A Letter from Nantwich

Letter written in February 2014 - updated in February 2016          

Piece of history carried away in the night . . .

FINALLY, with no last-minute help available to save it, Nantwich's old signal box by the town's railway station has been taken away.

   Of course, it was not as underhand as the tongue in cheek headline might make it sound. The move was known to be coming for quite a while.

   The campaigners fighting to save the piece of history weren't able to acquire the land next to the Methodist Church in Hospital Street - to their disappointment, but it was to the relief of members of the church (and others, of course) who didn't want the structure next to the church - even if it did have a popular miniature railway in its grounds.

 

  Early on the morning of Sunday, January 31, part of the box was lifted by crane on to a lorry which took it to the OSL Rail Ltd site in Weston Road, Crewe, to be used by railway apprentices.

   It will be of no consolation to the campaigners that the old box needed some extra strengthening work  which the campaigners wouldn't have to find funding for.

   Structural beams inside the box weren't up to the transfer to Crewe, requiring a new inner wall to be built on the new site.

   Also, the lower half of the box was found to be rotten and had to be taken off.

 

   Network Rail - who had decided they no longer needed the signal box - paid for its removal to Crewe. It's not known if that would have been the case if it had been only the couple or so hundred yards to the church site. Possibly.

   A philosophical Eddie George, the leader of the Friends of Nantwich Signal Box group, was quoted by the Nantwich Chronicle as saying: "Obviously we would have liked to have kept (the signal box) in Nantwich, but with the circumstances that prevailed the only option was the one we took."

   The move to Crewe was to be followed by 10 to 13 weeks of refurbishment.

 

A train passes the signal box site after leaving Nantwich railway station on its way to the next stop at Wrenbury, on the Chester to Shrewsbury line.

  

 

 

See the Nantwich News website for videos and images showing the removal of the signal box. (January 2016 archives).

 

The removal of the signal box opened a wider view of St Anne's Catholic Church across from Nantwich Station

 

The church at the roadside. On the left, the railway line heads for the next level crossing in Shrewbridge Road

End of the line for station signal box idea

July 24, 2015

SO THAT'S it . . . The idea of retaining the Nantwich railway station signal box has run out of steam.

   OSL Rail Limited, a railway training establishment situated in Crewe, is to provide a site for the preservation of the Nantwich landmark. The apprentices will use the signal box in their training for work on the railways.

   Well done them, some might say. I'm sorry, but I'm not one of them. True, their offer of land will save the signal box for posterity, but - while Crewe is a railway town - it's not Nantwich.

   True, there will be a sign declaring that the structure is - or was - "Nantwich Signal Box". But it won't be the same thing as it being sited prominently in Nantwich, where such a label would not have been needed.

   The box was threatened with demolition by Network Rail with level crossings being remotely controlled in 12 regions.

   I'm not saying that OSL should not have made their offer to "host" the box, just that it should have been possible for the box to remain in Nantwich, somehow.

   For those who do not know - and I was one of them - OSL is half of the Railway Exchange Training Academy, together with record producer and songwriter, Dr Pete Waterman, who also has an interest in Crewe's railway "museum", the Heritage Centre.

   The academy trains apprentices for the railway industry.

   I could just about have accepted the position if an alternative offer from Nantwich Marina - the Basin End  base for canal enthusiasts off Chester Road, Acton - had been agreed. A different form of transport but still in the correct town. Well, almost. The marina is just

over the Nantwich town boundary.

 

A GROUP called the Friends of Nantwich Signal Box (Ltd), led by Nantwich Methodist Church member, Eddie George (right) has not given up the fight completely.

   They are reportedly hoping to be able to acquire a piece of land at the end of an access lane which leads to the rear of Nantwich Methodist Church in Hospital Street. The lane, which runs along the front of houses in Grocott's Row, is adjacent to Morrison's supermarket in Pratchitt's Row.

   There they would build a scale model of the signal box as part of the church's miniature railway. (See this Letter from Nantwich).     

    In an intriguing message on the Nantwich Film Club website, Mr George wrote: "Hi, The Friends of the Nantwich Signal Box Ltd. are attempting to re-use the signal box as a projection box for an outdoor cinema based of the car park at the back of the Methodist Church."

 

THE latest news was broken in the July 22, 2015, edition of the Nantwich Chronicle, a month after the June 24 edition had said that the Nantwich Miniature Railway Group (the same people as the Friends of Nantwich Signal Box, I believe) had just a week, to the end of June, to find a new site for the railway artefact.

   A problem had arisen with one of the two sites they had in mind.

   The matter went before the Finance Committee of

Nantwich Town Council for consideration.

   Network Rail had imposed a deadline for the demolition of the now-defunct signal box.

   The  crossing barriers at the boundary between Pillory Street and Wellington Road are remotely

 

controlled by railway staff in Cardiff via CCTV.

   An alternative site for the old signal box was one of two car parks that the church owns. The second was acquired in 2014. This is used by people with parking permits during the week and by church members at the weekend.

   Unfortunately, the large signal box would have taken up a good proportion of the car park if that site had been chosen for the original signal box. Not that that matters now. Perhaps a scale model on other land is not such a bad idea after all.

 

oThe picture of Eddie George, above, was taken (by "A Dabber's Nantwich" website) with the permission of Network Rail in 2014.

 

 THE ORIGINAL LETTER  FROM NANTWICH -  February 2014

Enthusiasts line up signal box for their miniature railway by church 

MINIATURE railway enthusiasts at Nantwich Methodist Church are setting their sights on bigger things. On acquiring a full-size railway signal box, in fact.

    The box in question is the now-closed one at Nantwich railway station in Pillory Street (pictured) and some members of the church see it as ideal for the expanding feature behind the Hospital Street church centre.

   If the plan goes ahead, the signal box would join the miniature railway line that runs down the side

 

  

 

of the church and the full-size signal (left) that already stands at the edge of the church's second car park (the first car park is behind the church). A spotlight on the post supporting the signal allows it to be lit at night.

   In North West Today and North West Tonight interviews on BBC television, the Minister, the Rev Malcolm Lorimer, said Nantwich was a heritage town and "it would be great to have the signal box on the church site for the town".

   The inevitable questions asked about this kind of project are about who would do the work and where would the money come from.

  The Minister said there were a number of builders lining up to help with the work. As for the money he said "We can get sponsorship, we could get people to donate to the cost, we can get all kinds of help. The Town Council could help and there are are other grant-making bodies."     

 

AS in all matters such as this, not everyone agrees with the idea and are, of course, entitled to their point of view.

   Some members of the church, while being involved in the miniature train group, and others not involved in the weekly train trips, are against the idea. They don't think the signal box should go on to church land.

   Indeed, they cite a planning condition that land all round the re-sited signal box would have to be kept clear if it were to be opened to the public.     

   In its present site, there is no such space, but the public don't visit the box.

   The condition would rule out one possible

 

location suggested for the box and those against the idea wouldn't like to see the historic building sited on the church's second car park.

   See this article for more about the miniature train.   

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