Signal box built in 1885 for the Great Eastern Railway.
Reason for Listing
The signal box built in 1885 for the Great Eastern Railway is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: the Type 5 signal box was built in small numbers and this is the sole survivor of the type. It retains almost all its original decoration to the operating floor as well as the 1897 signal frame.
* Architectural interest: the Type 5 was the most elaborate signal box developed by the GER. The decorative edging to the fascias and the particular bargeboard pattern was unique to this design as far as the GER was concerned. * Historic interest: March Station played an important role in the region’s social, economic, and transport history; formerly being the hub of the fen railway network and associated with the once largest marshalling yard in the country. The contemporary station building provides an important architectural and historic context to the signal box.
The station building and signal box were built at March in 1885. The signalling contractors Saxby & Farmer built the signal box which contains a frame of the Saxby & Farmer Duplex pattern dating from 1897. The box has been classified as GER Type 5, a design that was used between 1884 and 1889, and was, architecturally, the most elaborate one developed by the GER. March East Junction is recorded as having been raised in height when the present frame was installed in order to give the signalman a good view along what was once a particularly busy stretch of line with numerous sidings to accommodate heavy through goods traffic. The locking room windows were bricked up probably in the approach to World War II as a precaution against blast damage. The external staircase may have been moved from its original position at the side of the box to accommodate the lifting barriers and associated equipment when these were installed prior to the 1970s. The windows have recently been replaced with uPVC.
The original railway station at March had been opened in 1847 by the Eastern Counties Railway as part of the route known as the Wisbech, St Ives and Cambridge Junction Railway. March became the hub of the railway network in the fens with five routes converging at the station, and by 1862 the ECR had taken over most of the other railways in the area, renaming itself the Great Eastern Railway. The new 1885 seven-platform station was built to the west of the original station building which was retained as the station master’s house and demolished in the 1970s. The rebuilding of the station was linked to the 1882-83 opening of the Great Northern & Great Eastern joint line that ran across the fens to Spalding and Lincoln where it joined an existing railway in order to provide an independent route to Doncaster and the North avoiding the East Coast main line. The new route, which GER termed the ‘Cathedrals Route’ was used to bring coal to London and for some fast express trains. March formed the start of the new line and its important role as a junction meant that appropriate accommodation on a larger scale was required. Over the years, March’s role has been reduced with the closure of certain lines and there are now only two operational platforms, both having been truncated. Associated with the station is Whitemoor, formerly the largest marshalling yard in the country. It originated in 1867 when sidings were laid at Norwood Common, and expanded in 1929 when a new marshalling yard with forty sidings was built. It was used extensively during World War II but the eventual transfer of goods traffic to the roads led to its closure in the 1990s. In 2004 part of the yard was reopened as a strategic supply facility for Network Rail.
PLAN: the signal box has a rectangular plan and is located to the east of the station.
MATERIALS: red brick under a slate-clad roof.
EXTERIOR: the box has one-storey and a basement, and is of more than usual height. The shallow-pitched roof has overhanging, decorated eaves with exposed rafters, ornamental ridge tiles, and a chimney stack with two circular pots projecting from the north wall. The timber bargeboards have decorative edging and the weather-boarding in the gable heads appears as a form of rustication. The building rests on a brick plinth and has pilasters at the corners. The top-floor room is accessed via an external flight of steps on the north side through a partly-glazed C20 door. At this level, three sides are glazed with a continuous band of large uPVC windows with a glazing bar pattern replicating the original design. A planked walkway with iron handrail runs around the three glazed sides, supported on exposed joists. At basement level the three windows on the south side with projecting lintels have been blocked up.
INTERIOR: The 1897 mechanical signal lever frame, comprising a series of hand operated levers extending the full length of the box, is in working order, although now supplemented by C21 electronic gear and track display screens.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.