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Lostwithiel Signal Box, Cornwall

Description: Lostwithiel Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 30 April 2013
Building ID: 1413727

OS Grid Reference: SX1068759798
OS Grid Coordinates: 210687, 59798
Latitude/Longitude: 50.4075, -4.6656

Locality: Cornwall
County: Cornwall
Postcode: PL22 0EW

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Listing Text


Signal box of 1893 for the Great Western Railway.

Reason for Listing

Lostwithiel Signal Box, erected in 1893, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Intactness: despite the loss of the original fenestration, it remains one of the best-preserved examples of what was once a standard signal box on the GWR network during the late C19;
* Date: it is considered to be the earliest known GWR-designed type 5 surviving;
* Fittings: for the retention of operating equipment including a lever frame and some train control instruments.


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.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) type 5 design was the first standard system-wide box used by the GWR. It was built in large numbers from 1889 to 1896. Lostwithiel station was opened in 1859 as part of the Cornwall Railway and amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in 1889. The signal box was built in 1893 to the north of the station buildings. It remains operational (2013), controlling a section of the Cornish main line and also overseeing china clay traffic on the branch line to Fowey Docks. It is adjacent to the level crossing, one of only six crossings between Plymouth and Penzance. The original station buildings have been demolished and replaced with modern structures in the late C20.


MATERIALS: it is built of brick with timber weather-boarding under a slate-clad roof.

EXTERIOR: a standard Type 5 design with a two-storey signal box under a shallow-pitched roof with barge-boards and spear-point finials to the gable ends. The first-floor operating room has continuous glazing to the north-west (facing the tracks) with uPVC windows in a similar arrangement to the originals which were arranged as paired horizontal sliding sashes. This glazing pattern continues to the gable ends. The doorway, within a projecting timber porch with a gabled roof, is to the south-east end and is reached by a set of modern wooden steps. The ground-floor locking room is accessed from a semi-sunken doorway in the same gable wall. The lower half of the north-west elevation has three original windows under segmental-arched brick heads. There are three similar ground-floor windows to the opposing (south-east) elevation and two further windows to the first floor.

INTERIOR: it retains a lever frame of 63 levers that was installed in 1923, block instruments, and also has a modern control panel.

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