A RAIL37 Churnet Valley Railway picture report

 Elton Crossing Signal Box
Its Acquisition and Movement


 Elton Crossing is, or was, a level crossing on the Sandbach branch line, built by the North Staffordshire Railway Company to link the Crewe-Stoke line to the Crewe-Manchester line at Sandbach Station. This was a further stage in the NSR's unsuccessful plan to reach Liverpool for the Western seaboard traffic to the Americas. This latterly goods only line closed in January 1971 after taking a severe pounding from regular oil tanker traffic diverted to avoid the busy Crewe junction. Elton Crossing was overseen by a Signal Box which also controlled access to the siding feeding the Foden Motor Works, makers of heavy commercial vehicles.

I cannot remember what prompted me to take an interest in acquiring the box but in 1977 a group of ten members of the North Staffordshire Railway Society agreed to collectively fund the acquisition of the structure and its transfer to Cheddleton for "future use". So, in August 1977 I contacted British Rail's Property Board to ask if the signal box was for sale and for how much. After all, the track had been lifted and removed for some six years and the local authority was proposing to develop a country walkway along the old tracked so there couldn't be any reason to refuse.

The response was remarkable for its ineptitudes and, having first denied that the box existed, B.R. officials insisted that we pay for a flagman to protect us from trains while working on the box - the line had been lifted for almost six years! We eventually acquired the box for the princely sum of £85 with a proviso that the whole site be cleared within two months - insulting when considering the above. Insurance was, understandably, mandatory.

Having acquired the object of desire the next task was to move it! - easier said than done considering that we had no expertise and even less money. Inspection revealed that the wooden structure was bolted into the brick base and that exposing the bolts and cutting them through was the way to go (the arrow indicates the depth of the bolts). Because I lived locally I undertook this almost single handed but they don't make bricks like they used to do and the operation was hard, wet and very cold. After cutting the bolts (find them if you can) it was necessary to cut sections of brickwork away to allow two steel joists to be inserted under the cabin base beams to facilitate a lift. During the works I systematically photographed and sketched the many mechanical links and wheels underneath the box and also measured and sketched the major details of the structure as a whole. To agravate matters I broke my foot at work and was obliged to drag a plaster cast around with me whenever I ventured under the box to attack its foundations.

The cost of transporting the cabin was not going to be cheap and an approach to the Foden Motor Company, whose access siding the box had controlled, provided us with a remarkable act of kindness for which I will ever be grateful. Foden agreed to provide a suitable low loader and staff to undertake the journey from Sandbach to Cheddleton free of charge. The cost of the crane was met by the Group.

A survey by Foden staff produced another headache - if the box was lifted on beams the lifting cables would close and crush the top - spreader beams were needed. Again Foden staff came to the rescue and suitable beams were supplied.


To be continued................