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Helsby Junction Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Helsby, Cheshire West and Chester

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.2754 / 53°16'31"N

Longitude: -2.771 / 2°46'15"W

OS Eastings: 348685

OS Northings: 375656

OS Grid: SJ486756

Mapcode National: GBR 9Z2K.WK

Mapcode Global: WH87X.DXQW

Entry Name: Helsby Junction Signal Box

Listing Date: 21 November 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1412057

Location: Helsby, Cheshire West and Chester, WA6

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Civil Parish: Helsby

Built-Up Area: Helsby

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Helsby St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Chester

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Summary

London North Western Railway Type 4 signal box built 1900.

Description

Railway signal box, 1900, by and for the London and North Western Railway, Type 4 design of 1876, extensively renovated circa 2003.

MATERIALS: brick base with timber upper floor with horizontal weatherboarding; uPVC windows replicating the original pattern; Welsh slate roof.

EXTERIOR: the signal box appears to be single storey with a half basement, the floor of the lower, locking room being below the level of the surrounding station platform. At the south-western end of the box there is a small annex which, although of matching construction, is a later addition, providing a staff toilet and a porch to the entrance to the operating room. The timber structure of the upper, operating room is slightly set back from the brick wall face of the locking room below. The locking room is lit by four, segmentally arched windows to front and back, with a single window to the north-eastern end. The operating room is accessed via a short, modern steel staircase rising into the porch from the south-eastern side. Glazing on this side of the signal box is continuous with eleven 4-pane sashes arranged 2-2-3-2-2, most being fixed, but some horizontally sliding. Glazing on the north-western side is similar being nearly continuous with 10 sashes with a single central gap. The north-eastern end is also nearly continuously glazed except for a single, sash-sized gap. The roof is gabled to a shallow pitch, finished with timber spiked finials set into plain bargeboards.

INTERIOR: the signal box retains its original 45 lever London and North Western Railway Tumbler frame.

History

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 London and North Western Railway initially employed the signalling contractors Saxby and Farmer for signalling equipment including signal boxes. From 1874, provision of new signalling was taken in-house using the company's main engineering works at Crewe. The first design (now known as the LNWR Type 3) was quickly replaced by the Type 4 by 1876: this standardised design being built in large numbers in various sizes up until about 1904. Helsby Junction Signal Box is a late example of the design, built in 1900 to replace an 1870s signal box on a slightly different site. The signal box is on the island platform at Helsby Station, to the north-east of the station building and waiting shelter both date to 1849 and are listed Grade II. Helsby Junction Signal Box was extensively renovated in circa 2003, winning a National Railway Heritage Award in 2004.

Reasons for Listing

Helsby Junction Signal Box is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Representative: a good example of the typical form of the London and North Western Railway Type 4 signal box
* Interior: for the retention of the original lever frame
* Group value: with the Grade II listed station buildings and waiting shelter.

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