Great Western Railway


Opened: 1942

Closed: 1977

Location code: W30/02

Lansdown Junction signal boxDuring the second world war, completely new specifications were drawn up for signal box designs, for use at strategic junctions and for new, war-related work. The two features that had been strived for in signal box design - attractiveness and economy - were abandoned and solid, ugly designs replaced them on all of the "Big Four" railway company's lines.

Lansdown Junction represents the Great Western's box of this period - 45 of this type were erected between 1940 and 1945, and the design included extra thick walls and a solids concrete roof. They were designed to resist all but a direct bomb blast, although in the event this wasn't put to the test! The Southern Railway's equivalent design can be seen at Crabtree Crossing.

Lansdown Junction was an important junction in Cheltenham, where the Midland's and Great Western's lines from the Birmingham direction met, and a less important branch to Swindon diverged. The lines south of here were quadrupled in 1942, giving rise to the need to renew the box to control the enlarged layout.

A 102-lever frame was provided, and the box remained a key location until the commissioning of Gloucester power box in 1968 which took control of the Midland Railway's route. Lansdown Junction then took on the unusual role of acting as a shunting frame released from Gloucester panel on the main lines, but remaining as a "signal box" in status for the ex-GW line via Honeybourne.

The latter line gradually declined into a lightly used freight-only line, but a spectacular derailment of a coal train one dark night at Winchcombe led to the complete closure of the line - the cost of the repairs were not justified. A steam railway project calling itself the GWR - Gloucester-Warwickshire Railway!) has now adopted part of the line, based at Toddington.

Following the closure of that line, Lansdown Junction box fell out of use, and was formally abolished in 1977. The box still stands, however, and is currently used as a Scouting headquarters.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated