The original GER signalbox at Ongar (pictured above) was taken out of use following closure of the goods yard in 1969 and sadly demolished by LT in the early 1980s.
Following many hours of efforts behind the scenes, and a number of set-backs, we finally managed to secure an original Great Eastern signalbox for Ongar. This was originally the top half of Spelbrook which was in storage at Mangapps Railway Museum. In February 2010 the top half was stabilised and made safe, before a few weeks later on 26th March 2010 it was lifted onto a vehicle and carried down the A120 & A414, much to the surprise of passing traffic!
Following arrival at Ongar new foundations were dug, very close to the footprint of the original, and metal legs were made that connect with the custom made metal supporting and lifting frame, to hold the box at the correct height and to hopefully be ever-lasting.
The volunteers worked to recreate the lower half from scratch, complete with locking room window, and extensively restored the upstairs. This included nearly completely rebuilding the west end which had been heavily altered by BR and suffering from years of decay.
The original Ongar lever frame came to light, and was kindly made available to us by CHT, and so this was lifted into the box, with the floor supports and floorboards adjusted to accommodate the Saxby & Farmer frame (as Spelbrook had a McKenzie & Holland lever frame which has different locking access arrangements). This lever frame was a remarkable find, and it is very fitting that the 1888 frame will once again be signalling trains at Ongar, from a GER type 7 signalbox. In common with the rest of the buildings at Ongar, this has been restored into GER colours, as the original would have looked between 1880s and 1930s.
Focus then turned to the signalling installation, both in the signalbox and relay room. The diagrams below shows how the signalling will evolve and be commissioned in phases. These phases will progress as funds and volunteering time becomes available. This enables the railway to make use of the signalling equipment piece by piece as it is commissioned and also to evolve to meet the anticipated future needs of the railway.
The signalbox at Ongar will communicate with the next adjacent box at North Weald , with the later phases of the signalling allowing a greater flexibility in the operations, additional platforms to be brought into passenger use allowing a higher frequency of trains. This will help cater for the busier operational days and to handle different trains as the railway looks towards operating trains to Epping.
As ever, the latest developments and updates as the team continue their work are posted on the Departments Diary.
If you have any details, pictures, documents, items or equipment that would help with the restoration of our signalling and an authentic GER signalbox at Ongar, if you would like to come down and learn to be a signalman (or signalwoman), wish to come and help us maintain the signalling please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via the details on the How You Can Help page.