London, Brighton & South Coast Railway


Opened: 1891

Closed: ——

Location code: S21/29

Plumpton signal boxOn the secondary main line link from Keymer Junction across to Lewes, less than three miles up the line from Cooksbridge, stands Plumpton box.

This was erected in 1891, and represents the Brighton company's own design of box, introduced to supplement output from Saxby & Farmer.

Like the earlier example shown at Bedhampton Crossing, Plumpton is constructed in brick right up to the window line. The roof is surmounted again by the huge ventilator, but the ornamental valance-work had been discontinued in 1888.

Whilst most boxes of this type were brick, an all-timber example is illustrated at Oxted.

Inside Plumpton signal boxEvidence of the LB&SC's own handywork is also visible inside the box. The 21-lever frame was built by the company, too, and whilst in looks it emulated the Rocker pattern of Saxby & Farmer, in reality it was quite different.

All home-manufactured frames had tappet locking and a distinct identifying feature was the complete lack of evidence of any fittings for the rocker locking in the quadrant plates.

Additionally, the catch handles were smaller and mounted higher on the lever than the Saxby & Farmer product.

Another example of this type of frame is illustrated at Mitcham.

Another view inside Plumpton boxLooking at the other end of the box, we see the capstan wheel for operating the gates of the level crossing. The two brown levers in the reversed position are the interlock between the gates, the wheel and the other levers. The other brown lever works the pedestrian wicket gates.

Other colours in the frame are:


Stop signals


Distant signals




Spare (not in use)

(The white stripe indicates the lever is released by LINE CLEAR on the block instrument)

Block instruments and diagram at Plumpton
See an enlarged view of the diagram.

On the instrument shelf are a pair of the Southern railway's standard three-position block instruments, either side of a closing switch. This latter may have been provided to allow the crossing to be manned by a "crossing-keeper" rather than a signalman during times of lower traffic. In these circumstances, only the non-pegging indications (and the bells) operate in order to show the state of the block section between the adjacent boxes.

Hanging above the switch is a diagram of the signalman's layout, showing the lever numbers against the points and signals. Beneath the plan are tables showing the interlocking arrangements. This type of plan was probably the most detailed provided in any signal box, and reflected a development from London & South Western Railway practice, through the Southern Railway to the Southern Region of British Railways.

Three station platforms can be seen on the plan (coloured brown) and this arrangement is provided to cope with the occasional flood of traffic for the nearby Plumpton racecourse.

Around 1985, Plumpton box ceased to be a block post, becoming a "ground frame" protecting the crossing without involvement in the block working. The box still fulfills this function today, and is now one of only three locations on Railtrack's South Zone where the old-fashioned level crossing gates worked by wheel are still operational.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated. Additional notes by Nick Wellington.