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Carnforth: the former Selside signal box

A Grade II Listed Building in Carnforth, Lancashire

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Latitude: 54.1307 / 54°7'50"N

Longitude: -2.7723 / 2°46'20"W

OS Eastings: 349633

OS Northings: 470819

OS Grid: SD496708

Mapcode National: GBR 9N2P.M0

Mapcode Global: WH83V.DF3N

Entry Name: Carnforth: the former Selside signal box

Listing Date: 15 February 1989

Last Amended: 18 August 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1078214

English Heritage Legacy ID: 355233

Location: Carnforth, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA5

County: Lancashire

District: Lancaster

Civil Parish: Carnforth

Built-Up Area: Carnforth

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lancashire

Church of England Parish: Carnforth Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Blackburn

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Standard, but very small, Midland Railway signal box, built 1907 at Selside on the Settle to Carlisle line and moved to Carnforth in 1976 as a museum exhibit.


Railway signal box, 1907, by and for the Midland Railway. Relocated to Carnforth in 1976.

MATERIALS: timber with a Welsh slate roof.

EXTERIOR: signal box that is square in plan and of two storeys with a shallow-pitched, pyramidal roof with finial. The first floor operating room has continuous glazing to three sides except the east, rear, the windows being divided into a row of four lights to each side, each of these lights being subdivided into six panes with glazing bars. The part glazed doorway is in the north end, formerly reached by an external flight of timber steps of which only the top landing remains. The signal box retains its external walkway with hand rail designed to facilitate window cleaning. The ground floor has a single window to the front (west) and a door to the north. Areas of plain walling are finished with horizontal weather-boarding, with vertical boarding above and below the windows.

INTERIOR: this has not been modernised and retains its lever frame and associated equipment.


From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levers to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.

Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it was anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.

The Midland Railway employed a standard design of signal box from 1870, the boxes being built from prefabricated timber panels manufactured at their works in Derby allowing for swift erection on site. The design continued to be used, with only minor variations in terms of panel size and arrangement of glazing bars, up until 1929. The company was late to adopt the practice of interlocking points and signals resulting in a systematic programme of re-signalling work across their network from 1890 onwards to comply with the requirements of the 1889 Regulation of Railways Act. The former Selside signal box replaced an earlier box of 1876 and was built in 1907 on the Settle to Carlisle line, forming an intermediate block post between signal boxes at Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Blea Moor. It did not control a junction or sidings, and only acted as a block post to allow a higher density of traffic on the line. Consequently the signal box was very small. The signal box was closed on 30 November 1975 and was moved and re-erected at Carnforth to form part of the Steamtown visitor attraction which was closed to visitors in the 1990s.

Reasons for Listing

The former Selside signal box is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Representative: a good example of a Midland Railway signal box;
* Rarity: a rare survival of a very small signal box. Such small signal boxes were once very common across the network, but were early casualties to programmes of rationalisation.

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