Old Signal Boxes in the UK

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Stellwerker

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Good morning,

I'm a railway fan from Germany and currently planning a fieldtrip to the UK for five days this year - I want to use Interrail for travelling through Great Britain and see some nice locations. I'm most interested in seeing some old mechanic interlockings, signals etc. or other signal boxes where trains are dispached like in the old days, but I don't know where to find them... but maybe you do and can help me out :smile:

Thanks & Greetings from Germany,
Stellwerker
 
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krus_aragon

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Shrewsbury's Severn Bridge Junction is the biggest mechanical signal box still in operation, with mechanical signals in use throughout the station area. The signal box is easily seen from trains heading toward Birmingham, Hereford and Aberystwyth, but I don't believe there are any public viewings available.

At the Crewe Heritage Centre (a short walk from Crewe station), there are a number of signal boxes that are open to visitors, including a mechanical box that has been moved from Exeter.
 

30907

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On the national network, over 140 boxes are "listed" by English Heritage (who have or had an enthusiast on their staff!), the equivalent to Denkmalschutz. However, not all of them are mechanical boxes, and not all mechanical boxes have semaphore signals.
However, plenty still do, for example on the Settle-Carlisle and Cumbrian Coast lines in Northern England.
You might also be interested in seeing traditional single-line operation with physical token/tablet and signaller, which I don't think exists at all in Germany. This is becoming rare, but Barrhill in Scotland is one example.
 
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Heritage railways are your best bet to see inside a signal box, they are usually unsociable people signalers who prefer to lock the door away from the outside world! :)

But in the real world they lock to door because they cant be distracted from their job.

Buxton station still uses and you can see the use of semaphore signals and the use of The use of a single line. Furness Vale has a nice box that also control a level crossing but its signals are not really visible from the platforms. Chapel-en-le-frith also has a nice but basic box that is just beyong the station. Helsby there is a rather nice signal box right there on the station platform.
Stockport uses Absolute block signaling but there is nothing to see there.
The Hope Valley line mostly uses TCB and signaling depending on the location, its got some amazing views too. Great rocks and Peak dale operations can be seen from near by roads I think (this line passes under the Buxton line twice in tunnels, first time at Dove holes and then again at Chapel-en-le-Frith. before it joins the Hope Valley at Chinley.

Another nice place to visit it Delamere forest. and you can take a train to Chester from there.
 

Tomnick

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The Hope Valley line mostly uses TCB and signaling depending on the location, its got some amazing views too.
The Hope Valley line is Absolute Block all the way from Totley Tunnel East to Chinley East Jn - it's only from there that it's TCB, but New Mills South still has a handful of semaphores. There's decent views of the signalling at both Edale and Grindleford, as well as fantastic views of the wider landscape of course! Peak Forest and Great Rocks are two cracking little survivors though - well worth a look.
 

JonathanP

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The area around Worcester is a key area for fully mechanical signalling on the main line with semaphore signals. The triangular junction, depot, and medium sized station at Worcester Shrub Hill are still fully controlled by semaphores, with further signal boxes extending the mechanically-signalled area in each direction.

Nearby is the Severn Valley Railway museum railway, which arguably(I am definitely biased!) has the most impressive range of signalling of any preserved railway considering the extent and complexity of the setup and the range of different operating methods used. This includes the 62 lever new build signalbox at Kidderminster
(from what I remember this was for a long time the largest signal box on a museum railway, but has now been superseded), and twin original signalboxes at Bewdley controlling opposite ends of an impressive 3 platform station that is still signalled as a 4 way junction.

I would also like to mention to you the Exeter West Group at Crewe Heritage Centre. This is a 131(!) lever signalbox which was moved from it's original location and preserved as an example of a large signalbox. It is now connected to a computer simulator so it can be visited and demonstrated.

P.S. Als in Deutschland wohnende Engländer würde ich mich freuen, von erhaltenen Stellwerken in Deutschland zu hören. Soweit ich gesehen habe, in gegenteil von England hat fast keine deutsche Museumseisenbahn ein betriebsfähiges Stellwerk.
 
