St Albans South Signal Box and Railway Museum
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The only restored Midland Railway signal box in its original location
In 1892 the Midlands Railway opened a new signal box at St Albans as part of an upgrade to its line extension from London. The signal box was abandoned by British Rail in 1980 and falling into decay until a local charity group dubbed the St Albans Signal Box Preservation Trust was formed to take over operation.
The Trust completely restored the signal box and opened it to the public in 2009. It now offers a unique opportunity for visitors to see how trains were signalled during the days of steam locomotives.
The box was made in Derby of prefabricated panels that were fitted together on the site. It is built of wood under a slate roof. It originally had no foundation but this was rectified in the restoration! The style is known as a Midland Railway Type 2A.
The box was built when the railway expanded the line between Harpenden and Napsbury from 2 tracks to 4 in the southbound direction. The frame was altered in 1895 when slow and fast lines were introduced in a southbound direction in 1895 and again in 1906 when the same upgrade was applied in the northbound direction. The only change to the box itself came in 1963 when a toilet was added.
The ground floor of the Signal Box is a museum of signalling and railway artefacts. The upper floor has been fully restored, with a 44 lever frame dating to at least 1904, retrofitted with signalling instruments to illustrate how it looked in the 1970s.
See how the operators communicated with other signal boxes at Napsbury and Harpenden by bells, and how the levers worked to move tracks and change the points. And while you are exploring the world of a Victorian signal box, modern trains thunder past on the tracks just a few metres away.
The Signal Box is surrounded by a small garden where visitors are invited to operate old signalling equipment themselves and to ring the bells that signalled trains passing by. You can see examples of different types of signalling equipment from the late Victorian period to modern LEDs.
The box is the largest preserved Midland Railway signal box in the UK and the only one in its original position. It has been listed Grade II for its heritage value.
The box restoration won numerous heritage awards, including the 2010 National Invensys Rail Signalling Award. You can see 'before and after' photos of the restoration, and watch a video of the transformation.
The museum is free to enter, though donations are appreciated. Opening hours are limited, normally to specific Sunday afternoons throughout the year, as well as the annual Heritage Open Days weekend in September. Please see the official website for current opening details.
Access from St Albans rail station is very easy. Exit the station from platform 4, cross Victoria Street (the B691), turn right across the railway bridge and you will see the Signal Box at the edge of the large car park to your left. The entrance is no more than 200 yards from the railway station and will take only a few minutes to reach.
About St Albans South Signal Box and Railway Museum
Address: St Albans Signal Box Preservation Trust, 5 Ridgmont Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, AL1 3AG
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: A very short stroll from the St Albans rail station, platform 4 exit.
Website: St Albans South Signal Box and Railway Museum
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
St Albans, St Peter's Church - 0.5 miles (Historic Church)
Sopwell Nunnery - 0.5 miles (Abbey)
St Albans Clock Tower - 0.5 miles (Historic Building)
St Albans Cathedral - 0.5 miles (Cathedral)
St Albans Abbey Gateway - 0.7 miles (Historic Building)
St Albans, St Stephen's Church - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Verulamium Museum - 1.1 miles (Roman Site)
Verulamium Hypocaust and Mosaic - 1.2 miles (Roman Site)
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