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Torre Signal Box, Torbay

Description: Torre Signal Box

Grade: II
Date Listed: 11 June 2013
Building ID: 1414397

OS Grid Reference: SX9033264843
OS Grid Coordinates: 290332, 64844
Latitude/Longitude: 50.4731, -3.5468

Locality: Torbay
County: Torbay
Postcode: TQ2 5DD

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Listing Text


A GWR Type 7 signal box, built 1921-22 for the Great Western Railway.

Reason for Listing

Torre Signal Box, erected in 1921, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: although based on one of the more common types of GWR signal box, the tall three-storey arrangement and contrasting blue brickwork means that the box is an unusual and confident design;
* Intactness: it has been subject to little external alteration and the original windows and brick detailing are intact;
* Fittings: despite the loss of some of the internal operational equipment, it retains key features including the signal levers (as noted in 2010) which add to the building's good level of survival, and provide a physical manifestation of its original use;
* Group value: it has strong group value with Torre Railway Station and footbridge (listed at Grade II).


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 type 7 design was introduced in 1897 and continued to be built into the 1920s and formed the basis of the company’s signal boxes for the remainder of its corporate existence. A distinctive pattern of windows with glazing bars spaced so that there are three panes in the top half of the sash and two below and extensive use of blue engineering bricks providing contrast with red facing bricks are key features of the design. Another characteristic of many of the later examples of the design is that there are internal stairs rather than the external flight of steps found in most signal box designs. There are many small variations within the type 7 design but they do not impact significantly on its appearance.

Torre Signal Box was constructed to the type 7 design in 1921-22. Located on the northbound platform at Torre, Torre Signal Box opened in 1922 for the Great Western Railway and replaced an earlier structure that was too small to control the growing station and goods yards at Torre Station in South Devon. The design is unusual as it is three storeys rather than the typical two. Some of the interior equipment was lost to theft in March 2004.

The signal box was disused at the time of the assessment (2013).


MATERIALS: constructed of English-bond red brick with blue engineering brick detailing to the window surrounds, plinth and quoins. The roof is covered in slate.

PLAN: a rectangular plan.

EXTERIOR: it is three storeys and has a symmetrical three-bay front (north-east), facing onto the tracks, with a row of six-pane windows on the ground floor and three larger nine-pane windows on the first floor. The second floor is clad in weatherboarding and has a continuous observation window to the front elevation consisting of a row of sliding timber casements which continue on the returns and round to either end of the rear elevation. The south-east return contains the ground-floor door and a further six-pane casement window. To the rear, there are three nine-pane windows on the first floor and a small window to the right. The north-west contains a further entrance door and a set of steps leading from the basement up to the platform. All of the windows and the entrance are currently (2013) boarded over. The shallow-pitched, hipped roof is clad in slate, has bracketed eaves, and two ventilators on the ridge.

INTERIOR: a theft in 2004 resulted in the loss of some of the operational equipment. There is an internal stair at the north end. The ground floor is over two levels and includes a battery store. The first floor has had most of the original equipment removed and is empty apart from a WC. On the second floor the signal levers are still in position as well as an original stove (as of 2010).

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