South Eastern Railway


Opened: c1898

Closed: 1981

Location code: S39/28

North Kent West Junction signal boxSituated near South Bermondsey station in south-east London, this box commanded for many years the approaches to Bricklayers Arms goods yard and locomotive sheds. The two North Kent Junctions were the divergences of the North Kent lines from the main London Bridge line and the from Bricklayers Arms branch. The former (North Kent East Junction) was always a very busy box, but West Junction gradually led a quieter and quieter life as freight traffic faded.

The impressively large box was built by Evans O'Donnell, a firm of signalling contractors that entered the business quite late (1894) but secured a fair amount of work nevertheless. The South Eastern used them heavily in the late 1890s, up to absorption into the South Eastern & Chatham Railway in 1900.

Another view of North Kent West Junction boxWhilst the first view shows the box in traditional green and cream colours, it is seen here looking a little smarter after a repaint. Distinctive features of Evans O'Donnell boxes are the "small over large" window pane arrangement and the mouldings in the bargeboards. These features had in fact been copied from Dutton designs (although the windows are deeper) - Mr. O'Donnell had been their works manager prior to setting up this new company.

Most of the windows have wire mesh over them - with the box closed at weekends it became a target for vandals.

Inside the box was found an 80-lever frame to Evans O'Donnell's standard design, as illustrated at Merstham.

Signal box nameplateMounted on the front of the box was a splendid South Eastern & Chatham nameplate inscribed NORTH KENT WEST JUNCTION SIGNALS. It was their custom to always include the word "signals" on their signal box nameplates.

Signals at North Kent West Junction And signals there certainly were. Controlling movements departing from either the Down Main or the Up Main were a pair of splendid matching lattice-post bracket signals, dating from 1938 when the layout was remodelled here. As originally erected, the left-hand doll of each bracket carried a calling-on arm below the main signal, which read towards North Kent East Junction. The right-hand dolls, which read towards the main line at Bricklayers Arms Junction, at one time had a distant arm and a calling-on arm below, although the distant had been renewed as a two-aspect colour light in 1950 when a new box opened at Bricklayers Arms Junction. The shunt signal, lower down on the main post, read into both the No.1 Carriage Siding on the north side of the North Kent line or the Gas Works Siding on the south side.

Another signal at North Kent West JunctionThe Up Home signal from the Bricklayers Arms Junction was a nice example of a Southern Railway rail-built signal - as a "re-cycling" measure the posts were built from old rails. These signals were invariably quite low as it was possible to sight most signals near to driver's eye level owing to the good view from multiple-unit electric trains which were the commonest form of traction on the Southern. Not that any such trains ran past North Kent West Junction!

Below the main stop arm is a Southern Railway standard calling-on signal, emphasised by the large letter "C" superimposed on it. This would allow trains to enter the section ahead when still occupied by the previous train, a feature often necessary on freight-only lines on the approaches to goods or marshalling yards.

The box closed in 1981 when all traffic on this line finally petered out.

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Additional notes provided by John Creed

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated