(Photo 7 © resilient741,
photo 8 © Bluebell Railway Museum Archive/John J Smith collection)
In 1881, plans to extend the Rothbury branch northwards to Cornhill - known as the Central Northumberland Railway - faced vigorous opposition from the traders of Alnwick, fearful that valuable agricultural traffic from Wooler would disappear to rival markets in Rothbury. And so, with some reluctance, the North Eastern Railway was prompted to promote its own 36-mile line from the existing terminus at Alnwick to Cornhill via Wooler. The company's proposal was by far the cheaper and an enabling Act passed through Parliament on 19th May 1882. Having cost £272,266 to build, communities along the route joined the age of the train on 5th September 1887.
Near Akeld, the single line intersected with a road at Bendor Crossing where the signal box came with spacious accommodation - a house on the opposite side of the lane. The box was equipped with an eight-lever frame operating the Up & Down Distant and Home signals, as well as the gate stops and wickets. Levers 3 and 4 were spares.
The building comprises a masonry lower part, with a timber and glass operational level and slate roof. The steps and porch were built out on the west side.
Long term, the Cornhill branch was not a roaring commercial success. Passenger services were withdrawn on 22nd September 1930, just 43 years after they started; the section of line over the crossing closed completely on 29th March 1965.
Fast forward to 2008 and, after falling into a state of disrepair, local businessman Gordon Wilson submitted a planning application to refurbish the box, converting it into a small house. It took several years for a way forward to be found but this former railway outpost is now water-tight again, boasting smart maroon paintwork and intact windows.
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