Restored signal box and new engine shed to be opened by TV presenter

Signalman Paul Charman in Billingshurst signal box before it closed. Photo by Derek Martin
Signalman Paul Charman in Billingshurst signal box before it closed. Photo by Derek Martin

Newsreader and presenter Nicholas Owen will officially open the new engine shed and restored signal box at Amberley Museum.

A valued supporter of the museum, Nicholas has a passion for railways and has written several books on the subject. The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday at 11am.

The signal box is a rare Saxby and Farmer type 1b box, dating to before 1876

The signal box is a rare Saxby and Farmer type 1b box, dating to before 1876

The signal box is a rare Saxby and Farmer type 1b box, dating to before 1876. Built for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, it used to stand at Billingshurst level crossing but was moved to Amberley in June 2016.

The signal box complemented the ticket office, originally from Hove and already sited at the museum.

Rebecca Main, marketing and communications manager, said: “The signal box was listed and when Network Rail decided to widen the level crossing and modernise the signalling system, it was decided to save the box by offering it to the museum.

“Upon being moved, listed buildings lose their listing, but the museum undertakes to treat the building with the associated level of care and attention as though it were listed.

The new engine shed will house the diesel locomotive Burt and two historic wagons. Picture: Becky Main

The new engine shed will house the diesel locomotive Burt and two historic wagons. Picture: Becky Main

“The top part of the signal box, the operating room, was brought in one piece to the museum on a flatbed lorry and moved by crane.

“The lever frame, signalling levers, the block instruments and the track diagram were also saved and form part of the new exhibit.

“The museum is grateful for the generous support of Network Rail, BCM, the Railway and Heritage Trust, and a dedicated band of volunteers who have helped complete the project.”

The box provides a good view of the site from the top of the historic De Witt lime kilns, which are among the museum’s scheduled historic monuments.

The museum hopes to attract new volunteers to help man the box and suggests anyone interested attends the official opening to find out more.

The new engine shed will house the diesel locomotive Burt and two of the eight historic wagons on site.

Burt is similar to the engine that worked at the chalk pits in the 1920s and helps to give context to the kilns so that visitors can more easily imagine what it would have been like when the site was a working chalk pit.

As part of the opening ceremony, Burt will travel along a section of the museum’s narrow gauge towards the engine shed, with the help of Tony Johnson, a key figure in the project from design to construction.