Network Rail has completed the £140,000 refurbishment of a 130-year-old signal box that plays an important role in the safe running of rail services on the Cambrian Line.

Pwllheli signal box, or ‘ground-frame’, was constructed in 1893 for the Elan Valley Junction in Rhayader and then recommissioned for the Pwllheli West sidings, near Pwllheli station, in 1903.

After years of service in the often harsh north Wales climate, the box was in need of some TLC. Engineers from Network Rail and contractors, MPH Construction, began working on the historic box in October and have spent the last few months restoring it to its former glory, inside and out.

The teams have meticulously refurbished the windows and the stairs leading up to the box, as well as replacing the surrounding gantry walkway, with materials much stronger than its previous iteration.

Hidden timber elements, lintels and roof tiles have also been replaced, in addition to a new paint job and guttering drainage and the removal of a wall of ivy that was damaging the exterior. These upgrades mean the box can continue to play its important role on the Cambrian Line Railway for decades to come.

Unlike other signal boxes that allow trains to move between different sections of track on the railway, this box provides access to sidings – areas that are essential for train and railway maintenance. Signallers will now be much for comfortable when at work, ensuring trains and track are maintained in this area to ensure the railway can run smoothly and safely.

Elliot Murray, project manager at Network Rail, explained what it is like to restore this historic structure.

He said: “It’s always a challenge to work on old structures like these on the railway – no two are the same. When you get up close and see how unique the original design was and start thinking about how we can get it back to that, it becomes such an enjoyable experience.  

“It’s also great to be a part of improving our colleagues working conditions. With all the changes that we’ve made to this structure, we can rest easy knowing that our signallers can comfortably operate this ground-frame and grant essential access for maintenance for years to come.”  

Network Rail worked with contractors, MPH Construction, to restore Pwllheli signal box. This isn’t the first time the two companies worked together, teaming up in 2021 to restore the Severn Bridge Junction signal box in Shrewsbury.  

Gareth Ellis, contracts manager at MPH Construction, added: “Every signal box restoration scheme provides a unique and challenging experience and the successful outcome would not have been achieved without the cooperation of Network Rail, TfW and the MPH Team.” 

“We are all so proud of the final result and are happy that we were involved in another bespoke restoration of a century-old building that still plays a vital role in the railway today.”