Historic signalbox enjoying new lease of life close to former home

By Geoff Courtney

A VICTORIAN main line signalbox that was believed to be the oldest operational box in the country when it closed in 2014 has been given a new lease of life on a working railway, just a few miles from its former home.

The signalbox was built by Saxby & Farmer in about 1868. Its first location is unknown, but in 1876 is was erected at Billingshurst, West Sussex, and there it remained in operation for 138 years, finally ending its main line days in March 2014, by which time it was not only thought to be the country’s oldest operational box, but also believed to be the last surviving working representative of its design.

Then and now: Billingshurst signalbox in its main line days, and (inset), as it is today, at Amberley Museum in West Sussex. The box achieved fame when, at the time of its closure in 2014, it was believed to be the oldest operational ‘box in the country. MAGGIE HENDERSON / RUTH TYRRELL

Shortly after its closure, the 19-lever Grade II listed box was moved to Amberley Museum, 11 miles down the line from Billingshurst, where it was re-erected near the museum’s Brockham station on the museum’s ‘main line’ and restored by volunteers. Ruth Tyrrell, the museum’s communications manager, said: “On being moved, listed buildings lose their listing, but we have undertaken to treat the signalbox as though it were still listed.

“While the box, which complements our ex-Hove ticket office, will not be operational, we are hoping to have enough volunteers to open it to visitors during the season, and part of its attraction will be not only its original lever frame, signalling levers, block instruments and track diagram, but because it offers a good view of our site.”

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