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Runcorn Signal Box, Halton

Description: Runcorn Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 November 2013
Building ID: 1412067

OS Grid Reference: SJ5090682522
OS Grid Coordinates: 350906, 382522
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3373, -2.7387

Locality: Halton
County: Halton
Postcode: WA7 4TG

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Listing Text


Signal box opened 1940, designed by the London Midland Scottish railway to Air Raid Precaution specifications.

Reason for Listing

Runcorn Signal Box is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Representative: as a good, characteristic example of a Air Raid Precaution specification signal box, designed to minimise blast damage from aerial bombing;
* Preservation: the signal box retains its original, distinctive metal framed windows;
* Date: opened January 1940, Runcorn is believed to have been one of the first operational ARP signal boxes;
* Architecture: as a good illustration of the LMS's adoption of Modernist architecture for its ARP signal boxes.


From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levers to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.

Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it was anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.

With the deteriorating international situation in the late 1930s, railway companies began to prepare themselves for the prospect of aerial bombing. Many existing signal boxes were fitted with removable steel shutters and had their locking room windows bricked up. Some were given blast protection walls and a few particularly vulnerable boxes were rebuilt to Air Raid Precaution (ARP) specifications. A number of completely new boxes were also built to serve new lines and sidings built for the war effort. Some, but not all of these were also built as ARP boxes. Such signal boxes were designed to resist blast damage rather than direct hits and were typically built with 14 inch thick brickwork, flat 12 inch reinforced concrete roofs and metal framed windows, with the use of timber kept to a minimum to limit the risk of fire damage. Over 50 ARP signal boxes were built to the standardised design used by the London Midland Scottish Railway between 1939 and 1950 with around a hundred built by other companies elsewhere nationally. The example at Runcorn is a typical example of a LMS designed APR box and was opened in January 1940 to replace an earlier timber built box sited on a raised gantry.


Railway signal box, 1940, by and for the London Midland Scottish Railway. Air Raid Precaution (ARP) specification design.

MATERIALS: red brick laid in English bond on a flush plinth of blue engineering bricks; steel framed windows set in concrete surrounds; reinforced concrete roof.

EXTERIOR: two-storey signal box with a blind ground-floor locking room and a first-floor operating room of five windows overlooking the tracks to the east. The windows are square with plain, slightly projecting concrete surrounds, being steel framed divided into eleven panes, the slightly larger central pane being an opening casement that is surrounded on all sides by fixed panes. The northern and southern ends of the signal box each has a further similar window continuous to those of the front elevation. Below the windows, at floor level, are two, flush-faced bands of blue engineering bricks set on end, the bands divided by three courses of red brickwork. The concrete roof is flat and projects to all sides. Entry to the signal box is via modern steel steps at the northern end with the doorway to the operating room being segmentally arched; the door is a modern replacement. Adjacent to this, at the top of the steps, there is a modern, plastic-clad toilet cubicle.

INTERIOR: the operating room has a reinforced concrete floor and retains its original lever frame of 46 levers. This frame is sited at the rear of the box facing away from the tracks.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.