Plan to turn Polegate signal box into museum on the right track

Cllr Michael Clewett at Polegate Signal Box
Cllr Michael Clewett at Polegate Signal Box

The campaign to save Polegate signal box has taken a step forward after Network Rail agreed for it to be turned into a small railway museum.

Cllr Michael Clewett, chair of the Save our Signal Box campaign group, has been fighting to get the Polegate signal box listed since Network Rail revealed plans to close signal boxes up and down the line and replace them with a new state-of-the-art facility at Three Bridges.

English Heritage refused to list the box and it looked as if it might be demolished but Network Rail agreed the community could have the building if there was a use for it.

Now Cllr Clewett has met Network Rail bosses who agreed the proposed use of the box as a small railway museum dedicated to the London to Brighton and South Coast Railway meets criteria for using disused signal boxes for community projects.

Cllr Clewett said: “This is the culmination of nearly 18 months endeavour and we are extremely grateful to Network Rail for their understanding at this final act of acquisition, subject of course to all contractual points being agreed and to which we do not foresee any problems.

“I and my committee are very excited to have reached this point and the news has been welcomed within the town.

“It was confirmed that our first task is to replace the plastic windows with timber to match those installed in 1883 when the building was constructed by Saxby and Farmer.

“Network Rail will remove all their modern electronic equipment leaving us with the original ‘Absolute Block’ signalling equipment dating back to Victorian and Edwardian times and still in operation to this date.

“As a further nicety we have requested the Up Starter signal, and intend to position this in the rear garden away from the tracks.

“This will be connected to one of the signal levers and set to “Off” when we are open and “On” when closed.

“The garden will be tended and it has been proposed that this is dedicated to a well known former Polegate businessman and mayor, Gerald Carter.

“We are beginning to assemble artefacts and photographs for display purposes and it is hoped to construct a model of Polegate’s previous, and second station, some half a mile down the track.

“Network Rail will now instruct solicitors to draw up the necessary documents for the transfer and this will take a little time.”

It is hoped the group will open the museum to the public by late summer.

Cllr Clewett said he wanted to stress the museum is a private project by and for the people of Polegate.