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Visitors to Barking Signal Box
Bill George

Bidding on the Ebay auction online site recently I won a visitors’ book for Barking Signal Box for a few pounds.  I briefly looked at the rather dog eared and stained book as soon as it arrived and was surprised to see the number of  visitors and where they came from. The visitors were mainly local to Barking, London and the Home Counties and many worked on the railway in some capacity. Others came from much further afield. A note written into the margin of the visitor book against  the entry for 16th March 1968 reads "Visitors to date 395". The yearly number of visitors is shown in the table below.

Barking Signal Box Visitors’ Book 1961-1993

Many visitors came from overseas, including the following places:
Some Visitors' Place of Origin
South AfricaSwedenSwitzerlandTurkeyUSAYugoslavia
Several groups arranged visits to the signal box. For example 8 members of the South East Essex Railway Society toured  on 20th June 1961only a few months after the opening. Ten members of the Railway Club turned up on 24th March 1962 while 8 members of the Barking Model Railway Society visited on 18th July 1974. The Electric Railway Society also visited. Members of staff  from "Trains Illustrated" and "Rail News" also called at the box. Representatives of several railway companies arranged tours including the India Railways, Nigerian Railway, Norwegian State Railways Corporation and Rhodesian Railways.

Local Government Officers and Civil Servants from the Ministry of Transport toured. The Lord Bishop of Barking visited on 10th November 1961 while the Mayor of Dagenham for 1963/1964 was shown around the signal box during his Mayoralty.

Several companies visited including Handley Page, Ford Motor Company, Esso Petroleum Co. Ltd., Tate & Lyle Refineries Ltd., Southend Airport, Associated Portland Cement and Samuel Williams & Sons Ltd.
Page from Visitors' Book for 1963/1964

Signal controllers, Transport Police, Station Masters, Station announcers, including the Chief Announcer – Eastern Region, and 11 members of the RASC, Aldershot also made visits to the signal box.  Apprentices occasionally visited, presumably as  part of their training.

One visitor gave their address as British Museum. Academics or students from the University of Exeter, Imperial College, Thurrock Technical College and the City of London College visited.

From the mid-70s some of the entries become rather silly, offensive and not politically correct. Apparently a Martian and several eskimos visited!

At the back of the book a heading reads "Operating Staff Barking Master Cabin opened 27th March 1961". Visiting staff are listed. From 1972 until 1978 there are 10 pages of flippant and some derogatory remarks about tea making. The last entries date from  January 1993.

This rather tatty visitors’ book is an interesting reminder of a possibly unexpected Barking visitor attraction. At least 500 people from many places with varied occupations visited. Do any of our members remember visiting the signal box? If so  it will be interesting to have some personal recollections of what fascinating sites were to be seen.
 Operating Staff Barking Master Cabin
(Opened 27th March 1961)
Barking Signal Box 1962
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