London, Brighton & South Coast Railway


Opened: 1905

Closed: 1983

Location code: S20/30

Earlswood signal boxWhen this box opened in 1905, the complexity of the trackwork at this station just south of Redhill on the London to Brighton main line needed two boxes to control the layout. This, the larger of the two, was Earlswood Junction, and was the point where the alternative routes via Merstham and Redhill, or the by-pass Quarry Line merged to become four tracks southwards.

A large box was provided to control the connections between these lines and the sizeable goods yard.

The box was built to the LB&SC's latest standard, which was an 1899 development from the type illustrated at Star Lane featuring two-by-two window sections. Earlswood demonstrates the more common permutation of wooden top on panelled brick base. The shadow almost conceals the panelling here, but this is clearly visible on a similar box illustrated at Bosham.

Inside Earlswood signal boxInside, we find the box crammed with a 70-lever frame and the associated equipment.

The frame itself is a 1905 design of the LB&SC, introduced to replace the type illustrated at Mitcham Junction. That type is believed to have been manufactured by a number of signalling contractors, but this model appears to have been built by the LB&SC themselves.

Whist the levers still stand vertically when normal, with a long, downward pull, significant identity differences exist. The most noticeable is that the entire frame quadrant area has a ribbed surface to make more comfortable and safe walking, and there are no raised quadrant strips - instead the catch blocks drop into recesses to secure the levers. Catch handles have a slight curve and the tops of the levers (at least, those that haven't been cut short) are rounded. The levers are spaced at 5-inch intervals.

Another view of the interior of Eaarlswood boxIn 1932, when colour-light signalling was introduced on the Brighton line, Earlswood Station box closed and this cabin henceforth became "Earlswood".

In connection with the new signalling, Southern Railway magazine train describers were provided for communication with the adjacent boxes - although most of those seen here are more modern replacements.

Block bells were retained for use during emergency or failure - some can be seen mounted on the back wall at the far end, above the windows.

Block working survived only on the line towards Redhill - just one instrument for this purpose can be seen on the block shelf.

Lever badges at EarlswoodFor some reason, the Southern Railway seemed to go to great lengths to transfer lever badges to the foot of the lever (an idea gained from the London & South Western Railway's Stevens frames) but here at Earlswood they are still mounted in the traditional position.

The Southern Region of BR retained hand-painted badges long after other regions had adopted replaceable plastic badges. It is rumoured that until the 1970's, one man covered the whole of the Southern Region, travelling from box to box as required when alterations took place. Certainly the same individual style of lettering could be found everywhere, but I find it puzzling that he would travel to do this when a stock of spares could be prepared in advance and installed when changes were made.

Part of the diagram in ealswood box

Even with colour-light signalling, Earlswood continued to be a very busy and important box. The box diagram (shown in two portions, left) shows the double junctions connecting the Through and Local Lines with the Quarry and Redhill routes.

At the time these photographs were taken (1975) working was normally with Coulsdon North (Quarry Lines) or Star Lane when open, Redhill "B" and Gatwick Airport. A box at Salfords had been able to switch in and control the Local Lines for access to an oil depot, but this had been taken over by Earlswood with motor operated points and position-light signals on 27th April. These sidings are seen in the centre area of the lower image.

Enlarged views of these images can be viewed; it is regretted that the quality does not allow all detail to be identified.

Earlswood box continued in use through to 2nd July 1983, when the area came under the control of a new power box at Three Bridges.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated