Deepings group gets charitable status in fight to save signal box

Deeping St James signal box. Photo: Rex Needle
Deeping St James signal box. Photo: Rex Needle
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The conservation group dedicated to saving the old railway signal box at Deeping St James has been granted charitable status.

The decision has been made by the Charity Commission following representations by the St James Deeping Signal Box Group whose members are currently in negotiation with Network Rail to preserve the building for future use.

The signal box has been one of the great landmarks of the railway era in South Lincolnshire for almost 140 years. It was built in 1876 by the Great Northern Railway Company on the main line from Peterborough to Lincoln and sited about 1½ miles outside Deeping St James at a spot where the line crosses the B1166. There was originally a station here to serve the Deepings employing a small staff but that closed in 1961 because of the decline in rail usage and the stationmaster’s house is now a private residence.

It was an integral part of the rural rail service and forty trains a day once thundered past, passenger services between Spalding and Peterborough as well as freight trains from Boston, Lincoln and as far north as Doncaster. This meant a busy time for the crossing keeper who was alerted by a bell which rang to warn him that a train was imminent and he then had five minutes in which to close the gates and change the points and all of the signals to green by operating the huge brass levers inside the box.

But advancing technology heralded the end of the signal box which was closed and the gates replaced by automatic barriers controlled from the signal centre at Lincoln. Then in October 2014, the building was dismantled by Network Rail and removed despite protests from the local community who insisted that it should be preserved as a railway heritage museum.

This proposal is now well on track to becoming a reality. The building has been stored in sections and the group plan to re-erect it close to the original site. The task will be formidable and costly but now that the registered charity has been formed to handle the finances members are confident of success.

A “Support our signal box” campaign is already underway with various schemes in the pipeline such as local fund-raising events and a sponsor-a-brick-campaign at £10 a time. “This signal box has always been a local landmark and is therefore worthy of preservation at a time when so many are being closed throughout the country”, said committee member John Clare.

He added: “The decision to grant us charitable status gives us the advantage of owning property such as the building and we can also obtain gift aid on all of our fund raising and apply for grants to help us with the rebuild.”

Once up and running, it is envisaged that the heritage centre will offer open days, information events and regular talks on railway history and in this way the signal box will become a significant reminder of the way things were.