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Llanigraham

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Semaphore signals and token exchange can be seen at Craven Arms, from the level crossing just to the north of the station.
Semaphore signals and a controlled level crossing at Bromfield (Ludlow Racecourse)

And as others have said, I would recommend a visit to the Severn Valley Railway for all these things.
 

LWB

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Heritage railways are your best bet to see inside a signal box, they are usually unsociable people signalers who prefer to lock the door away from the outside world! :)

But in the real world they lock to door because they cant be distracted from their job.

.

Rather an unfair comment. In reality they lose their job if caught entertaining spurious members of the public on NR safety critical property.
 

30907

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In the bad old days the local Area Manager might be agreeable to an accompanied visit by a small group, but it was always up to the signalman (sic!) to allow entry.
An approach to Network Rail might work, but I think you would have to suggest a specific box to visit.
On preserved lines, as well as the SVR, Grosmont NYMR and Horsted Keynes Bluebell also have substantial installations; Sheffield Park Bluebell has a lever frame on the platform; there are plenty more and most will have token working if more than one train is operating.
And of course St Albans City has a complete preserved box, only lacking in track!

@JonathanP Wernigerode is definitely signalled, but it's colour lights. Can't think of any other Museumsbahn that would need signals :(
 
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The Hope Valley line is Absolute Block all the way from Totley Tunnel East to Chinley East Jn - it's only from there that it's TCB, but New Mills South still has a handful of semaphores. There's decent views of the signalling at both Edale and Grindleford, as well as fantastic views of the wider landscape of course! Peak Forest and Great Rocks are two cracking little survivors though - well worth a look.

Sorry yes. I always think of the Hope valley line as from Romiley which of course it isnt.

Rather an unfair comment. In reality they lose their job if caught entertaining spurious members of the public on NR safety critical property.

Sorry that was meant very tongue in cheek. It was not meant to be an honest opinion. I did say at the end they dont because they cant.
 

ajs

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You say that you are planning a 5 day trip to the UK this year but there are not that many weeks left in this year. Others have suggested preserved railways but apart from next week, school half term holidays, preserved lines will not be open as much as they would have been in summer months.The larger preserved railways would like suspect be operating services at weekends, some may operate on Saturdays or Sundays but not both. Others will be gearing up for their Father Christmas/Polar Express/Festival of Light night trains.
 
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You say that you are planning a 5 day trip to the UK this year but there are not that many weeks left in this year. Others have suggested preserved railways but apart from next week, school half term holidays, preserved lines will not be open as much as they would have been in summer months.The larger preserved railways would like suspect be operating services at weekends, some may operate on Saturdays or Sundays but not both. Others will be gearing up for their Father Christmas/Polar Express/Festival of Light night trains.

I thought exactly the same which is why I tended away from preserved lines...
 

Stellwerker

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P.S. Als in Deutschland wohnende Engländer würde ich mich freuen, von erhaltenen Stellwerken in Deutschland zu hören. Soweit ich gesehen habe, in gegenteil von England hat fast keine deutsche Museumseisenbahn ein betriebsfähiges Stellwerk.

Germany has over 700 (!) working mechanic (without the electro-mechanic!) still in service, in every place you can find one, exspecially on branch lines. The Saxonian heritage lines own some old "Schlüsselwerke" (might be translateable to "key interlocking"), but I don't know if a standard gauge line has one in service (some have preserved ones, but not in full working order).

In the bad old days the local Area Manager might be agreeable to an accompanied visit by a small group, but it was always up to the signalman (sic!) to allow entry.
An approach to Network Rail might work, but I think you would have to suggest a specific box to visit.
@JonathanP Wernigerode is definitely signalled, but it's colour lights. Can't think of any other Museumsbahn that would need signals :(

I got lucky asking for Seven Brigdes Box, they were very nice, and I can visit that one - thanks for your tip! Asking the local stuff would have be the other way around, in Germany most signalmen or women are kind and let you have one or two glances at their interlockings, even it's normally not allowed ;)

In Wernigerode they have an computer interlocking ("EStW"), like I said some lines in Saxony have their "Schlüsselwerke".
 

