Restoration - page 1 Princes Risborough North Signal Box
2011 - 2013 The signal box stands just yards away from the Chiltern main line to Birmingham, with line speeds of 90mph. And that was precisely why we were unable to get access! Health & Safety rules meant we had to wait until a fence could be installed along our path before we were permitted regular, unescorted access. With the first temporary fence came limited access. We used the time to rectify some of the more urgent defects, and to provide ourselves with the facilities and access needed to get more work done. For example we:- Rebuilt a door and fitted a number of locks and bolts Repaired another door frame and replaced its door Fixed a burst pipe and installed an indoor stopcock Fitted additional ventilators to dry out the damp Uncovered and repaired an excavator-damaged drain Improved security on the window/door boarding Got some of the lights working in dry areas Cleared undergrowth from the rear wall Fitted a roof support prop where a timber had rotted Replaced a few missing gutter downpipes Disposed of a rotting rabbit and a small deer skeleton Listed and photographed some of the other defects. Unfortunately the water main had been severed during the laying of the new Up fast track through the station, making cleaning up after the pigeons difficult! So we installed a temporary rainwater harvesting tank to partially overcome this setback. In October 2013 Network Rail provided a fenced safe walking route for us, and granted permission for us to resume the work. This was excellent news and marked the point where the serious work could start. 2014 So, what did we find when we got back in the box? The electrical supply had gone. The box was boarded up so it was pitch black inside. The roof was in a very sorry state but did let some daylight (and rain) in! The picture on the right will give you an idea, but luckily does not convey the smell as the whole place was covered in pigeon droppings! As predicted, the cracks in the brickwork had widened, some by as much as 1.5mm over 11 months maily due to vibration from the faster, heavier Chiltern Mainline loco-hauled express trains. We urgently installed two steel ties running the entire length of the building to prevent any further crack widening. Clambering over the top of a signal box yards away from a main railway line to repair the roof was always going to cause us a problem. We were grateful Network Rail came up with a solution. They organised a work party who, with the aid of ropes and towers, went up on the roof overnight outside of running hours and replaced the damaged and missing slates thus making the roof watertight again. It was not a permanent fix but at least we could work inside without needing to rig tarpaulins and wear waterproof clothing! In all, 2014 was a year of consolidation and repairs vital to the survival of the box. From the outside it might have looked as if little was done but to us working inside much was achieved in terms of working conditions and security. Doors repaired and painted, rotten wood in window sills and pillars replaced, sashes (some temporary) re-glazed and painted, the old battery room converted into a toilet, bracing of window lintels to hold them until full repairs could be completed, chimney breasts and fireplaces sorted out, cladding, cleaning, yet more painting etc. 2015 With both Network Rail and Chiltern Railways taking a very positive approach, our volunteers continued the vital repairs to the box and were able to start working on some of the more visible changes needed. The highlight of the year was the staircase. During its long period of dereliction, the external staircase up to the operating floor which houses the actual signal levers had become so rotten and dangerous that it had to be removed back in 2000 before it fell down of its own accord! This left us with no easy way up to the upper floor, save for climbing an internal ladder and crawling through a hole between floorboards. It came as a great relief later in 2015 when our members completed building and erecting a replacement staircase, even utilising some of the original parts.
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