The UK’s largest surviving Great Western Railway signal box can be found half an hour from central London, and occasionally, it’s open to the public to have a look inside.
The next open day has now been announced.
This is the last survivor of two signal boxes that used to control a complex set of junctions at Princes Risborough, on what is now part of Chiltern Railways. Opened in 1904, it closed in 1991 when signalling control for the whole area was shifted to a modern facility based at Marylebone station.
It was nearly demolished but was given listed building status following a campaign, and a newly formed heritage railway, the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway was allowed to maintain it.
They are now restoring the signal box, and have plans to connect up some of the levers to control the adjacent Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway. Open days only happen a few times a year, and the first one since the pandemic closed everything will take place on Saturday 7th May between 10am to 4pm. Details are here.
A lot of work needs to be done to turn this into a visitor attraction, but it’s still a fascinating place to visit, to know that for nearly a century, there was a constant watch kept up here ensuring that trains could go where they should when they should and that nothing would ever go wrong.
Tea and coffee are on offer, and a small collection of souvenirs help to raise money to keep the restoration work chugging along.
Entry is free, donations are appreciated.
Getting to Princes Risborough station is a quick half-hour trip from London Marylebone station on Chiltern Railways. At the station, just cross over the platforms to the far side and follow the signs to the signal box.
While you’re in Princes Risborough, a short walk from the station is Garden Railway Specialists, a shop that’s a delight to just pop in and have a look around. Slightly irritatingly, the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway doesn’t run on the same day that the signal box is open, so you’d need to come back another day for that.