Passengers will have seen our Signal Box standing proudly to the north of Platform 4.
The following is a brief account of Princes Risborough North Box (PRNB). The Signal Box has its own website where you will find the full history of the 1904 built Signal Box, technical details as well as exciting ideas for future renovations including opportunities for visitors to see the box.
29 years since closure, it has recently returned to being a functional Signal Box, safely controlling train movements around our new Princes Risborough station area.
The future of the Signal Box was much less secure back in February 1991 when it was finally closed by British Rail. What remained of the branch line to the cement works at Chinnor had shut two years earlier and new electronic signalling systems, controlled remotely by Marylebone had been installed. The days of the local, manual signal box and signalman were coming to an end.
Local residents, with incredible foresight, had seen the demise coming and had successfully obtained Grade II Listed Building status for the box. That didn’t mean it wouldn’t fall down of its own accord if left derelict, but it did stop British Rail and the newly formed Railtrack from demolishing it.
The volunteers of the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway took over the maintenance of the Signal Box, but with the increased emphasis on Health & Safety and trains running so close to the front of the box at speeds upwards of 80mph, access had to cease for many years.
Consequently it quickly deteriorated, not helped by a spate of vandalism. The stairs rotted away. The windows were all boarded up. The brickwork started to shift. Structural timber decayed. The final straw was a burst water pipe inside that went undetected for over 6 months in 2011. All this taken together meant there was a real risk it would have to be demolished.
In 2013 there was a remarkable turnaround. Greatly improved working relationships between C&PRRA, Chiltern Railways and Network Rail heralded a new era of cooperation. A safe walking route to the box was provided away from the express trains and the volunteers were allowed back in! Then finally in 2017, after nearly 25 years of negotiations, we were granted a 99 year lease on the box and the surrounding area of the branch line, and the all important Platform 4 area.
After the last six years of hard work the volunteers working in the signal box have made good the brickwork, carried out urgent repairs to the roof and timberwork, and as you may have seen, repaired and unboarded the windows to allow a panoramic view across our branch and the main line. Most importantly, work inside the box means the Signal Box once more has a small set of working point and signal levers safely controlling train movements in and out of Platform 4 at Princes Risborough. (Active levers are between the yellow floor marks on the left in the picture below.)
A small set of levers within the main lever frame is connected and working again.
We are investigating ways to allow more regular access for visitors to Princes Risborough North Signal Box, but in the meantime we have three Open Days planned for Saturdays 25 April, 4 July and 10 October 2020. The 4 July Open Day is also one of the days we are running the ‘Rock around the Chilterns’ event - why not combine a train ride with a visit to the Signal Box and watch as our heritage diesel railcar passes by right underneath the box window!
Our Heritage diesel Railcar will be running on 4 July 2020.
Building work still continues in the box preventing regular visits currently, but passengers will often see the volunteer team, all kitted out in bright orange safety gear, wave as the train passes by. They look forward to you waving back.