A rare surviving signal box that once controlled trains through London Bridge is now being restored — at the National Railway Museum in York

For over 80 years, the small Victorian structure sat upon a brick tower above the tracks and guided trains through Borough Market Junction, where the lines from London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross converge.

(c) The National Railway Museum

Traffic through the junction reached 1,000 trains a day, according to the National Railway Museum, often requiring two signallers to operate its 35 levers. Space was tight – the box measures about 24 square metres – and work inside it tense; a signaller once said staff only cleared the signals when they could see the whites of the drivers’ eyes.

(c) The National Railway Museum

Built in 1895 to a standard South Eastern Railway (SER) design, Borough Market Junction signal box is one of only eight surviving SER-designed signal boxes. It closed in 1976 when a new power signal box at London Bridge replaced it, and the wooden box was shipped up to the National Railway Museum in York, where it sat outdoors for the past 40 odd years.

Network Rail recently donated original bricks from the box’s foundations in London as part of a project to move it indoors, build a new base and provide access for visitors. Once completed, the box will once again sit at its original height.

The height wasn’t just to allow signallers to have a good view, as unless you know your signal boxes, you might not be aware that the tall brick base they stand on would have originally been filled with a massive metal interlocking rack that turns the human actions above into commands for the signals and switches along the railway, and ensures the wrong levers can’t be pulled when they shouldn’t.

(c) The National Railway Museum

Andrew McLean, assistant director and head curator at the National Railway Museum, said: “[Borough Market Junction signal box] has been displayed outside for a number of years. Previously, we have replaced rotting woodwork, painted it and cleaned up the interior, which is otherwise largely untouched from when it was an operational box.”

“The bricks recently presented to the museum from the remnants of the base will become part of the new base once the box is moved into the museum’s Great Hall.”

Remains of the rest of the brick base are still in place next to the tracks outside London Bridge station — still serving a purpose by protecting modern equipment from the weather.

(c) The National Railway Museum

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6 comments on “London Bridge’s railway signal box restored in York
  1. Steve Fagg says:

    Do we know what became of the interlocking frame?

  2. Gilly says:

    Fab article, thank you for sharing

  3. Thomas Wood says:

    The original mechanical frame dating from 1895 was replaced by the more compact Westinghouse Style K lever frame pictured in 1928 when the adjoining London Bridge A box closed, and functions transferred here. Westinghouse power frames were much more compact than mechanical frames and would have the interlocking within the operating room. The room below would probably become a relay room to control point machines and signal lamps.
    Further details are on the Westinghouse lever frame website: http://www.wbsframe.mste.co.uk/public/Borough_Market_Junction.html

  4. please note it is not called a rack, it is called a lever frame.

    I had the honour of working an ex Furness Railway signalbox, right down to the brass collars as reminders to signalmen as to they were about at times of disruption or single-line working.

    It was the best time of my life, I think.

  5. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Well done National Railway Museum. The former London Bridge railway signal box should be well looked after at the National Railway Museum in York.

  6. Ian Pidgley says:

    is it being restored to an operating simulator condition (like Romsey, Exeter west, Swindon Panel etc) or just for static display, hope to come and have a play some time

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