Photo By D J Norton

Signal Box Interiors

My father seemed to have a knack of talking his way into signal boxes.  It probably helped that he was friends with several signalmen in the Birmingham area - Vic Goodwin at Marston Green and, later, Stechford, Reg Beresford at Kings Heath, David Clay at Bournville and Edgar ? at Kings Norton.  These atmospheric shots provide a real glimpse of the past.  If you can provide any information to enhance the captions then please get in touch.

New St No. 2 Box - 20/3/54

New St No.2 Box interior
New St No. 2 Box lay between platform 8 and 9 at the eastern end of the station.  There is an exterior view on the New Street Station page.

I was delighted to hear from Bernard who informed me that the chap on the left was his father, Walter Pritchard.  His companion was Mr. Bing, a.k.a. 'Bingy'.  Walter started off working on the railway at Selly Oak as a van boy.  He delivered parcels on a horsedrawn parcels van, out of Selly Oak parcels depot, which was at the same place as Selly Oak Station.  He obviously worked his way up from there, to become one of the top of his profession, who all ended up in No. 5 box.  He lived through the rebuilding of New Street Station and the electrification and retired from No. 5 box at 65 in 1973.  Bernard was kind enough to share these memories with us:-

"I can only assume that the reason they were together was because they would go early to relieve one another so they could spend time together or so the other could get home early.  I spent many happy hours with my father in No. 2 box, not least because a certain train would arrive on platform 8, have the engine unhooked, sent into the tunnel and reversed down 9 and put back on the train to take it from whence it came and guess who was let loose to drive it on quite a few occasions?

As I sat studying the picture I noticed dads eyes. What is he looking at?  At this point everything fell into place.  For certain dad is working, he is on afternoons 2 till 10 he is looking at the clock which is above the desk.  His right hand is on the semaphore,  he is waiting for the reply from the next box he has sent to which he will acknowledge and immediately log the time in the log on the desk together with other details of the train or movement just dealt with.  You will notice that Mr Bing still has his coat on because he has just arrived and dad has just put his jumper back on in preparation to leave, (he always had his shirt sleeves rolled up, you can see them under his jumper) I never remember him in a jumper at work, it was shirt sleeves or topless.  I believe your dad was taking an action shot?  No matter what was going on in the box conversation wise or whatever it would instantly stop when the bells rang the correct code for the box, dad would be straight back into signalling mode, setting up the route for the train arriving or leaving.  Only after the reply came and he acknowledged it would he be back with you.  On this occasion your dad and Mr Bing.  The time would of course be around 9-00."

Many thanks for help bringing this picture to life, Bernard!

Bordesley Jct Box - 31/3/54

Bordesley Jct Box interior
This is my favourite of the interior shots - it really captures the feeling of being in the box over fifty years ago!

I was a little confused since the Bordesley Junction box seen on the Bordesley Junction page looked modern while this interior looked quite old.  Thanks to Simon who explained that the interior and exterior pictures were most likely of the same box as the box pictured was, "an LMS 'ARP' box, designed to be rather more resistant to bomb damage that the traditional part-, or all-wooden ones.".  In fact, Simon provided a very detailed analysis of the picture above that is available here for those that are interested.

Saltley Jct Box Interior - 25/4/54

Saltley Jct Box
Saltley Jct Box
A nice pair of shots showing the interior and exterior of Saltley Junction box.  I believe the road bridge to the right is Saltley Viaduct and Saltley Station was just under the bridge.

Interior Duddeston Rd Box - 20/3/55

Interior Duddeston Rd Box
Duddeston Rd Box
The new Duddeston Road box under construction.  The upper shot shows there is still much work to be done on the interior, the lower shows the new box dwarfs the old.  Saltley Gas Works dominates the picture.

Lifford Box Interior - 28/9/59

Lifford Box interior
This looks like a flash was used to capture the interior of Lifford Box.

M.R. Oil Lamp, Lifford Box - 28/9/59

Midland Rail oil lamp Lifford Box
A little detail picked out by my father when he took the shot directly above - an original Midland Railway oil lamp.