This signal box originally controlled the lines between London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross/Blackfriars. It was, at the time, the most intensively worked box in the UK and featured in several British Transport Films. The lever-frame represents an important intermediate step between the old mechanical frames and electrical push-button types.
The Westinghouse frame, showing the complicated three-way junction controlling up to 100 trains an hour(about one every forty seconds) at peak times.
Photo: Mel Draper
When the junction was remodelled in 1976, the box was removed along with its interior and lever-frame, and sent to the, then new, NRM at York. It was installed on a concrete plinth behind the Station Hall in the South Yard. However, thirty years of Yorkshire weather was not kind to it and, despite some emergency repairs to the woodwork and roof, by 2012 a proper restoration job was urgently required.
Borough Market Junction signal box (cabin) is situated in the NRM’s south yard.The condition of some of the wood is very evident. Photo: Mel Draper
The museum was keen to embark on this conservation work, but with the then tight public-sector financial position, the Friends were asked to help. Together with a generous personal contribution from one of our members, we were pleased to pay the full costs of the professional restoration of the exterior of the 'box, over £2300 being raised by the FNRM South of England Group (SoEG).
Work done included:
· removal of all plastic-based paint (this was the cause of much of the wood-rot)
· replacement of rotten wood with new material of equivalent type
· repair of the sash windows
· replacement of the plywood door with a more substantial door, door-frame and sill, in keeping with the rest of the 'box
· re-treatment of the wood with a traditional wood preservative which allows the wood to breathe while maintaining water-proofing.
During this work, investigation of the structural framework, supported by documentary research, indicated that the box dates from 1896. Some of the window frames dated from BR times; the lead weights in these sash windows were functional, if rough, and compare poorly against those in the other well-made originals. We were all relieved that the lever-frame, while needing removal of rust, is in fairly good condition.
Looking very smart after its complete renovation and repainting, the cabin may at some point be placed on a brick base, as it was when in use in South London. Photo: Mel Draper
Without the Friends' financial support, this work would have been seriously delayed and it is doubtful the fabric of the signal-box would have survived much longer. Now the 'box is waterproof, the interior and the lever frame can be restored, ready for this significant exhibit to form part of the Museum's plan for the future.
By Mel Draper
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