Originally, points and signals along railway lines were operated locally from individual levers or handles, moved into position for each train that passed. Control was concentrated into trackside wooden huts known as signal boxes.
British Railways inherited about 10,000 signal boxes when it was formed in 1948. In 2019, there were 166 listed signal boxes on our network, including 86 still in use.
Neale Elder took these photographs in Scotland of railway signal boxes he knew, come across and, in some cases, worked.
The first signal box was in 1843 the London & Croydon Railway in 1843 to control the junction to Bricklayers Arms in London.
Electric power meant that physical presence was no longer needed and the individual control points could be consolidated to increase system efficiency. All-electric systems led to computerised video displays and a point-and-click or touchscreen interface. Today, the use of Automatic Route Setting negates the need for any human input at all as common train movements could be fully automated according to a schedule or other scripted logic.
Neala Elder is on Flickr.
Some old signal boxes have been coveverted into cafes, museums, art studios and holiday accommodation, like the Instow signal box in Devon, North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, the Romsey Signal Box Museum,
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