The Early Years Princes Risborough North Signal Box The first railway to reach Princes Risborough was the Wycombe Railway on 1st August 1862, which saw the extension of its single track line from High Wycombe run all the way to Thame as part of its planned Oxford extension. Parliamentary approval had been granted little over 12 months previously on 28 June 1861. Next came another branch built by the Wycombe Railway, this time to Aylesbury which opened on 1st October 1863. Following that less than a decade later came the Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway in 1872. It connected the Oxfordshire towns of Watlington and Chinnor to the main GWR network at Princes Risborough. The Princes Risborough North signal box you see today was built in 1904/5 as part of the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway 's “Bicester cut off” route between Princes Risborough (then on the Wycombe Railway route from High Wycombe via Thame to Oxford) and Aynho (on the Oxford Banbury line) - see the red line on the map. This completed the GWR's “North Main Line” from Paddington to Birmingham and on to Liverpool and Birkenhead. Previously trains had to be routed via Oxford. This was not the first signal box to be built at Princes Risborough. There is reference to a Wycombe Railway signal box (and station) dating back to 1892 for their line to Oxford. The North Box was not alone: a smaller Princes Risborough South signal box stood on the London side of the station on the other side of the line in what is now the station car park. The South Box closed in 1968 and was demolished. The task of the North box was to control the junctions between the double track main line and the three single track branches: to Aylesbury; to Watlington (via Chinnor); and to Oxford (via Thame). Without knowing the history of the area it would be easy to think the two lines that leave the station in a northwest direction around the left curve are one for the ‘Up*’ line and one for the ‘Down*’. They were actually each single, bi-directional lines, the left hand going off via Chinnor, the other via Thame. * Railways historically only go in two directions, Up or Down! The Up direction refers to lines going towards London, the Down being in the opposite direction. The station itself was a classic GWR design station building which cost £1104 9s 5d to build and additional general costs of £824 8s 0d. It had two through platforms facing loop lines on the outside of two centre fast roads. Both through platforms had North facing bays on the back, and both bay roads had engine release loops. The loops were necessary so that the same single locomotive could detach from the train it had just pulled in to the platform and then run round on the parallel passing loop to rejoin at what would now be the front of the train. If the passing loops are included, Risborough was eight tracks wide with four platform faces! One of those eight tracks was a freight by-pass line on the West (down) side out of shot on the left in this more recent picture (looking North). Princes Risborough North box can be seen in the distance near the top of the picture as can the multiple semaphore signals it controlled. The left hand station canopy hides the Watlington branch line and bay platform. Note the single carriage behind loco 5420. Click the green edged button below to take you non-stop to the next recommended destination.
Princes Risborough North signal box in the very early days Appeal for help Box working life Closure & dereliction Restoration The future Newsletters Home page