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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 44 - Spring / Summer 1981
Harlington Signal Box
Harlington - A True Story - Simon Field
At 8.00 pm on Saturday 31st May 1980 a group of four members met in a small pub in Westoning, Bedfordshire - round the corner was parked a van and a lorry loaded with tools and equipment. A few miles up the road, on platform one of Harlington Station, the forty lever mechanical signalbox was being used by BR for the last time.
We had purchased the signalbox complete and, as the BR signal engineers had a possession of the running lines (for the purpose of commissioning the colour-light signalling controlled from the new power signalbox at West Hampstead), they had kindly agreed to us stripping the equipment out of the box as soon as it closed. The body of the box could not be taken at the same time and would have to wait until mid-September before it could be moved to its new home at Quainton.
Around 9.30 pm the vehicles drew up in the Station car park and we changed into our combat uniforms, old jeans and overalls!
We had hired two generators in case BR had isolated the power, but we were fortunate, so the generators remained in the back of the van. Even so some kind person had removed all the light-bulbs, so the floodlights we had brought were rapidly connected up, to provide us with illumination for the hours ahead. We were a little upset to find one of the signal repeaters from the front of the blockshelf had been stolen, probably as a souvenir, and the clock had disappeared, but the rest of the equipment was intact and many of the indicator lamps for the points and signals were still alight.
The rest of the working party had by now arrived and we assembled in the top half of the box to await the arrival of the BR signal engineer, who would give us permission to commence work. A table in one corner had been set aside for the food and the kettle - and, although it was quite warm inside, we stoked up the coal stove which had been left burning by the signalman.
As we were discussing the work schedule, the two BR S&T engineers arrived. One of the faces we knew as Denis Howells, a Quainton member, who introduced us to his 'chief', Mr L Rhodes. Denis disappeared into the bottom of the box to isolate the low voltage supply to the equipment so we could start work. Four of us remained upstairs, while the rest of the gang went into the bottom of the box to start disconnecting the various rods and linkages. The block instruments were carefully removed from the blockshelf, followed by the other electrical equipment, including three telephones and numerous relays. By midnight we had removed the complete blockshelf, which meant we could work on the lever frame without banging our heads!
(to be continued)
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 18 November 2017