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Short stories from the history of Britain's railways 


Operative from:

04.18 hrs on WEDNESDAY 10th FEBRUARY 2021

This project affected the lines between Stockton and Sunderland South Junction, also between Norton South and Ferryhill South Junction, including Norton West to Norton East, Billingham to Seal Sands Storage, Seaton-on-Tees Branch, and Ryhope Grange to Hendon.

Nine signal boxes were closed when lineside signalling was replaced between Norton South Junction and Greatham, and signalling between Greatham and Ryhope Grange (also between Norton on Tees East Jnc and Ferryhill Jnc) was re-controlled to a new Hartlepool Workstation at York ROC.

The Hartlepool Workstation fringes to Tyneside IECC at Ryhope Grange and Ferryhill Jnc; the fringe between Norton South Junction and Stockton is to the Bowesfield Workstation at York ROC.

Apart from Hall Dene where CCTV was retained, most other level crossings were converted to MCB-OD operation controlled from York ROC (Hartlepool workstation).

The closed signal boxes were as follows:-


Ryhope Grange SB was built to the NER N3 design, and opened in 1905 when it had a 70 lever McKenzie & Holland frame. That frame was replaced in 1951 by a No.17 pattern frame, also of 70 levers, but later reduced to 40 levers.

In November 2010 a Workstation was installed to control the line through to Greatham, when the frame was further reduced by removal of levers 1 &2.

The signal box was closed at 01.45 hrs on 06 February 2021.

Belasis Lane SB was built by the LNER to the NER S4 design, replacing an earlier level crossing box in 1929 when it was fitted with a 25 lever McKenzie & Holland frame. That frame was retained until closure at 00.45 hrs on 24 January 2021.

As part of the resignalling project, Stop Boards were installed at Belasis Lane and No Signaller Token (Remote) working introduced to Phillips Siding Ground Frame; the remaining running line beyond Phillips Siding Ground Frame was re-designated as North Tees Siding. Haverton Hill East Grid Sidings were recovered.


Norton-on-Tees SB was rebuilt, probably from an earlier structure, to the NER C2 design, and opened in 1897. It was fitted with a replacement 26 lever McKenzie &Holland No.16 pattern frame in 1957 which remained in use until the box closed at 01.35 hrs on 6 February 2021.


Norton East SB was built to an NER non-standard design, and opened in 1870, so it was one of the oldest operational boxes on Network Rail when it closed at 01.39 hrs on 6 February 2021. It was extended in 1899 and fitted with a Stevens frame, and finally fitted with a replacement 25 lever McKenzie &Holland No.17 pattern reconditioned frame in 1959.


Norton South SB was built to an NER non-standard design and, like Norton East, opened in 1870. It was fitted with a new lever frame in 1895, which was in turn replaced by a 20 lever McKenzie &Holland No.17 pattern reconditioned frame in 1955. It closed at 01.38 hrs on 6 February 2021


Norton West SB was built to the NER S4 design, and opened in 1921, replacing an earlier SB at the Junction and a gate box at the level crossing. The 41 lever McKenzie &Holland No.16 pattern frame dated from the box opening in 1921.

Equipment was decommissioned at 11.39 hrs and the box officially closed at 13.36 hrs on Saturday 30 January 2021.


Ferryhill SB was built by BR to the LNER No.13 design, and opened in 1954 as Ferryhill No.2 SB, replacing an earlier NER signal box. The 45-lever mechanical frame was replaced by an IFS panel in 1971, when the other SBs at Ferryhill also closed.

In May 1992, control of the ECML from Tyneside IECC was extended to just north of Northallerton; Ferryhill SB ceased to signal the Main Line but was retained as a temporary measure to control the Stillington lines to and from Norton West which were worked by Absolute Block. It closed at 13.40 hrs on 30 January 2021.


FARSAP is the "Film Archive of Railway Signalling and People".

With support from Network Rail, the FARSAP Project is recording signalling which is being transferred to the ROCs.

Films of all 4 Norton boxes can be seen on the FARSAP web-site here

Richard Pulleyn

Deputy Director, FARSAP Project

Friends of the National Railway Museum


29 April 2021

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The scene was the gloomy and rather cold interior of the locomotive shed and workshop at Loughborough on the Great Central (Heritage) Railway. Taking a visitor around, the two of us were looking at GCR 8K, later LNER O4 class 63601, from the National Collection, but then laid up, awaiting a full overhaul. I was surprised at my visitor’s interest. After all, O4’s were sturdy, black workhorses but hardly elegant or particularly exciting. He pointed at the builder’s plate – ‘Gorton 1912’. Then he looked up at the cab.

Picture: Wikipedia

‘Not much, is it?’ he commented. ‘Imagine taking a slow freight across the Pennines in January with only this for protection. And that’s assuming you weren’t tender first.’

‘It’s not much better on a snowy day in Leicestershire either,’ I joked.

This film, made in 1939, shows the progression of a young man in the LMS from engine cleaner to fireman and onwards to driver.

Some oral history interviews elaborate further on what it was like. Many feature experiences in poor weather conditions but others mention tunnels. ‘Eastbound with a freight on, we would usually be held in the siding at the Woodhead tunnel west portal,’ explained Jack. ‘It was to let passenger trains through first, see? It was a long slog up into the Pennines but you were expected to restart a heavy load of (coal) wagons and go straight into the tunnel. It was terrible – our exhaust, but a lot from previous trains entering the tunnel as well.’ On an O4, the cab wouldn’t help much. They must have cast envious eyes at the cosy cabs of diesel and electric locomotives. It was almost as if the Woodhead route electrics were designed to tease them – take a look at Class EM1 ‘Tommy’ in the NRM. Very spacious, but where is the arm chair? Romantic though steam might sound, such cabs were a different world – and very welcome.

