Signalling Department

Intro | North Weald | Ongar | Links

North Weald Signal Box in 1976

Picture showing North Weald Station prior to LT removing the loop in 1976

For up to date information on what the Signalling Team have been achieving, please visit the Departments Diary page.


Why do we need signals?

Since 1889 (the year after North Weald signalbox was built), it has been a legal requirement to lock and prove that points are correctly set on passenger lines. A signalling installation ensures the correct setting and "locking" of points and to control train movements in order to ensure passenger safety. A signalling system is part of the essential infrastructure so we can run more than one train, both steam and heritage diesel on the line.

Following discussions with the other Heads of Departments back in 2008, we drew up a signalling plan which will meet the requirements of the railway over the coming years. This plan was presented to HMRI (Part of the Office of Rail Regulation), and was been approved with no objections. Many elements of this plan have now been installed and the team are well on their way to progressing the system to its final phases.

North Weald is our passing place, and following 5 years of work has been signalled to allow trains to arrive in either direction into both main platforms. The signalling here includes access into both the Up Yard and Engine Shed sidings and to allow passenger trains to use the bay platform.

Ongar is the eastern terminus of the line and the signalling system here will be installed in phases. The first phase has enabled the locomotive to change ends (run-round) when the single line token is placed into the special instrument connected to the system. The latter phases will increase the number of shunting moves, both control the expanded layout, allow trains to arrive and depart from both the main and bay platforms, as well as enabling shunting to happen between trains.

Further details of the signalling schemes at both North Weald and Ongar are on these pages, including pictures and the scheme plans.

A Restored Westinghouse Relay Interlocking Rack

A Restored Westinghouse relay interlocking rack, installed on EOR and part way through commissioning.

Much of the equipment has either been donated/rescued from the mainline network, London Underground or has been obtained through working with other heritage railways. The signalling project on EOR has enabled the preservation of a wide variety of signalling equipment, some of which has not been preserved on other heritage railways. Whenever practicable we continue to make great efforts to incorporate signalling equipment that was typical of GER/LNER/BR(E) or LUL examples.

Restoring Ongar's Inner Home Signal

One of our team restoring Ongar's Inner Home signal, the square box will indicate to the driver which line / platform he has been routed into.

The team doesn't only restore, install and commission equipment - all the equipment needs regular servicing, both to ensure the safety of trains, its reliability to keep the equipment operating and preserved for future generations.

In the future it is also hoped that there could be a signalbox at an EOR station at the Epping end of our line to enable locomotive hauled trains to once again run over the whole branch, restoring this essential link in our public transport and hopefully allowing steam to operate over the whole length of the line. We hope that each signalbox reflects a particular period in history and so acts as a unique preservation and educational resource.

Volunteering - What's involved?

We have teams both at weekends (Saturdays & Sundays) and weekdays, and some of the items are small enough to be taken home and worked on in your garage / shed.

No prior experience is necessary, and full training can be given. There is no minimum number of turns and we are more than happy to see you whenever you can spare some time.

  • Do you fancy being trained to work as a signalman (or signalwoman) in our heritage signalboxes?
  • Can you spare a few hours and fancy working with a friendly team on the restoration or maintenance?
  • Do you have any signal items that you would like to see in use, both those older items and newer?
  • Do you work on Network Rail / Transport for London, or know of items becoming redundant that we could save for preservation?
  • Are you approaching retirement and want to continue using your skills for the benefit of this local line and pass on your knowledge to others within our friendly team?
  • or perhaps you might want to brush up your skills on the older signalling equipment?

If the answer to any of these is yes... don't delay; visit the How you can Help page for details.

Restoring Ongar's Inner Home Signal

Carefully re-glazing the original 1888 windows in 2007, all part of getting the North Weald signalbox able to signal trains.

Old Signalbox Abandoned Signalbox

Restoration in Action! Pictured is North Weald Frame c1960s, (left) and right when EOR Signals team took over (February 2007).

Revised Signal Layout

By the end of 2008 the lever frame had been restored into LNER colours, and lever lengths exchanged to suit the new layout. Re-locking of the interlocking occurred to ensure the signalling met the requirements of the railway, but many of the signals are still located in similar (or even identical) locations to the original.

Revised Signal Layout

Above is the same frame now in use in 2012, following the restoration started in 2007.


I'd like to take this opportunity to thank a number of companies who have been assisting us with obtaining and preserving our signalling heritage, and enabling EOR to run trains.

Network Rail (both National and the East Anglia Territory)
Signalling Solutions Limited
Sonic Rail Services
Colas Rail
S&T Cover
BK3 Training

As well as many of the other heritage railways near and far who have provided support and assistance to EOR as we work to follow in their footsteps in installing a heritage signalling system.

Other service providers:
Dulux Trade Centre Chelmsford (assistance with paint matching)