Railway signal boxes granted Grade II listed status

Bury St Edmunds Yard, Edmundsbur​y, Suffolk Built in 1888, the Bury St Edmunds Yard signal required four resident signal men to work the levers
Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire The Skegness signal box in East Lindsey was at the end of the Poacher line which ran from Nottingham
Hebden Bridge, Calderdale​, West Yorks Hebden Bridge signal box was fitted with 36 levers and is one of only a handful of Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway boxes to survive
Totnes signal box The decommissioned signal box in Totnes, Devon, has been converted into a cafe
Downham Market, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk The Downham Market signal box in Norfolk has been well preserved with wood blocks cut to resemble stone
Grain Crossing, Medway, Kent The Grain Crossing signal box in Medway, Kent was responsible for the diverging lines on the approach to the now disused Port Victoria

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Twenty-six of the "rarest" signal boxes in England have been granted Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said interest in trains and railways was one of the country's "most endearing and enduring national preoccupations".

The joint venture, between English Heritage and Network Rail, is part of a 30-year plan to modernise the railways.

A number of mechanical boxes are being replaced by regional operating centres.

"These are very special buildings, at one time a familiar sight on our railway system," said English Heritage's senior investigator John Minnis.

The preservation of 26 "highly distinctive" signal boxes would provide a "window into how railways were operated in the past," he added.

David Sillito visits a signal box in Norfolk

Hebden Bridge signal box, which was built in 1891, will be preserved as it has a "time warp quality" and has retained its original 1914 signage.

English Heritage said some of the listed buildings could be "rejuvenated" as cafes or museums, such as the 1923 signal box in Totnes, Devon.

In the 1940s there were more than 10,000 signal boxes in the UK. Now fewer than 500 mechanical signal boxes are still in use, according to Network Rail.

The "difficult and expensive" operating buildings limit the "potential of the rail network", it said.

Network Rail said modernisation plans were aimed at improving railway technology so there are fewer delays and higher capacity.

Signal platforms were first introduced in the 1840s, but British engineer John Saxby first created a building housing levers in 1857.

They were designed by private contractors and railway companies, such as Great Western Railway, leading to a huge variety of designs.

The new designations are as follows:


  • Hebden Bridge, Calderdale, West Yorkshire
  • Hensall, Selby, North Yorkshire


  • Bournemouth West Junction, Poole, Dorset
  • Lostwithiel, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Marsh Brook, Shropshire
  • Par, Restormel, Cornwall
  • Totnes, S Hams, Devon


  • Brundall, Broadland, Norfolk
  • Bury St Edmunds Yard, St Edmundsbury, Suffolk
  • Downham Market, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Norfolk
  • Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk
  • Wainfleet, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  • Wymondham South Junction, South Norfolk, Norfolk


  • Aylesford, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Canterbury East, Kent
  • Cuxton, Medway, Kent
  • Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • Grain Crossing, Medway, Kent
  • Littlehampton, West Sussex
  • Liverpool Street, City of London
  • Maidstone West, Maidstone, Kent
  • Rye, Rother, East Sussex
  • Shepherdswell, Dover, Kent
  • Snodland, Tonbridge and Malling, Kent
  • Wateringbury, Maidstone, Kent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Brilliant. Let these wonderful structures be a testimony to future generations about Britain's pioneering role in railways.
    Not many countries in the world ever had these and future kids would love to see these great little house where real thin and fat controllers managed to keep all trains running smoothly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    All very well - to save the structures, but it would be better if they were dismantled and re-erected at various sites on our preserved heritage railways, then they could be accessible to the public and even put back to proper use (some are already derelict, or - as is the case with Totnes - turned into a Cafe)
    Still, protecting them from the bulldozer is a good thing I guess....

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    You're wrong @61. Downham's signal box is at the street end of the down platform and would have instant safe access if it were ever to be opened to the public (look at Google streetview!). Many boxes are situated on station platforms or at level crossings - in fact most surviving ones still are, given the remote ones have been automated out of existence. In most cases access would be a doddle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Very nice , but on the day Ford moves its factory from Southampton to Turkey ? I would have liked see what the EU zealots had to say about that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    47. spindoctor
    The money could be better spent on feeding the poor in this country."

    So, either give the money as benefits, or spend the money on salaries for workers in the UK who are doing a worthwhile job restoring and maintaining these buildings. Which is better?

    As long as they're preserved by people in Britain rather than a foreign company, then it's a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Why not give it a knighthood as well, hell there giving thous away like sweets as well. I believe the princes has been nominated for one for giving birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    One has recently been demolished on the Leeds - Harrogate line near Huby, such a shame and now I see why they removed it, before it gets potential Grade II listing perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.


    Why didn't they do it to all the branch lines and stations that Beeching destroyed!

    ALL our railways that existed in 1900 are a vital part of the Nation's infrastructure. The Tory minister Marples (of the road making company) and his henchman Beeching, did enormous damage to the Nation - WE MUST REINSTATE ALL THE AXED LINES AND STATIONS.


  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but these boxes are all on railway tracks ; it is a criminal offence to trespass on a railway, therefore anyone wishing to visit said signal box which has been saved using Joe publics' money, will not be allowed to do so except at the discretion of English Heritage and or Network Rail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    17. I can think of one poor dilapidated box that I pass on the way from Bloxwich North to Birmingham new Street - no idea what the station was called, but it's like a ghost line with platform still also visible. But then central government probably doesn't know where the Midlands is, let alone care. Can anyone identify that box?

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    At least these are more worthy of being classified as "our national heritage", than the excessive stately homes of ruling elite paid for by suffering, blood sweat & tears & abuse of common people.
    The propaganda gloss of stately homes hides common sexual & other attrocious abuses that were commonly afflicted upon the poor & servants etc by their wealthy masters/mistresses of these homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.


  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I speak from a position of knowledge when I say that Network Rail spend millions of pounds on preserving listed signal boxes and in my opinion it is an outrageous waste of public money. Not just signal boxes either but all sorts of listed structures. Keep a handful and spend the money saved on the rest on health or education. I know what I would spend my taxes on given the choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    this must be a money making scam. this lot don't do things out of the goodness of their hearts, unless there's money to be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    HYS comments on the listed status of Railway signal boxes - really?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Very pleased to hear of this positive outcome. It will teach our children the historical significance of our railway heritage. Over the years many of the signalboxes have found their way onto our preserved heritage steam railways. It nice to see them saved for future generations to enjoy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    @40 - come to Downham Market - we've got the most amazing waiting room at the station. Comfy chairs, books, the works. It's a tourist attraction in its own right. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    This is what we get to comment on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Excellent news. I hope that this will also mean that remaining unused boxes will not be allowed to fall further into disrepair, or sold off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Happy news :) Although, as the University of Sheffield are busy proving, Grade II listed status doesn't mean anything. Despite lengthy protests and petitions, the university is still proceeding with its plans to demolish the Grade II listed Edwardian wing of the Jessop Hospital, to replace it with a monstrosity. Give it a google.


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