Museum becomes new home of Billingshurst signal box

Billingshurst signal box offical opening at Amberley Museum SUS-180327-130007001
Billingshurst signal box offical opening at Amberley Museum SUS-180327-130007001

Amberley Museum hosted the official opening of the Billingshurst signal box on Sunday March 25.

The event was attended by the volunteer team who worked on the restoration of the signal box and around 70 enthusiasts.

The ceremony was held at 11am, and the museum’s chair of trustees John Robbins welcomed TV and radio journalist Nicholas Owen, who officiated the ceremony.

The museum is very proud to be the new home of the signal box, a very rare Saxby and Farmer type 1b box, dating to before 1876. The signal box used to stand at the Billingshurst level crossing.

Built for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, the signal box is a welcome addition to the railway collection and complements the ticket office (originally from Hove) that was previously re-homed at the museum.

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, the 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 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 leavers, 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 at the Museum whom have helped them complete the project.

The vinyl flooring in the signal box was donated by local furnishing company, Funnells of Storrington.

The box is interesting historically, and also provides a good view of the site from the top of the historic De Witt kilns, which are one of the museum’s scheduled historic monuments.

The museum is looking to attract new volunteers to help to man the box once it has opened. If you are interested, the opening event would be an interesting way to find out more about the new exhibit.

The museum also opened the new engine shed as part of their standard line collection.

Nicholas Owen, along with Tony Johnson, who is a long standing museum volunteer who has worked hard on this project over the last ten years, drove ‘Burt’ the standard gauge loco down the tracks and into the new engine shed to declare the exhibit open.

The museum hosts several rail events throughout their open season, with their annual Spring Industrial Trains being held on Sunday April 15.

Enjoy a day of narrow gauge action on the Museum’s railway, with demonstrations runs on the Road Machine contractors’ monorail.

Also on this day, you can enjoy steam on the rails with their resident steam engines.

Amberley Museum is a remarkable heritage site in the Sussex South Downs, with 36 acres to explore and over 40 exhibit buildings to visit, focusing on industrial and transport history..

This year the Museum is celebrating its 40th season, and they are hosting over 50 events in 2018.

For full details visit www.amberleymuseum.co.uk