A very small form of signal box: effectively a large cupboard with a curved roof containing a lever frame. A very rare surviving example built by the North Eastern Railway in the early C20.
Reasons for Designation
Hammerton Station Signal Box Cabin is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Representative: as a rare surviving example of the simplest form of signal box, a simple cabin or shed designed to protect and secure the lever frame;
* Date: that such simple signalling provision, very similar in approach to that taken in the earliest days of signalling, was still being newly installed into the C20;
* Architecture: although merely a timber shed, the curving design of the roof is unusual, probably being derived from the design and manufacture of timber framed rolling stock, particularly goods wagons.
From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levers to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.
Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it was anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.
The North Eastern Railway made provision for signalling at wayside stations on some of its rural lines in the form of ground frames mounted on station platforms, adjacent to the station buildings. In some cases, these frames were left open with railings round them, in others a form of cabin for the signalman was constructed, rather like a large cupboard with a rounded top. Hammerton Station acquired such a frame (a 10 lever McKenzie & Holland frame) in 1914. The structure of the current cabin is considered to be an original example built by the NER, although it was extensively restored in 1972 at around the time that the line from Hammerton to Poppleton was reduced to a single track. One source (Kay, 2010) suggests that the frame at Hammerton was originally open to the elements and that the cabin was a reproduction built in 1972. This is thought to be unlikely: if the lever frame at Hammerton was originally open, the current cabin is considered to have been an original example relocated from elsewhere rather than being a reproduction. The cabin is located beneath the station canopy on the north side of the railway line.
Railway signal box cabin, 1914, for and by the Southern Division of the North Eastern Railway.
MATERIALS: vertical timber boarding on a timber frame; timber boarded roof.
EXTERIOR: the cabin is in the form of a large timber boarded cupboard around 2m wide by 1m deep. It has no windows and the rear side (facing away from the tracks) can be fully opened as a pair of ledged and braced, timber-boarded doors with curved tops. There is a peep-hole through the west side wall of the cabin which provided the signalman a view of the level crossing. The side of cabin facing the tracks is lower than the doors and also has a curved top forming a shallow segment. Consequently the single pitched roof is curved side to side. The exterior is plainly detailed, although the door frame (including the curving lintel) has roll moulded edges.
INTERIOR: the cabin is filled by the 10 lever McKenzie & Holland frame, the signal operator having to stand outside the doors to control the levers. The roof is supported by a curved purlin in addition to the curved wall plates. The rest of the timber framing is conventional.