A bid to save one of Haslemere’s treasured heritage sites for future generations to enjoy is well on track.
The signal box dates back to 1895 and is Grade II-listed. Being manned 24/7, it is still in use today. But not for long.
In a bid for greater efficiency and reliability, Haslemere’s signal control will be moved to the modern signalling centre at Basingstoke in autumn 2024. This move will make the signal box redundant.
But the Haslemere Community Station initiative has been campaigning to preserve the signal box as both an example of the town’s railway heritage and as a future visitor attraction.
The team’s hard work has clearly paid off as MP Jeremy Hunt, South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail directors made the journey to Haslemere station last Friday to discuss the initiative.
One of the key factors that Ken Griffiths, Haslemere Community Station chair, was keen to press was the inclusion of a memorial garden to commemorate the railway workers who lost their lives in the world wars.
The plan for the soon-to-be decommissioned signal box is that it would become a working, interactive museum with all the bells and levers that were present in the box when it was first built.
Mr Hunt said: “This is a wonderful idea to save one of the last signal boxes and convert it into a museum.
“Everyone I spoke to during my visit was so enthusiastic and willing to work together to make this a success for the community.
“It has so much history, and for me personally I realised a childhood dream to use the controls at a railway station. I look forward to visiting again when the museum officially opens next year.”
Mr Hunt and the directors from SWR and Network Rail all signed up to be ‘Friends of Haslemere’ after agreeing to work in a partnership to make the signal museum a reality.
Peter Williams, SWR customer and commercial director, said: “We know from speaking to our customers that the historic signal box in Haslemere is an important landmark for the local community.
“We are very pleased to hear that plans are being developed to give it a new lease of life after its operational role comes to an end. We look forward to hearing how these plans progress.”
Mark Killick, Wessex route director, added: “As part of our Portsmouth Direct Upgrade which will improve reliability and journey times on the line for our customers, control of the signalling between Farncombe and Petersfield is moving to our modern Rail Operating Centre in Basingstoke.
“While this means the signal box at Haslemere will reach the end of its operational life, we’re working closely with South Western Railway and the local community on options to preserve this important part of Haslemere’s railway heritage, both now and for generations to come.”
The move to the new signalling centre in Basingstoke is getting underway, meaning there will be a five-day line closure from Guildford to Petersfield, from July 24 to 28, while cable is being laid in preparation for the move.
A replacement bus service will be running.