Signal boxes in Bury St Edmunds and Thetford are among five of the rarest and best preserved in the East of England to have been given Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
The listings are the result of a joint English Heritage and Network Rail project to safeguard the nation’s railway signalling heritage.
John Minnis, senior investigator at English Heritage, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Network Rail as part of our National Heritage Protection Plan to seek out the best examples of historic signal boxes up and down the country. These are very special buildings, at one time a familiar sight on our railway system.
“Today’s listings will ensure that many of these highly distinctive designs which were full of character are protected for years to come, providing a window into how railways were operated in the past.”
Installed from the mid-19th century onwards, signal boxes numbered around 10,000 at the peak of their use in the 1940s.
As part of a 30-year plan to modernise the rail system, Network Rail is decommissioning many mechanical signal boxes to consolidate signalling into 12 regional centres. Today, fewer than 500 are still in use by the train company.
Jerry Swift, Network Rail’s head of community rail, said: “Our operating strategy would see a marked acceleration in the number of signal boxes decommissioned each year, so it is vital that we have plans in place to deal with that sensitively and sustainably.
“Identifying the most significant signal boxes so that they are safeguarded for future generations is something we are all committed to.
“It is important that they have a life after the national railway network has finished with them and we are working with a number of heritage organisations to try to find suitable homes for them for the future,
“It is great news that these newly listed boxes will survive as examples of our railway’s colourful past as we modernise the network for the twenty-first century.”