Preston Station - Past & Present

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2. Project Approval & Planning
3. The Work at Preston
4. Signalling & Power Box Commissioning
5. Electrification, Catenary & Electricity Supply
6. Delays
7. Locomotives
8. Media
9. It's Official!
4. Signalling & Power Box Commisssioning
These track and signalling rationalizations paved the way for the power box commissioning.

Since 1939 Preston had been in need of renewal, the mechanical signalling soldiering on for another 30 years due to piece-meal, like for like, replacement and associated high maintenance costs.

With the introduction of this new power box at Preston manpower savings were expected of 194 signalmen’s positions on the West Coast main line and 147 with the following phase covering the East Lancashire main line.

The signalling contracts worth over £13m were awarded to AEI-General Signal Limited and Westinghouse Brake & Signal Co. Ltd. By the Scottish and London Midland regions, for complete re-signalling of the West Coast main line.

The Westinghouse contract covered three signal boxes Warrington (50 route miles), Preston (114 route miles) and Carlisle (104 route miles) replacing no less than 178 manual signal boxes. In addition to the main signalling contract for £7.5m, Westinghouse secured an order worth £629,000 for a computer based train describer system.

Warrington was the first to be commissioned in September/October 1972. The Preston box was commissioned in several phases usually performed over a weekend starting with the link up from Warrington.

pic1Here we can see the new goods line and platform six taking shape, the line in the foreground were the former platforms eight and nine. Currently these are stopped off to provide bay platforms. The East Lancs side of the station is now out of use for service trains but is retained for the engineers trains. Preston No.3 signal box can be seen in the centre of the picture which closed on the 13th March 1972. There is a new temporary semaphore just to left of the signal box which will be worked by Preston No.1 until the PSB takes over in February 1973.
Power Box Commissioning
The power box was commissioned as a series of phases as already mentioned; more details and dates on this can be found in the section Preston Signalling by David Ingham.

During the Stage 1 commissioning work Farington Junction box would act as the link up box from October until November 1972, with the area south under the control of the new power box, while the tracks north would remain under mechanical control.

Stage 2 would take the south link north to Skew Bridge, until the final Stage 7 work (February 1973).

The most northerly work was stage 6 carried out in January 1973. Carnforth No.2 and Burton and Holme would remain in use until Stages 7 and 8 of Carlisle scheme were implemented over the weekend of the 12th and 13th May 1973. This would mark the conclusion of the route to Carlisle.

The Stage 7 work was the Preston station area and linked the northern (Oxheys) and southern areas, which had already been commissioned, together. It took in the Fylde lines, with Salwick No.2 becoming the fringe box.

This only left East Lancashire to be completed.

Strand road box became a ground frame and the Deepdale branch at the former Preston No.5 end, now came under the control of the power signal box.

Between Weaver Junction and Gretna a total of 811 signals were required, along with 562 miles of telecoms cable.

The sheer scale of the re-signalling project at Preston really has to be admired, it was the largest installation of the three power boxes, here are a few statistics:

Manual signal boxes abolished 87

Fringe boxes and token stations 11

Colour light signals 466 (254 Warrington 325 Carlisle)

Routes signalled 866 (232 Warrington, 553 Carlisle)

Point Machines 364

Track Circuits 1050

Route miles 114

Track miles 263 (145 Warrington 221 Carlisle)