Romsey was an important junction where the lines from Salisbury to Eastleigh and Andover to Redbridge crossed. This latter had been a long time in the making as the powers were first granted in 1847 to the Manchester & Southampton Railway (who then agreed to build a joint line with the LSWR, construction by the latter), but this line wasn't built and powers lapsed. It wasn't until the Great Western showed an interest in using the route to enter Southampton that the LSWR pulled its socks up, finally obtained powers in 1863 and built the line, which opened throughout on 6 March 1865.

The junction between these lines was controlled by the Signalbox at Romsey, opened circa-1871, and which would have been one of the oldest in service at the time of its closure in 1982. As built, the 'box was probably of all-wooden construction with the base being rebuilt later in brick (probably about 1925). The structure was actually deeper than it was long because, in accordance with the practice at the time, the corner posts extended skywards above the roof to carry the junction signals!

An 18-lever Stevens frame was installed in 1884 in conjunction with the doubling of the Redbridge line. By 1925 the 'box had been extended with a flat-roofed section on the operation floor and the lever-frame extended to 25 levers, which by 1944 it is believed to have had 26.

Passenger traffic was withdrawn from the line between Romsey and Eastleigh in 1969 and in 1972 that section was converted back to single-track, controlled by Direction Lever working. Block working to Redbridge and Dunbridge was by standard BR(S) 3-position block instruments. Over a period from 1972-76 all the semaphore signals were replaced by colour-lights and the frame was shortened to 23 levers.

With the expansion of Eastleigh panel, Romsey box was closed on 17thOctober 1982 and scheduled for demolition. However it was purchased by the Romsey & District Buildings Preservation Trust and re-located on a new base built on land at the rear of a nearby school, within sight of its original home. Here it is looked after by the Romsey Signal Box Project and is opened regularly to the public.

Romsey The Signalbox exterior. The extension at the near end of the box did not exist when first opened with the box actually deeper than it was long, as evidenced by the line of the hipped roof. This was not just an architectural feature, but an arrangement to allow the junction signals for the two routes to be mounted on the roof of the signal box. A common practice in the very early days of railway signalling.

photograph reproduced by kind permission of John Hinson

The interior in 1977 with the Stevens frame now reduced from 25 to 23 levers. With the introduction of colour light signalling many functions were changed to being power worked, something that is reflected in the number of cut down levers in the frame.

The brown and white-striped lever is a "direction lever" which is electrically interlocked with Eastleigh 'box to control movements over the single line, which has no token system. The block instrument at the far end of the shelf is for the Southampton branch, working to Redbridge box.

photograph reproduced by kind permission of John Hinson

Romsey   Romsey
Above and right: Exterior views of the box at its new site, showing some of the other preserved signalling equipment.

photographs by Chris Osment

Romsey Romsey
Above and left: Interior views of the box showing the diagram, instrument shelf and lever-frame.

photographs by Chris Osment

On the diagram the single line to Eastleigh can be seen on the left, with the double-track to Dunridge and then Salisbury on the right and the branch to Redbridge going off towards the top. The Signalbox was located next to the junction, to the south of the station whilst at the north end of the station was a ground-frame working pointwork which was too far away from the 'box for direct operation.

From left to right on the instrument shelf are the block instrument and bell for Redbridge, the bell for working to Eastleigh, the closing switch, and the bell and block instrument for Dunbridge. On the front of the shelf are the brass plungers for working the block bells and various signal indicators, some mechanical and some coloured lights.

The lever-frame shows an interesting mix of colours. The red levers are stop or shunt signals, black are points and blue (9) is a facing point lock. The white bands around the middle of three of the red levers (3, 13, 17) (one hidden by the signalman's duster!) indicate that those levers were released from the neighbouring signal-boxes, because they worked the signals controlling entrance to the block sections. The two red + yellow levers (1,5) controlled Home signals which had Distant signals which worked automatically in conjunction with them. The two blue + brown levers (14, 15) were release levers for the ground-frame at the north end of the station. The lever (6) with brown/white stripes was the Direction lever to control the single-line to Eastleigh. Whilst a few of the levers remain at their original length, most now have cut-down handles to indicate that they operated electrical rather than mechanical equipment.

Signalbox text by Chris Osment

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Further information on this project is available on their website.

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This page was last updated 1 April 2004

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