06 March 2023
Examining the inside of this now-disused 1960s-built signal box, whose architecture has gained it a Grade II-listed status.
Birmingham New Street power box has been applauded for being one of Birmingham's best surviving examples of Brutalist architecture – defined by imposing facades built from pre-cast concrete. Built as part of the West Coast main line route modernisation, the Birmingham PSB was one of four power signal boxes in the West Midlands, replacing 64 manually operated signal boxes in the 1960s.
The structure was given Grade II listed building status in 1995 because of its ‘dramatic and exceptional architectural quality’ and ‘strongly sculptural form’. At the building’s peak, up to 1,200 trains were directed by its team of dedicated signallers every day, representing tens of millions of trains over its operational life.
Its insides were unique, being the only surviving signal box to use the Westpac Mk. 1 signalling system until it closed on Christmas Eve, 2022.
Here, we present a selection of images of the power box from today, and when new:
Birmingham New Street on January 25, 1965. The signal box is under construction, with nameboard visible. Part of the old signal box is visible to the right. KIDDERMINSTER RAILWAY MUSEUM
In what is believed to be circa 1966, a signalman at Birmingham New Street operates switches on a route. KIDDERMINSTER RAILWAY MUSEUM
A wider view inside shows the positions held by multiple operators working on the route. KIDDERMINSTER RAILWAY MUSEUM
Viewed from the other side, operators are working on both the route-setting panel and central control desk. Inspiration for very keen railway modellers? KIDDERMINSTER RAILWAY MUSEUM
Relays linking to the panels above and switchgear outside are housed in cabinets. The mechanical nature of such devices required routine maintenance.
The space-consuming 1960s analogue technology is best evidenced by this view of the switchgear, its cable runs and cabinets looking in good visual condition, despite their age.
The 'box was the only survivor to use the Westpac Mk. 1 signalling system until it closed on Christmas Eve 2022.
A London Northwestern Railway serives passes Birmingham New Street PSB. Plans are being formulated for the future of the building as a training centre for the next generation of railway signallers.
Brutalist architecture is in full sight with this street-side view of the building. Though it hasn't been cleaned for some time, it has changed very little externally since first built. Note the crane above the top door, for hoisting the bulky equipment of the time.
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