GNR Somersault signal

Signal boxes of the

The Southern Railway inherited a hotchpotch of signalling from its constituent companies. All had been prompt in providing interlocked signalling and block working, but this left the Southern Railway an inheritance of 1870s technology - pokey signal boxes, a vast range of early lever frames (although most, at least, with tappet locking) and a mixture of Sykes Lock and Block and various two-position block systems.

Presented with this, the Southern never had enough money to do all the improvements it wanted to. Most was spent on power signalling schemes, the majority of which were essential to the increased traffic of the electrification schemes of the time. A striking design of signal box accompanied these from 1935, and this was also used for mechanical installations in the public eye. Prior to that time, a conventional box design had been used, evolved out of the pre-grouping companies' standards.

But while the money of the 1930s was being concentrated on electrification schemes, there was little investment elsewhere, and renewals were of a distinctly basic nature - in many cases little more than a shed structure was provided. Other economies achieved at this time were to move the signalling equipment into, or near, the station buildings so that ticket and signalling duties could be undertaken by one person.

The SR adopted Westinghouse's modern A-model frame as their standard, but second-hand frames were used extensively in on-the-cheap jobs.

Five hundred three-position block instruments were manufactured from 1924 to upgrade the block system, using parts from Sykes' instruments made redundant by resignalling schemes. This was nowhere near sufficient a number to totally replace the antiquated two-position devices, and it was only in BR days, with the Beeching line closures of the 1960s and later rationalisation and resignalling, that sufficient became available to eliminate two position block in the late1970s.

Please click on the thumbnail images for more information on each location.

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Canterbury WestPage includes views of lever framePage includes close-up views if signalling instruments and equipment

Early Southern Railway boxes were based on a gabled version of the South Eastern & Chatham's standard box, although a number reflected features of other constituent companies. This example is not entirely typical in being constructed in wood and mounted on a steel gantry.

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Mitcham JunctionPage includes views of lever frame

Southern Railway boxes on the former LB&SC had the features of the L&SW final design, but with a gabled roof.

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ReigatePage includes views of lever framePage includes close-up views if signalling instruments and equipmentPage includes close-up views of lever badgesPage includes close-up views of box diagram

A similar box with glazed ventilators above the main window area.

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This variation of the above designs owes many of its features to the late designs of the Somerset & Dorset Railway.

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Exeter Central "A"Page includes views of signals and other outdoor equipment

A large example on former L&SW metals, featuring a hipped roof.

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And this (unique) example shows that you can have a mixture of gabled and hipped roofs!

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This box had significant variations to the standard design.

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In 1929, the ranges of design previously used were concentrated into a new style which featured windows reminiscent of Evans, O'Donnell & Co. boxes. This type was in use for new boxes built through to 1935.

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Grove Junction

A modest box erected in 1932, representing the Southern's principles of economy introduced during the 1930's.

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BetchworthPage includes views of lever frame

Also during the 1930's, the SR pursued a programme of concentrating signalling and booking office duties into the same location at smaller stations. At many, passengers had to buy their tickets at the signal box, but here extra windows have been cut in the lower floor of the station house where the levers and block instruments have been installed.

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Martin MillPage includes views of lever frame

Another 1930's economy arrangement. Here, the lever frame was placed in the booking office and a small outward extension was made to the station buildings.

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A combined signal box and booking office erected in 1938.

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DorkingPage includes views of lever framePage includes close-up views if signalling instruments and equipment

The Southern built some impressive brick boxes from 1935, reflecting the optimism of the Southern Electric era. Boxes of this type were provided for mechanical and power installations, and the lower storey often extended in both directions to provide full accommodation for maintenance staff.

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New Hythe

Smaller version of the above design didn't have the space to adopt all the stylish features.

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Crabtree Crossing

Nearly all boxes built between 1940 and 1945 were to wartime specification with reinforced walls and ceiling. This example was a latecomer of 1949 and was provided with steel-framed windows.

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A few boxes were built to more austere standards if it was deemed that they were unlikely to be targeted by the enemy.

The Southern Railway became the Southern Region of British Railways in 1948.