John Webb

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…..And of course St Albans City has a complete preserved box, only lacking in track!....
At St Albans South Signal Box we only have October 27th, November 10th and December 8th (Sundays, 14:00-17:00hrs) left this year. But if you pass us on a Wednesday afternoon we have a regular working party and someone may be able to show you round, although we cannot guarantee that everything will be working.
See www.sigbox.co.uk for location and opening details, and on the 'News' pages the past 14 years of restoration and public opening is recorded in some detail

PS - we do have some track now - a narrow-gauge point and a garden railway.
 

muddythefish

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Heritage railways are your best bet to see inside a signal box, they are usually unsociable people signalers who prefer to lock the door away from the outside world! :)
.


Not in my experience! Spent many happy hours in the boxes at Johnston and Clarbeston Road on holiday in Pembrokeshire in the 1970s and managed to get in Blea Moor box in early 1982 shortly before the Nottingham - Glasgow expresses came off and the line still had wagonload freight. Signalmen were always friendly and loved to have a chat.
 

Llanigraham

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Not in my experience! Spent many happy hours in the boxes at Johnston and Clarbeston Road on holiday in Pembrokeshire in the 1970s and managed to get in Blea Moor box in early 1982 shortly before the Nottingham - Glasgow expresses came off and the line still had wagonload freight. Signalmen were always friendly and loved to have a chat.

That may have been the situation 40 years ago, but now we are under far greater control, and if you are caught with an unauthorised visitor it can quickly result in a no tea and biscuits meeting with the boss.
 

driver9000

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Try the Cumbrian Coast line between Lancaster, Barrow, Whitehaven and Carlisle.

The Settle to Carlisle line also has semaphore signalling as does parts of the Tyne Valley line linking Newcastle with Carlisle.
 

30907

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PS - we do have some track now - a narrow-gauge point and a garden railway.

My apologies :)
I got lucky asking for Seven Brigdes Box, they were very nice, and I can visit that one - thanks for your tip!
I am pleasantly surprised that you were able to fix that up so quickly - I think NR are rather proud of Severn Bridge Junction, so maybe that helps?
Anyway, once you are there, the Worcester triangle, Craven Arms and the SVR (if operating) are all within easy reach (as you may have realised already).
 

ac6000cw

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The lines between Ely - Peterborough and Peterborough - Leicester are mostly controlled from small local boxes, although a mixture of semaphore and colour light signals in places.

As the re-signalling has been delayed, the lines between Norwich and Yarmouth & Lowestoft are mostly semaphore - Brundall in particular is a nice example of mechanical signalling plus crossing-keeper operated level crossing gates.

I don't travel on it very often, but the mainline through Cornwall (i.e. west of Plymouth) still has some ex-GWR lower-quadrant semaphore signalling as far as I know.
 
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sw1ller

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Looks like you’re off to Shrewsbury then. I can confirm that you won’t be disappointed. As others have said, Crewe heritage is very close and only 1 stop away if you get on the right train. Also worth a mention is Gobowen. It’s also one stop from Shrewsbury with working semaphores.

And close by is the Llangollen heritage railway which is in an absolutely stunning location and has great traction and a working signal box you can look in. They have event coming soon and are still open.

I’ll add this link so you can get directions. https://www.llangollen-railway.co.uk/
 

King Lazy

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The Cumbrian Coast has been mentioned and I think it would be a great place to visit as it has pretty much every type of signalling.

Track Circuit Block
Absolute Block
Token less Block
Electric Key Tokens.

There are quite large signalboxes at Carnforth Stn Jnc, Barrow in Furness and Bransty (Whitehaven). There is an impressive signalbox at Foxfield though it is a shadow of it's former self work-wise.

