St Albans is best known for its magnificent cathedral but if you’ve travelled there by train you might have noticed the historic St Albans Signal Box adjacent to the station. This cheerful yellow and maroon painted building always puts a smile on my face as I travel past it so I was delighted to find out that there are regular free open days throughout the year.
The Signal Box is Grade II listed and dates back to 1892, replacing an earlier one on the site. It is a prefabricated wooden building, meaning that it was built off site, and at a later time the building was extended with the idea to house more levers but they were never installed. It closed in 1979 and has since been restored and opened to the public thanks to the volunteers from the St Albans Signal Box Preservation Trust.
In the garden look are working signals and other railway memorabilia
On arrival we were warmly welcomed by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers. We were surprised to find that the Signal Box is located in its own small but beautifully maintained garden where there was seating and refreshments available.
The path to the Signal Box is adjacent with the busy railway line, with trains going north to Bedford and Sheffield and south to London and Brighton. On the ground floor there is a small museum which shows railway videos and there is also a shop.
Upstairs is the impressive control room with its original 44 levers. There are regular demonstrations throughout the day on how the system works. The volunteers explain and show how the levers had to be pulled in a particular sequence, to ensure that the trains could travel safely between different sections of track. There is also the opportunity for you to pull the levers yourself and it is much harder than looks.
Address: St Albans Signal Box, 5 Ridgmont Road, St Albans, AL1 3AG
Nearest Station: St Albans (also known as St Albans City). Regular train services between London and Bedford. The Signal Box is adjacent to the station. From Platform 4 take the Ridgmont Road Exit and it's just a couple of minutes walk away.
Opening Times (2013): Regular Sunday and occassional Saturday afternoons throughout the year. Please check website for up to date details before travelling.
Admission: Free. Donations appreciated.
Light refreshments available.
St Albans Signal Box Website: http://www.tlr.ltd.uk/sigbox/home.eb
St Albans Tourist Information Website: http://www.enjoystalbans.com/index.html (For more information about St Albans, including its cathedral and other attractions)
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.