London, Brighton & South Coast Railway


Opened: 1879

Closed: 1981

Location code: S30/16

Epsom Downs signal boxA substantially sized box was erected at Epsom Downs in 1879 to serve the terminus of a branch from Sutton.

Whereas normally a two platform station would have been adequate for a branch line terminus (Epsom was way beyond commuting distances in those days), the demands of the occasional race-day traffic necessitated the provision of a nine platform station.

The box was provided by the London, Brighton & South Coast railway's preferred contractor, Saxby & Farmer, and was around forty-two feet in length. It is basically a larger version of that illustrated at Mitcham.

In this view of the box approaching its 100th birthday, the decaying timberwork has been untidily patched with asbestos panels.

Inside Epsom Downs boxThe lever frame comprised 72 levers, but was not of the Rocker type so commonly found in this railway's boxes. Instead, it was provided with Saxby & Farmer's spindle-locking design.

This frame came second-hand from one of the London Bridge boxes, where it had been in use from 1866 to 1878. It is amazing that this early frame survived in use right through the life of the box (to become the last of its type by a long chalk), albeit with conventional tappet locking applied in 1908.

Originally, Saxby's Spindle frames had an open space between the lever quadrants in the same style as the Easterbrook frame illustrated at Green Road, but the LB&SC neatened this arrangement up by inserting wooden segments (see below) into the empty spaces.

A later addition (by the Southern Railway) was the provision of a two-lever dwarf frame which operated emergency detonator placers. Clearly the vast array of white (disused) levers did not exist at that time!

Close-up view of Spindle frame at Epsom DownsOn 21st December 1969, the intermediate boxes on the branch were abolished and automatic colour-light signalling introduced between Sutton and Epsom Downs. Epsom Downs itself retained most of the semaphore signals, although the station layout had been considerably reduced by then.

Epsom Downs box was scheduled to close in 1982 in connection with the resignalling of the area, controlled from a box named Victoria but actually located at Clapham Junction. However, the box met a premature end as it was destroyed by fire on 16th November 1981.

As an emergency measure, pilotman working was implemented over the branch to allow the line to be used as a single, dead-end branch. A temporary "One Engine In Steam" staff is known to have been made in the S&T workshops at Wimbledon in the style of a Webb & Thompson Train Staff, painted red, and may have been brought into use later. The double track was never used again, to this day the line is single, although controlled from Victoria box.

View a track layout diagram for the Epsom Downs in 1920

Additional notes by John Creed, Peter Grant, Graham Floyd and James Palk
Interior photographs © Graham Floyd

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated