Since we moved the signal box last October, we have done a lot of hard work on restoration. The most urgent work, given that it was wintertime, was to refurbish the windows (10 frames containing 76 glass panes). They needed stripping, preparing and painting. Many needed substantial bits of new wood fitting where the original had rotted. In January, they were refitted back into the box.
We then tackled the main timberwork. There was rot in some of the main beams (though luckily not much), but all the external timber cladding needed attention. In the end, we replaced the lower back wall with new timber, and had enough of the best of the rest to get original timbers on the front and ends. It then all needed preparing and painting.
But we still didn’t have a staircase, so we designed a new one, in the style of that used by the Midland Railway, but with a few compromises to meet modern building regulations. We hope you like it when you are eventually able to visit. It was all manufactured on site by our wonderful band of volunteers who come along each weekend.
Work also continued inside, getting all the inside walls prepared and painted, and restoring little details like the sliding air vent which had been painted up solid for at least 6 coats of paint. It probably last operated before WW2!
We then re-assembled the lever frame, having sourced a number of components that were missing from other demolished signal boxes. Refitting the interlocking will have to wait, as it is not actually visible. Further interior work will be to create a new block shelf, and mount on it period signalling equipment. We are very lucky to receive a print of the interior of the box from the 1970s showing the last day of a signalman before he retired.
Manor Foundry in Ilkeston have done a lot of casting for us – firstly replacement sets of letters for the box name board to replace the one that was stolen a few years ago, then step treads and a ‘No Admittance’ sign for the door (but you will be allowed in on open days!)
We are planning to have a number of open days in August, since this will coincide with the 175th anniversary of the opening of the line from Nottingham to Newark back in August 1846.
But before then, we have: a lino floor to lay, a stove and cooker to fit, a Belfast sink to install, lighting to install and some more heavy equipment to reassemble downstairs. On 16th May, Network Rail will clear and tidy the old site, and let us have the last of the original floor timbers to fit. The outer upstairs timber is looking rather motheaten, and really needs replacing, so we still have our work cut out. New volunteers are always welcome.
East Midlands Railway have great plans to celebrate the anniversary, including installing information boards at all the stations, and reenactors portraying different decades at each station on 4th August, the day the railway carried its first paying passengers. At Lowdham, we are hoping to put on the short ghost story by Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”, using the signal box and siding as stage, and the station platform as auditorium. Keep an eye on our facebook page for more details of what is coming up, and what we have done. www.facebook.com/lowdhamsignalbox
David Moore, Lowdham Railway Heritage.