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Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

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Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Stour-hartle » Fri Apr 8, 2011 6:49 am

Hello everyone. Signed up to try and learn more about this area and the signal boxes. Recently been to see Blakedown box and hartlebury and was informed of them being closed in the near future. 

Such a shame to see nice boxes go so after doing research into the boxes I found out that this is also the case for Kidderminster, Stourbridge power box and kingswinford. What I am looking for is a brief history of all of these 5 boxes. When they were first built, amy significant changes to the boxes such as the dates hartlebury and blakedown changed to nx panels. Have there been any significant events at the boxes

I know vandals ruined kingswinford in 2001 and that Kidderminster had to be rebuilt due to a derailed train smashing through the box. But anything else of significance happened at these boxes? 

If anyone could help me with the build dates and significant events I would greatly appreciate it. And if any have some good pictures you'd like to share with me I would really like to see them

Kind regards

John
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Peter Jordan » Fri Apr 8, 2011 2:42 pm

Right, this is what I can tell you.

STOURBRIDGE - opened circa 1901 as 'Stourbridge Junction Middle' with a 'Double Twist' frame of 91 levers. This was relocked and reduced to 60 levers in 1978 and the panel was installed in 1990.

BLAKEDOWN - opened as 'Churchill & Blakedown' in 1888 with a frame of 22 levers. A frame of 30 levers with vertical tappet 5-bar locking was installed in May 1937. The panel was installed on 21 December 1980.

KIDDERMINSTER JUNCTION - opened 25 October 1953. Contains a 66 lever 5-bar frame.

HARTLEBURY - opened June 1876 as 'Hartlebury Station' and is built to a McKenzie & Holland design. Its first frame had 21 levers and this was replaced by a 3-bar frame of 30 levers in August 1910. Took control of the old Severn Valley junction to Stourport when Hartlebury Junction box closed 15 May 1977. The panel was installed 28 November 1982.

KINGSWINFORD JUNCTION - opened 8 February 1916 as 'Kingswinford Junction South.' The original frame size is not known but a 77-lever 3-bar frame was installed 8 December 1924.

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby mr-cool » Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:19 pm

thanks a lot Peter, i was also looking for this info. this information is really useful for me. again thanks for sharing.

cheers
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Save our signal box » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:43 pm

Can I follow up on this discussion please? I'm a resident of Blakedown, and the engineers are currently installing the automation for our level crossing, with work to be completed in mid March. We're concerned that the next step will be to demolish our signal box, which is very much a village landmark. Do anyone have any additional information about the box ( facts we have found - that it was built by McKenzie & Holland, and we believe, but don't know, that there are very few of these left now)?

Also, are there any examples of boxes which have been de-commissioned but made secure and left in situ? This box is not very big, but it's well built, the brickwork is solid and the top part would need only minimal maintenance (there's a picture on wikipedia). We're hoping to try and persuade Railtrack that it will be cheaper to leave it where it is (just taking the steel ladder off the back to keep it secure).

All information and suggestions gratefully received!

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Peter Jordan » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:14 pm

I'm afraid I wouldn't get your hopes up too much, Sue. Unless anyone can give an example to the contrary, it is the usual practice to demolish signal boxes that are adjacent to level crossings because they interfere with sighting. particularly where trains pass at high speed.

Do you know how the crossing at Blakedown is to be controlled/monitored? If it is manually controlled from Stourbridge and is monitored with CCTV then there is a chance that the box could be left, as was done with the box at Stoke Canon near Exeter. But if it is to become a fully automatic crossing, with no visual monitoring from a remote point, then it is unlikely that the box will be allowed to remain.

And if it is allowed to stay, there remains the question of who pays for its future upkeep? Stoke Canon, despite being very significant historically, is not well-maintained by Network Rail, and is now little more than a lineside eyesore.

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Chris Osment » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:26 pm

Unless anyone can give an example to the contrary, it is the usual practice to demolish signal boxes that are adjacent to level crossings because they interfere with sighting


The 'new' box at Sherborne remained after closure in 1970 until Sep last year - 41 years. For part of the time it was rented out as commercial offices! I would suggest that, as regards sighting, it was probably only an 'obstacle' for trains running Down the Up line, and of course the crossing was controlled locally anyway. Sadly, no longer so....
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Save our signal box » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:41 pm

OK thanks for that. I believe there is to be a visual control from Stourbridge, but I'll check, and I'll also keep an eye out for CCTV camera sites. Not sure whether by 'sighting' you mean for the train drivers, or for passengers, or for road users. I can't understand why it can't be left where it is, given that it'll be no nearer to the tracks than it's ever been, and can't provide more of an obstacle than it has to date - the line is straight for about 100 yards from the crossing in one direction, and about half a mile inthe other direction. As you can tell, I'm not technically railway savvy!

In terms of the future upkeep, I'm hoping the Parish Council might be persuaded to help out, but of course that would involve some cooperation from Railtrack.

Thank you both for your help - I'll let you know how we get on!!

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Danny252 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:44 pm

Is it a MK&H box? The SRS list it as a replacement GWR Type 4 built in 1888 (http://www.s-r-s.org.uk/html/gws/S2607.htm), though a lot of the boxes built in the area at that time were MK&H - if it was a replacement, going by the comissioning dates of other boxes on the line, the original would've had a very short life (did something happen to it?).
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby LlaniGraham » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:25 pm

Sue,
Just one point, but it is important when you are dealing with official bodies. It is NOT Railtrack; thery haven't existed for some years, it is now Network Rail. They do not like being reminded of their forebears!!
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby DFS » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:27 pm

Both Blakedown and Hartelbury crossings will be CCTV monitored from the Stourbridge Workstation in the West Midlands Signalling Centre at Saltley. They will be auto-lowering with CCTV monitoring to check for crossing clear.

