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By Russell Hollowood on

Ticking the Box

Our collections include some of the greats of railway history—but we also value the less well-remembered, everyday objects that tell the story of rail.

Sandhill Crossing is not one of Britain’s great rail locations; it is a quiet rail crossing on the Selby to Hull railway line; but its keepers hut is about to join the National Railway collection. Why?

Sandhill Lane

Britain’s railways were once filled with line side structures like this insignificant little hut. Once they provided shelter to track workers, acted as road crossing keeper’s huts or waterproof stores. However, new technology is replacing the human presence of the crossing keeper and modern track workers now drive to the locations they need to reach. As a result, this once familiar piece of railway furniture is disappearing into history.

Technology has been transforming level crossings since the 1960's
Technology has been transforming level crossings since the 1960’s

So what history does it preserve? Well believe it or not, this little hut, is part of a railway tradition that stretches back to the dawn of railways. The Whickwar and Tanfeild wagon way, built in 1645, had gated crossings and huts for their keepers. Many of these keepers would have been women, who would combine tending the family croft with gate keeping.

Crossing keepers huts go back to the dawn of railways

The hut itself is an example of prefabricated concrete construction and Britain’s railways pioneered the use of this technology. From the 1900’s railway concrete works, produced bridges, stations, huts and even fence posts to standard designs, which were transported in pieces and erected where needed. This example was almost certainly made at the York Concrete works of the London and North Eastern Railway in about 1940.

So this little hut is packed with stories about rail safety, rail technology and railway people and forms a vital link to a railway that is disappearing fast.

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