Three signal boxes are used to control the signalling along the North Norfolk Railway (NNR). These are at Sheringham West, Weybourne and at Holt. There is one further signal box at Sheringham, the East box, which is an operational control centre for the whole line, and has recently been returned from Platform 2 at Sheringham to its original location adjacent to the single line connection with Network Rail.
The line was run for much of its life (1893 - 1936) by a committee formed jointly by the the Great Northern Railway and the Midland Railway, which became known as the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR). Both companies left their individual marks on the railway, but in some cases their legacy was swept away when the line was closed; the original signal box at Weybourne was one such casualty.
In 1936, the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) took over from the M&GNJR, and this gave rise to certain piecemeal changes to signals when worn out early designs were updated by the modern equivalents of fabricated and tubular steel post designs. Thus the LNER also influenced the railway's signalling. Nationalisation in 1948 brough a new owner to the railway, British Railways (BR), who eventually closed the line. During the 17 years BR had ownership, the signals along the line did not change noticeably. Any alterations that were made, being with signal structures that resembled closely the LNERs original upper quadrant design. Structurally, the signal boxes did not change very much either, but their external colour schemes did.
With their vision and hard work, the early volunteers of the NNR managed to save the closed railway from certain oblivion. The signals and signal boxes that appear today on the railway may, of necessity, have been brought in from other parts of the country to replace those that were lost at closure, but all are representative of the styles and designs that once controlled the trains here and elsewhere on the M&GNJR system and East Anglia in general. The NNRs aim is to recreate the signalling architecture and lineside features that existed at the time of the line's closure in the mid-1960s.
This signal box illustrates the architecture of the Great Eastern Railway (GER), the company that operated the main line from London to Norwich and many branchlines throughout the eastern counties. The box is known as a GER Type 7, and was previously located at Wensum Junction, just outside Norwich (Thorpe) station, until it was decommissioned by British Railways in 1982 and then moved to the North Norfolk Railway.
The 31 lever frame installed in the signal box was manufactured by railway contractor, Dutton & Company. It was recovered from Leyton (London) station signal box which, in later years, controlled the connection between British Railways and London Underground's Central Line. The signal box and its lever frame became redundant in 1971 after the connection was severed.
Sheringham East signal box is of M&GNJR origin and dates from 1906. This box originally controlled the Cromer end of Sheringham station, as well as the gated level crossing in Station Road. It has in situ a Midland Railway 14 lever frame, also from 1906, with tumbler interlocking between levers, together with the wheel that once operated the wooden gates.
Weybourne signal box displays the finials and decorative barge boards of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Company. This box, an M&GN Type 1, dates from 1913 and was previously located at the original Holt station, near to the town centre. It was moved to Weybourne in 1967 for its current purpose, prior to the NNRs railway line being extended to Holt. The 30 lever frame, manufactured by Saxby and Farmer Limited, came with the signal box, but it is interesting to note that it dates from 1882 indicating that it was second-hand when installed at Holt. This lever frame must be a contender for the oldest piece of equipment in regular use on our railway.
In addition to the signal box, a cabin housing a 4 lever groundframe is provided at the Sheringham end of the down platform. This is so-called because the frame is mounted at or near ground level. The groundframe allows train crew to gain entry to the locomotive shed and yard when the signal box is closed; its operation is unlocked by the single line token which the crew hold as their authority to travel over the line.
At Holt, the signal box design is that of the Midland Railway, and is its Type 3a model. This box, dating from 1905, was obtained from The Midland Railway Centre, Butterley, which had been storing the structure since its removal from service at Upper Portland Sidings some years previously. Only the top half of the signal box was available, so the lower section has been newly constructed of concrete blocks, similar in style to those pioneered by the M&GNJR at its Melton Constable works. The green and cream colour scheme applied to this signal box shows how ex-M&GNJR boxes would have appeared in the British Railways, Eastern Region, period at the time of closure.
The 25 lever frame installed in Holt box originated from Steeton Station signal box on the Leeds to Settle line, where previously it had 30 levers. The frame is a development by the Railway Executive Committee in London Midland & Scottish Railway period, of an earlier Midland Railway design.
The small M&GNJR hut adjacent to the signal box was originally located at Hellesdon, just outside Norwich (City) station, before that line closed. It was later recovered from a private garden and restored for NNR use at Holt. This building now houses a 4 lever groundframe, provided so that train crew can operate points and signals to run a locomotive around its train when the signal box is closed. Like the groundframe at Weybourne, the single line token is used by crew to release it for operation.