South Eastern Railway


Opened: 1882

Closed: ——

Location code: S44/17a

Grain Crossing signal boxNear the end of the long freight-only branch from Hoo Junction across the Isle of Grain, this sad-looking signal box survives.

At first glance it looks to be closed, but this isn't the case and it is manned by shunting staff from the nearby Grain oil terminal when trains are due.

A casual glance suggests, too, that the architecture (or what's left of it) is uninspiring and not of interest, but nothing could be further from the truth for this is the only standard Stevens & Sons signal box to survive on the railway system of Britain.

Stevens & Sons were a very early, and significant, signalling contractor but the majority of the contracts they secured did not include the construction of the boxes themselves, so relatively few were built. The majority of these were replaced or closed many years ago and only a handful survived into the 1960's. Not all the boxes were as small as seen here, of course, and one of more conventional dimensions is illustrated at Westerham. Notice how both feature vertical timbering in the gable ends, typical of Stevens' boxes.

The other end!The timberwork of the east end of the box is unadulterated, showing also the beaded vertical timbering of the main walls. The nearest end window to the camera, although shielded by a mesh grill, betrays an original Stevens window section comprising just three panes.

Grain Crossing opened in 1882, and never controlled more than the single line, a level crossing, and a siding connection. The layout is worked from a 9-lever South Eastern Railway frame.

Grain Crossing box also has a history of mobility. It would appear that it has been relocated twice in its lifetime, to cater for re-routing and widening of the adjoining level crossing.

Grain CrossingEven by 1951 (probably much earlier), the cabin had ceased to act as a full signal box, becoming a ground frame-cum-crossing cabin.

Currently, the layout here consists of just the straight single line and the gates, protected by home signals and also a fixed distant in the Down direction. Curiously, all three signals have suffered from subsidence and lean precariously away from the railway.

However, in more recent years, the cabin has gained a token instrument, as it is now the end of the No Signalman Key Token section from Cliffe, the line beyond here being regarded as part of the siding complex at Grain.

Another interesting feature recently added here is a lever release to a flood barrier from the River Swale.

From 16th April 2001, the business end of the Grain branch came under the control of Ashford IECC (IECC means Integrated Electronic Control Centre - which is a posh name for a computer-driven Power Box) but amazingly this little piece of history in the middle of nowhere survives!


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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated