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Moving a signal box overnight

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A disused signal box in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire, has been moved to a new location just 100 metres from its original location, so it can be restored and eventually opened to the public.

The structure, which  controlled passing trains on the busy Nottingham-Lincoln line, as well as working the gates of the adjacent level crossing, for 120 years, became redundant four years ago with the 2016 introduction of upgraded and centrally operated train signalling.

The timber building, complete with its original lever frame, had been gifted by Network Rail to the Lowdham Railway Heritage charity, which wanted to move it to a publicly-accessible location close to the now privately-owned Lowdham station building. It will be restored on its new site by a team of volunteers and eventually opened to the public.

The move was undertaken by Railway Support Services (RSS).  Managing director Andrew Goodman commented: “We may have only moved the signal box a short distance, but it took David Moore, founder of Lowdham Railway Heritage, three years of detailed planning and negotiation with Network Rail to do it with professional advice from ourselves and consultant engineers Howard Ward Associates.

“Key to the move was getting possession of the line overnight, as well as closure of the road over the level crossing. But before the possession was granted, a full risk assessment and detailed plans – in total running to some 130 pages – of how the move was to take place had to be approved by Network Rail.

“The logistics of the task were such that it didn’t matter whether the move was 200 yards or 200 miles – the challenges were much the same!”

Eventually, possession was given for the night of 24/25 October from 00:30 (an hour later than scheduled) to 07:30. However, as the clocks went back that night, the lost hour was regained!

The task was completed with about half-an-hour to spare.

One of the challenges, was getting it between the level crossing lights and a nearby building – careful measurement showed that there was just a few centimetres clearance.

“These things are really nail-biting as until the job is actually completed, you are always wondering ‘what could possibly go wrong?’” commented Goodman. “And of course, if there are any time-consuming snags, the end of the possession looms – if the line doesn’t reopen to traffic on time, there are considerable compensation costs payable to Network Rail.

“In the event, the move went very well thanks to detailed planning. We didn’t even dislodge a slate from the signal box roof!

“The ‘box is now standing in its new position adjacent to Lowdham station, looking for all the world as if it has always been there!”