Sitting next to Epping tube station, the former railway signal room has recently been converted into a museum, with working signal levers, and a heritage train that’s currently being restored.
What is formally the Epping Signalling Museum has been under development for several years, bringing together three separate projects — the restoration of a signal control room, building a collection of railway heritage, and the restoration of an unusual London Underground train.
It’s easy to spot the museum thanks to the bright yellow former shunting locomotive that sits at the end of the car park, and this is the L11, a rather odd hybrid made from two older engines bolted together.
Sometimes referred to as 1923 stock, this shunting loco was built out of parts that are 90-100 years old, and take a look at the wheels to see how different trains were raided to make up the parts. Climb up inside and see the very spartan interior for the engine and huge torpedo-style air tanks for the brakes.
The loco was nearly scrapped, but in 2004 it was moved to Epping, where little happened until 2017 and it’s now being restored again.
There are a lot of railway signals that have been donated and installed to working order, along with a newly donated junction, which came all the way from, just up the tracks at Epping station. Look at the cluster of metal boxes — the original ATO equipment from the Victoria line trials which used the Central line loop as a test track.
Down the path, which runs right next to the railway, and into the signal control room that used to control train movements along this section of the tube line.
The ground floor, which was once packed full of the levers for the signals is now a museum space, filled with lots of signs and ephemera. There’s a wall’s worth of electro-mechanical switches that replaced manual levers clicking away, while a large scale model of the unbuilt Nothern Heights line may look familiar to anyone who visited the Borehamwood Museum recently.
However, arguably the pride of the collection is a fully working railway signalling control panel upstairs, connected to the overhead screen where you can guide trains around an Epping that used to have a large goods yard and coal depot.
Today Epping is just two platforms and a dead end, but it was once bustling, and this control panel shows how everything was handled. You’ll get a talk and a chance to play signal man, and try not to crash the trains.
A visit to the museum is mostly guided tours to show off the various bits, and on my visit was a mix of excited children and considerably quieter, but still very excited adults.
The Epping Signalling Museum is now open every Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm.
Entry is free, with cash donations appreciated — and left in an old electro-mechanical glass cube.
To get to the museum, head to Epping tube station on the Central line, and then head to the far end of the car park. Press the button to let them know people want to be let in and someone will come to open the gate.
I spent an enjoyable 90 minutes there, which is pretty good.
As you’re in Epping, there’s also the unrelated but very local Epping Ongar Railway to take rides on.