According to current plans, the existing boxes will close during August this year when the whole of the Droitwich (exclusive) to Stourbridge re-signalling and re-control (in the case of the existing Stourbridge box) is commissioned.

Dave

p.s. Sue, good luck with your preservation proposals, but as Peter has already suggested you will probably have to be prepared to fight an uphill battle, particularly if recent experience elsewhere in the West Midlands is anything to go by. See viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2617&hilit=shirley Looking on the constructive side, maybe there are some lessons that you could learn from the experience at Shirley.
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Save our signal box » Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:57 pm

Oops, yes, old habits die hard - must remember, Network Rail - luckily someone else has been the main contact so far!

The McKenzie & Holland information came from the Signal Box site, which listed them as the main contractor for the line, and from Wikipedia, but in addition the box is very similar in design to the boxes at Baschurch and Hartlebury, which were M&H - same arched windows in the ground floor, same finial at the apex of the barge boards. The station was opened in 1852 - I don't know whether the signal box was erected then, or whether it was added in 1888 - this might have followed the replacement of the original timber viaduct by the current blue-brick 6 arch viaduct in 1882 which carries two tracks (up and down?).

The Shirley story is disheartening - it does seem nonsensical to reduce these buildings to rubble for no particularly sound reason. Hopefully, if the demolition isn't scheduled until August we still have time to explore other options and pull together some good arguments.

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu Mar 1, 2012 5:30 am

Save our signal box wrote:The McKenzie & Holland information came from the Signal Box site, which listed them as the main contractor for the line, and from Wikipedia, but in addition the box is very similar in design to the boxes at Baschurch and Hartlebury, which were M&H - same arched windows in the ground floor, same finial at the apex of the barge boards. The station was opened in 1852 - I don't know whether the signal box was erected then, or whether it was added in 1888 - this might have followed the replacement of the original timber viaduct by the current blue-brick 6 arch viaduct in 1882 which carries two tracks (up and down?).

The boxes built by McKenzie & Holland on the line dated from the 1870s and early 1880s and this work would have been contracted to them because the GWR had insufficient resources of their own to cope with the massive expansion of signalling at that time. It is possible that the first box at Blakedown (full name Churchill & Blakedown) was of McKenzie & Holland origins but the one there now was an 1888 replacement and is indeed of the GWR's own design. Hagley was a similar renewal too.

In terms of rarity it is likely that this particular design in the history of GWR signal box design is a lot rarer than the McKenzie & Holland designs that survive so its historic significance should not be overlooked. I do not think many survive. I do not think any boxes of this type have achieved "listed" status with English Heritage but they can be very hard to convince - I think to them a signal box is a signal box and there is much duplication of some signal box designs with others totally overlooked.

Whether listing can be achieved or not, keeping the un-staffed building in good condition can be a challenge but it isn't impossible. Network Rail would undoubtedly like to demolish the box to avoid such a responsibility (and one can hardly blame them). To them, it isn't actually nonsense to demolish boxes immediately as they soon become vandalised eyesores, and it is convenient these days with the contracting arrangements for the signalling alterations to include demolition in the same contract so it is usually done almost immediately and sometimes almost before the poor signalman gets to the foot of the stairs!

From a technical viewpoint, the question of visibility refers to the CCTV cameras used by the remote signalman to establish the crossing is clear of obstructions before clearing the signals. The alterations there will have already been designed and it may (or may not) be that the arrangements are counting on the fact that the box won't be there. Therefore a dim view may be taken at the need to redesign.

Removal of signal boxes isn't an essential part of the process, however - only a few days ago I was looking at a box in Colchester in a similar circumstance. Although of no specific historical significance in EH terms (built in 1927!) it cannot be demolished as it is in the middle of a heritage area. It is worth noting, though, that essential to its survival in reasonable condition is the provision of unsightly grills over the windows to discourage vandalism. This is something you should not forget whilst trying to save a box as you see it now. It will not look as pretty:
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Photo: John Hinson 21/2/12

If you can find a valuable function for the building - museum, shop, whatever, I think the project might be considered more valuable and justified. The problem here would be safe access as the staircase is not at the level crossing end.

If you really value the building but it cannot remain where it is, another option would be to move it to another location in the village but this would be no small task as the box is largely brick-built. If you feel it should be saved but not necessarily locally, a steam railway may be pleased to take it on.

A lot of conflicting thoughts for you there but don't necessarily let them put you off. A tough road is ahead of you but I'm sure this forum will give you as much help as it can.

John
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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Peter Jordan » Thu Mar 1, 2012 6:56 am

Don't forget that there is a box of this type preserved already - the box from Cradley Heath that is now at Totnes on the South Devon Railway.

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:25 am

Peter Jordan wrote:Don't forget that there is a box of this type preserved already - the box from Cradley Heath that is now at Totnes on the South Devon Railway.

Half of it . . .

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Re: Stourbridge - Hartlebury Signalbox History

Unread postby Save our signal box » Thu Mar 1, 2012 8:50 am

Thank you all so much, the information and ideas you have pulled together are really valuable to us. I'll post progress on this discussion topic as we go along.

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