York Oral History Society interviewed Bill Ridsdale, born in 1907 and footplate crew on Great Northern ‘Atlantics’. ‘We worked in all weathers. I've had my head out as a driver, on a night in frost and snow for 100 miles without pulling it in.’ Take a look at the cab of Atlantics in the National Collection and you can see what he means.

Joe, from the Great Central interview collection, recalled being ‘gassed’ in one of the tunnels approaching Nottingham Victoria with an O4. The locomotive stalled while hauling wagons loaded with stone. The cab gave little protection, and that, mainly from bits coming off the roof of the tunnel. Joe passed out in the smoke and fumes. ‘My mate covered me over and put a wet hankie in my mouth and then walked to the signal box for help. When the ambulance reached the box, two Annesley men from another O4 picked me off the footplate and put me in the ambulance van. The nurse gave me gas and air. Two GC Pom Poms shoved our train out of the tunnel.’

Cab development was a rather side issue compared to locomotive performance, so making do with tarpaulins, and temporary screens against the weather was a regular feature. By the time of Gresley and his contemporaries, things had improved considerably, as you can see from inside the cabs of some of the locomotives in the NRM collection, right up to the rather luxurious surroundings of the cab of ‘Evening Star’ (still no carpet, though).

Evening Star. NRM

Some folk, like my visitor to Loughborough looking at the O4, had a pretty good idea what footplate life was like but for others, the thought of a warm fire closed off all thoughts of cold winds and bad weather. Visitors turning up to drive a steam locomotive as a ‘driving experience’ guest would arrive in anything from shorts to overcoats (one group of jovial Australians arrived dressed in striped ‘American engineer’ outfits (from Harrods) looking like replicas of ‘Casey Jones’). My experiences reminded me that few had any real idea of what it was like on the footplate.

We did use 63601 on occasions for driver experiences, but not with a rake of coal wagons on a winter’s day!

So, wrap up warm and take a look at the cab of 63601. You can’t see it for real at the moment because of pandemic restrictions and, anyway, it’s in bits undergoing that long awaited full overhaul.


By John Swanwick.

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Kings Cross PSB opened on 4 July 1976 as part of the ongoing ECML resignalling programme. It was fitted with an NX Panel of the Henry Williams Integra Domino design. The building and Panel were refurbished in 2006/2007.

The last train signalled from the station by Kings Cross PSB was 2Y98 at 01.40 on Friday 23rd April 2021, following which the station remained closed until 04.00 hrs on Monday 26th April 2021.

However, 2Y98 was not the last train signalled by Kings Cross PSB – the box continued to signal trains throughout Friday 23rd from the Thameslink Core at Belle Isle Jnc northwards along the ECML, and vice versa, and also trains to Moorgate.

The box was booked to close after the last train through the Thameslink Core on Saturday 24th, with the possession being booked at 01.20hrs. The last train signalled was 9W90 23.11 Horsham – Finsbury Park. The box closed at 23.59hrs on 24th April 2021, the panels themselves having been shut down some time previously on the same day.

The Kings Cross Station Throat area was extensively remodelled, and two new lines brought into service between Copenhagen Junction and the station utilising the previously redundant East bore of Gas Works Tunnel. Kings Cross Platform 10 was taken out of use, and the existing Kings Cross Platform 11 renumbered to Platform 10. Platform 0 was returned to operational use .

Operative from 04.00 HRS Monday 26th April 2021

The east side of Kings Cross station (Platforms 0 to 6 and the formerly disused bore of Gasworks Tunnel) reopened on Monday 26th April, signalled from York ROC.

Control was transferred from Kings Cross PSB to two new workstations "Kings Cross" and "Finsbury Park" at York ROC, with alterations to the existing Wood Green workstation.

The Kings Cross workstation covers the lines from Kings Cross station to Holloway North at approximately the 2 mile post, and the area of control for the Finsbury Park workstation is from approximately the 2 mile post covering the ECML lines, the Moorgate lines, Canonbury lines and Harringay T&H curve to the new fringe covered by the extended Wood Green workstation at approx. 4m 20ch.

The new Fringe Signalling Locations became Three Bridges ROC (interface on Canal Tunnels), Upminster IECC (interface on the North London Incline to Camden Road and the Canonbury Lines to Canonbury), Ashford IECC (interface on the North London Line to HS1) and South Tottenham SB (interface at Harringay Park Junction).

At Hornsey Depot, Ferme Park Sidings and Bounds Green Depot, the Interfacing signal box changed from Kings Cross PSB to York ROC. At Moorgate Station the Auto working facility was retained and the method of operation remained unaltered.

The Emergency Panels at Holloway Relay Room and Finsbury Park Relay Room were recovered, although those at Moorgate Relay Room, and Wood Green Relay Room were retained.


FARSAP is the "Film Archive of Railway Signalling and People".

With support from Network Rail, the FARSAP Project is recording signalling which is being transferred to the ROCs.

A film taken inside Kings Cross PSB in 2018 can be seen on the FARSAP web-site here

Richard Pulleyn (richardpulleyn@sky.com)

Deputy Director, FARSAP Project

Friends of the National Railway Museum 29 April 2021

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