Southern Railway


Opened: 1934

Closed: 1998

Location code: S35/20

Martin Mill signal box
Photograph by John Hinson, 1998

Another example of the 1930's economies in signalling could be seen at Martin Mill. Like Betchworth, the opportunity was taken to close the existing "proper" signal box in 1934 and transfer the functions to the station buildings so that duties could be combined and staff savings made.

Here, a lever frame was installed in the spacious booking office, and the signalman was required to sell tickets as well as signal trains.

But that was not all! The booking office was also the village post office, and the signalman was paid a small additional consideration for these additional responsibilities.

The only changes to the station architecture was a small outward extension to give the signalman what was undoubtedly only a very limited view of trains. Notice the barred windows, for the security of the post office.

Inside Martin Mill
Photograph by John Hinson, 1975

Most boxes of this type were provided with "Knee" frames, but here a conventional Stevens & Sons frame was provided. The former were more popular in such situations as all of the interlocking is above floor level, whereas a conventional frame has this below floor level.

On the instrument shelf is a standard Southern Region block instrument and bell, communicating with Deal box. In this picture, it indicates a train as being in the section on the Down Line. Some smart brass-cased repeaters and plungers can be seen too.

Since privatisation of the railways, boxes such as these have been an embarrassment. Not only was there a responsibility issue (selling tickets for one company and signalling trains for another) there was the question of ownership of the property. And of course, the practice of de-staffing booking offices was escalating.

For these reasons, every opportunity has been taken to resolve the issue by closing the signal boxes concerned, and in the case of Martin Mill that opportunity came when the Dover area was resignalled. Colour-light signalling was extended to Deal on 12th April 1998 and Martin Mill signal box ceased to be.

See enlarged view of diagram.

Interior of box
Photograph by John Hinson, 1975

Another interior view shows the track layout diagram (and the simple layout) and the block signalling instruments which both show a train in section having departed the station.

Michael Donovan adds: Had a holiday in a (Pullman) camping coach at Martin Mill when I was about twelve or thirteen - say, 1961 or 1962. There were two of them in the sidings, the sidings being the reason for the white (disused) levers in the frame. Yes, I remember the box being the ticket office being the Post Office! Note that there was a branch from here towards St Margarets Bay, don't know the history, but during the war a railway gun was kept in the sidings at Martin Mill, under camouflage. Every so often - at night! - it would trundle down the branch, fire off a few shells at the Germans across the Channel, and trundle back to base.

About the photographs

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson

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