst the box retains many traditional features in the way of brass-cased plungers and instruments, it lacked (when these photographs were taken in 1978) the charm of Canterbury East as modern equipment to work a Closed Circuit Television monitored level crossing is provided, and venetian blinds cover the windows.

SR three-position block at Canterbury West Sandwiched between two banks of modern level crossing control switches is a smart Southern Railway three-position block instrument, controlling the double line towards Chartham.

These instruments are based (in shape) on the style of Sykes' Lock & Block instruments, and it is possible that some were in fact converted from these. The Southern Railway inherited a bunch of railway companies with a motley collection of signalling equipment in 1923. Whilst the busy suburban areas were nearly all signalled by the secure Lock & Block system, outlying areas, including main lines, were mostly signalled by primitive one-wire, two-position blocks. The Southern built thousands of instruments to the design shown here for progressive replacement, although a few lines were not updated until as recently as the 1980s.

Near the base of the instrument is the commutator handle, with a sliding brass reminder that locks it in position to the right of it. Above is the "pegger" indicator, whilst at the top, separately, is the "non-pegger".

This design remains the standard instrument on the former Southern Region as the modular plastic units used in the rest of the country have never been adopted. Sufficient spare instruments have always been generated by modernisation schemes and line closures.

This instrument remained in use until 2005, but working is now by Track Circuit Block to Canterbury Wye Area Control Centre - a portacabin located beneath the West box which controls the area formerly managed by Wye and Chartham boxes.

Additional notes by Jon Beeching, John Creed, Tony Endersby and Nick Wellington.


All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated