London, Brighton & South Coast Railway


Opened: 1899

Closed: 1978

Location code: S20/21

Star lane signal boxStar Lane signal box could once be found on the LB&SCR's main line from London to Brighton, just south of Coulsdon. At that point, the four-track route divided into two separate lines - one serving Merstham and Redhill, the other (the "Quarry Line") bypassing both - which merged again at .

On the latter, Star Lane was erected in 1899 to increase line capacity by shortening the block section length. It also controlled two crossover roads and a refuge siding from the fifteen lever frame.

Architecturally, the box represents a milestone in LB&SC practice. Hitherto, there had been a mixture of Saxby & Farmer boxes (like Longhedge Junction) and home-built Saxby lookalikes (see Oxted) but the year of 1898 saw all new boxes built to a strikingly different style. Gabled roofs were introduced for the first time, with neat end finials, and (initially) three-pane-high glazing was provided. Most were built with panelled brick bases (such as at the later Earlswood) but a few were all-timber as seen here. The overall result was a pleasing, modern design which lasted the LB&SC through to the Grouping of 1923 with only minor changes.

At the same time, a new type of lever frame was introduced, an example of which is illustrated at Mitcham Junction. This type has often been mistaken for a Stevens & Sons product, but in reality it was different in a number of respects. Most of these frames were manufactured by a range of contractors on behalf of the LB&SC, but some unmarked ones may have been made in-house.

When automatic colour-light signalling came to the line in 1932, most of the intermediate boxes on the Quarry Line were abolished, but Star Lane was retained for occasional use of the crossover and siding connections. It didn't have to be manned when these weren't in use, for facilities were provided so that the signals could work automatically when the box was not in use. It is reasonable to assume that manning of the box was not a common occurrence.

By the 1970's, all pointwork was out of use, and there was really no purpose for which the box would need to be opened. Nor was it possible, for when this view was taken the staircase (at the far end) had collapsed and fallen off with old age and decay.

Eventually, on 22nd November 1978, formal abolition of the box took place.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated