PHOTO GALLERY: NORTH & SOUTH WESTERN JUNCTION RAILWAY
OPENED: c1893 CLOSED: 1983
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When first opened, this signal box was just known as “Acton” and it was only in 1925, after the 1923 “Grouping” of railway companies, that the station and signal box adopted the name Acton Central to help identify it amongst the myriad of other Acton stations in this part of London.
Acton Central was technically on the North & South Western Junction Railway, which had become a joint operation of the London & North Western Railway, the Midland Railway and the North London Railway in 1871. The latter appears to have assumed all responsibility for signalling and all signal boxes built were therefore to North London Railway design specification.
This signal box was built to the North London Railway’s 1890 gabled design, a development of the type illustrated at Dunloe Street. This was a trend in signal box architecture around the country – gabled roofs were easier and cheaper to construct.
Close study shows that the apparently plain brick lower storey was in fact once punctuated by two arched locking-room windows.
In this earlier view, a “Down Motor” approaches the station, formed of a BR-built three-car electric unit. The curious-looking large white board on the left of the picture acted as a sight-board for a low-mounted lower-quadrant signal on the platform that had recently been replaced by a three-aspect colour-light signal.
This 1957 view of the interior box shows the 35-lever North London Railway frame and some interesting instruments mounted above it. Nearest the camera is an L&NWR three-wire, three-position block instrument working to Acton Wells Junction – this was probably installed when the Intermediate Block signals were provided at Friars Place in the mid-1930s. Next to it are two Tyer & Co rotary train describers used to inform signalmen at adjacent boxes of the destinations of trains at their respective junctions. At the far end is a Pryce & Ferreira block instrument (more typical for the NLR) for the section to South Acton Junction.
By 1975, both block instruments had been renewed with BR standard modular instruments, but one of the Tyer train describers remains. The cheerful-looking signalman is thought to be Jimmy Nurse, who worked in the area for many years.
And here is a view of the train describer, used for identifying the destinations of trains towards Acton Wells Junction. By this date it was probably the last of the type on the NLR’s lines, although it wasn’t in fact used as freight train destinations were telephoned directly from Bollo Lane Junction to Acton Wells Junction without involving the signalman here.
The wooden wheel-operated level crossing gates were replaced by electrically-powered lifting barriers in the 1970s, and lever 25 provided a means of locking the signals when the barriers were under outside control during failure. Annett’s key apparatus is fitted to the lower part of the lever, and the key in it could only be withdrawn when the lever had been reversed (pulled over) and it was the operation of the lever that locked the protecting signals. A small Yale-like key is permanently attached to the Annett’s key and both would have to be taken to unlock the cabinet at the level crossing housing the emergency controls.
By this date there were only 20 levers here despite the numbering visible in the picture – fifteen levers had been removed from the left end of the lever frame but the remaining levers retained the same numbering.
Acton Central signal box closed on 16th May 1983, with the control of the level crossing passing to Bollo Lane Junction, from where it was monitored using closed-circuit television cameras.