London, Brighton & South Coast Railway


Opened: 1876

Closed: 1986

Location code: S26/34

Drayton signal boxDrayton was a neat and small example of Saxby & Farmer's new box design of 1876, and was one of the first to be erected.

The architecture was a logical development from earlier designs, particularly the 1868 type illustrated at Mitcham. The roof has been given a greater overhang, and the support brackets have become correspondingly larger and more prominent. Both the toplight glazing (painted out, here) and the top of the window sections (some here are not original) have been given graceful curves and the end result is a very attractive and balanced design which stood the test of time well and may be regarded as the most successful box design of all time. Certainly the Brighton company liked it, for despite Saxby & Farmer introducing new styles in 1884, boxes of this type continued to be specified right through to 1898. One of these late examples is illustrated at Longhedge Junction.

Drayton was located on the line that followed the South coast, and could be found between Barnham and Chichester. The small station here closed as long ago as 1930, but the box was retained to control the level crossing, and also the small goods yard which operated until 1964. Notice the large mirror attached to the box to help the signalman view road traffic approaching his level crossing.

Inside Drayton boxInside the box was a pattern of lever frame that became synonymous with the 1876 design boxes - the Saxby & Farmer Rocker frame. This type had first appeared in 1871, but was developed in 1874 to a pattern widely adopted around the country.

The interlocking mechanism used "rockers" at floor level between the levers to drive the locking which was mounted in a rack behind the levers. More details and illustrations of this locking system is shown at Heckington

Despite extensive use of these frames, the LB&SC was one of the first companies to embark on a programme of replacing the locking with the simpler tappet system, and this was done at Drayton in 1908. The drives for the new locking can be seen in the form of flat plates attached to the base of the two reversed levers.

Just sixteen levers were sufficient to control the layout here, and above these can be seen a fine selection of brass-cased repeaters and one of the block instruments and a bell. The scene is dominated, however, by the wheel that operates the level crossing gates.

In 1975, when these views were taken, the box still retained most of the layout it had controlled for nearly a century. Only the Down Sidings (controlled by a ground frame) had been removed, but when Portfield box was abolished in that year an additional ground frame release had been provided to control a siding there.

However, by 1986 Drayton had been reduced in status to become no more than an intermediate crossing keeper's cabin and, with automation of the crossing, was dispensed with altogether during that year at the fine age of 110.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated