It’s not London, but, yikes, this will appeal to you lot, as the famously brutalist signal control box at Birmingham New Street station will be open to the public for one day later this month.
The railway signal box opened in July 1966 and is now a grade II listed building for its architectural value and a prominent city-centre landmark. Apart from the famously brutal concrete design, the shape of the building is also unique due to the congested nature of the site, hemmed in by railway tracks below ground and local roads at street level.
With signallers inside capable of directing up to 1,200 trains every day, the Grade II listed Birmingham Power Signal Box (PSB) has been at the heart of the country’s railway network since it started operation in 1966.
However, as one of the last remaining power signal boxes of its kind, finding spare parts to repair Birmingham PSB has been problematic in recent years, as it’s the only surviving signal box to use the Westpac Mk 1 signalling system. It finally closed as a functioning signal box on 24th December 2022 when its functions were transferred to the West Midlands Signalling Centre in Saltley.
Network Rail has now announced that there will be public tours of the inside of the signal box on the afternoon of Friday 31st March – with free tickets allocated by random ballot.
The tour will cover three floors of the signal box where attendees will learn about the history, usage and plans for the future of the Birmingham New Street power signal box. The tour will be delivered by rail industry colleagues who worked in and around the signal box while it was operational.
To apply for the ballot for up to two tickets, go here.
The ballot will take place at noon on Friday 17th March, and winners will be contacted by phone by Network Rail that afternoon — so keep your phones handy.
The operational spaces and some rooms in the building included on the tour are also small so each group is being capped at a maximum of 12 people to give enough space for everyone to enjoy their visit in comfort.
Each tour will start on the hour from 12 midday, with the last tour at 4pm, on Friday 31 March, and will last for approximately 45 minutes.
The age and design of the building means that they are unable to accommodate wheelchairs or pushchairs on the tours. A (very) small lift is available for use by guests who are not able to use the stairs but do not use a wheelchair. Use of the lift is not recommended for anyone with an aversion to enclosed spaces.
Trains for Birmingham leave from Marylebone and Euston stations. As the tours are in the afternoon, you’ll be able to travel off-peak to save money on getting there.