See inside Birmingham New Street's famous Brutalist signal box after thousands apply for tour
Fascinating video show inside Birmingham's famous New Street signal box after thousands of people applied for a tour of the Brutalist concrete structure. The iconic Grade II-listed site was at the heart of Britain’s railway network until it closed on Christmas Eve last year after 57 years of service. The pre-cast concrete signal box has divided opinion ever since opening in 1966 and at one point was even branded one of the country's ugliest buildings. But despite its mixed reputation, more than 7,000 people applied to get a glimpse inside the structure before the 1960s technology is removed. A total of 60 people were selected from a ballot to go on the one-off tour of the distinctive Soviet-style Birmingham Power Signal Box today (Fri). Photographs show a traditional signal box simulator, the now defunct 1960s control and a huge telephone exchange which sent signals to the station equipment. Denise Wetton, Network Rail’s central route director, said: “We were overwhelmed by the response when we announced that the Birmingham power signal box would be closing. "So it felt like the right thing to do to open up the doors and show off this local landmark which played a crucial role for six decades at the heart of Britain's railway network. “I hope that people will enjoy this rare look behind the scenes and that it inspires people not only to learn about the important part this building and the people who worked in it played in the railway’s past – but also discover more about how we're improving the railway for the future, too.” At the building’s peak up to 1,200 trains were directed through Britain’s busiest station outside of London. It used the huge telephone exchange linked to mechanical relays controlling signals and points, with staff manually setting safe routes for trains. When it first opened it controlled trains between Hampden-in-Arden, Warks., through Birmingha towards Stourbridge and was one of four power signal boxes in the region. It was given Grade II listed building status in 1995 because of its ‘dramatic and exceptional architectural quality’ and ‘strongly sculptural form’. Since 2005 the other boxes closed and the panels in the Birmingham PSB got smaller and smaller as sections of the signalling system were modernised. Despite its age much of the equipment has been working constantly since it was installed with some components never needing any maintenance. Due to a shortage of spare parts and aging technology, engineers have spent the last two years converting the equipment to digital. The final train was directed from the signal box on Christmas Eve to be replaced by a £700million signal hub.