As someone who worked on the line I'd suggest the following for a glimpse of "traditional railway, 21st century style".

Barrow particularly has a quite large signalbox and a good number of semaphore signals (including ground shunt discs) in view of the station. You can see trains entering and leaving the sidings on shunt signals in the morning and evening.

There are traditional Furness Railway style signalboxes at Arnside, Askam and St Bees.

Arnside is worth a visit just for its beauty and has semaphore signals and a large viaduct.

At St Bees you can see trains exchanging key tokens between two seperate single lines.

At Whitehaven station you can observe the driver take the token from the instrument on the platform while on the phone to the signaller. If you are lucky you will be able to hear the background bells and associated clicks from the instrument as the signaller bells to the other signalbox and then instructs the driver to release the token.

You can also see drivers replacing the token.

One of the most interesting places in my opinion is the section between Millom and Silecroft (and eventually up to Ravenglass).

Millom has a small museum on the station with a model railway showing how it used to be and a supermarket in the old goods shed.

Between Millom and Silecroft are two "Non block post" level crossings at Kirksanton and Limestone Hall. They don't form part of the signalling section but you can stand at the crossing as the crossing keeper closes the gates manually then uses the levers at the ground frame to clear the semaphore signals. It's probably as close as you'll get to a "signalbox" these days as you can observe everything from the public road. Limestone Hall is an easy enough walk from Silecroft (20-30 mins) and is a beautiful location.

At stations like Silecroft and Bootle you can hear the bells and levers as the signaller works. Bootle also has a manual crossing and all semaphores while Silecroft is barriered and has a colour light in one direction.

Then there is the narrow gauge steam railway station at Ravenglass which sometimes has the old main line signalbox open to visit (and its own signalbox which controls a fairly unique layout that isn't technically traditional).

At Workington you can see two large signalboxes either side of the station in what used to be a complex are controlled between them. Both are still in use but the complexity is largely gone.

I have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the area and line. PM me if you would like further details.
 

DarloRich

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Good morning,

I'm a railway fan from Germany and currently planning a fieldtrip to the UK for five days this year - I want to use Interrail for travelling through Great Britain and see some nice locations. I'm most interested in seeing some old mechanic interlockings, signals etc. or other signal boxes where trains are dispached like in the old days, but I don't know where to find them... but maybe you do and can help me out :smile:

Thanks & Greetings from Germany,
Stellwerker

Greetings! A follow up question if I may:

Do you want to look at a mechanical signal box or do you want to go inside one?

If the later a heritage railway will be best.

I can recommend the settle and Carlisle line for a trip out on the train. Mechanical signalling galore
 

Llanigraham

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Greetings! A follow up question if I may:

Do you want to look at a mechanical signal box or do you want to go inside one?

In post #14 he states that he has permission to visit Shrewsbury Severn Bridge Junction Box, where he will see plenty of semaphore action.
 

Belperpete

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I can recommend the settle and Carlisle line for a trip out on the train. Mechanical signalling galore
The Settle - Carlisle line is one of the most spectacular railway lines in the UK. As Darlo says, still mainly traditional semaphore-signalled. Appleby is perhaps the best station to see the old signalbox and signals.

And from Carlisle you can easily get to Carnforth, for the Cumbrian Coast line which is almost-equally spectacular, and also still has a lot of semaphore signalling as described above by King Lazy.
 

Stellwerker

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The Cumbrian Coast has been mentioned and I think it would be a great place to visit as it has pretty much every type of signalling.

Track Circuit Block
Absolute Block
Token less Block
Electric Key Tokens

I have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the area and line. PM me if you would like further details.

Well, I'm quite interested in that line, that sounds awesome, and I'd like to ask you more about it, but I'm sorry that I don't how to write you a PM...
 

GusB

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Well, I'm quite interested in that line, that sounds awesome, and I'd like to ask you more about it, but I'm sorry that I don't how to write you a PM...
You have to make a certain number of posts on the forum (I think it's 5) before you can send private messages.
 
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