Closure & Dereliction Princes Risborough North Signal Box
British Rail closed the signal box in February 1991, when a new “Integrated Electronic Control Centre” at Marylebone took over, as part of the upgade of the line. When the closure was announced local people successfully campaigned to get the building preserved, and it was duly “listed” Grade 2. However there was no apparent use or occupier for the building. Around the same time, the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway Association (C&PRRA) had been formed, and purchased track between Chinnor and the British Rail boundary on the outskirts of Princes Risborough. It was hoped to soon be able to negotiate land or running rights with BR to allow heritage trains to run into Princes Risborough station using a restored Watlington platform. It was clearly sensible that the Princes Risborough North signal box should pass to the C&PRRA at the same time. BR granted interim access to the box by C&PRRA members, who would look after it and restore equipment etc. A lot of work was done: the roof was repaired and a chimney rebuilt; the staircase was repaired and strengthened; a full repaint was carried out inside and out; equipment was bought from other closing boxes to replace missing items in the North Box. The building was generally maintained in readiness for the surely not too distant day when it would come back into use… in the early nineties! Negotiations dragged on and meanwhile rail privatisation and health and safety came along. In 1998 a decision was made that it was no longer tenable for C&PRRA members to routinely access the box. Maintenance and restoration stopped. Vandals seized the opportunity and broke 197 of the 421 window panes. The pigeons were pleased, and moved in. By the early noughties, the place was in a sorry state. Prior to some track relaying work, the box was considered a safety hazard due to the potential for broken glass to fall on workers below. The decision was taken by Railtrack (or was it Network Rail by then?) to board up the box and remove the stairs. The building, if not its fate, was sealed. In 2011 there was a break-in. The police and Network Rail provided escorts so C&PRRA could access the building. It revealed an alarming state of affairs: a long term water leak had flooded part of the top floor, flowing down through the building beneath. The ceiling of an equipment room had collapsed as a result. Equipment was rusted and in some cases full of water. One of the main structural timbers had rotted out and the brickwork showed numerous cracks indicating some movement of the structure. The arch over one of the windows had collapsed and the full extent of the pigeons' droppings was recognised for the first time! Clearly something had to be done, and Network Rail agreed to provide an escort occasionally so we could take remedial action, but with perhaps one day of access a month and no funding we were very limited. None the less, work had restarted and progress had been made for the first time in 13 years of dereliction! Click the green edged button below to take you non-stop to the next recommended destination.
Appeal for help The early years Restoration pages The future pages Newsletters Home page Appeal for help The early years Box working life Restoration The future Newsletters Home page