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Mark 1, Mark 2, Mark 3?

Started by hb88banzai, Aug 29, 2010, 09:29 am

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Here are some ideas about the construction of the Mk 1, illustrated with pictures of my attempt at a one-sixteenth scale model.

construction 1.jpg
If the base was of reinforced concrete, I imagine that fixings for the corner posts were built in, as here. I've made it as a sort of ring beam, but quite probably it was one solid slab with a hole for cables.

construction 2.jpg
This being so, the raised floor was probably part of the base as in other timber boxes (Sheffield, Newcastle) and not a separate piece as I've shown here. The floor may have extended under the wall panels as well as under the door.

construction 3.jpg
I imagine that the box would screw together without any timber equivalent of the concrete box's 'ring beam.'

construction 4.jpg
No doubt the top sign boxes would have had the smallest possible cutout for illumination of the POLICE sign, and would have extended back far enough for the roof to overlap them - you can't see what I mean at all from this picture!

construction 5.jpg
July 1930 saw the first air-mail pillar box, painted blue. I wonder whether police boxes were the same shade of blue. Quite possibly the concrete base would have been painted too, not left grey as I've shown here.

construction 6.jpg
I imagine the roof in two (or three) overlapping pieces. I still think that sheet steel over ply is the most likely construction for the POLICE sign. Whatever it is, the (let us say) sheet metal is fixed at six points to the (as it may be) plywood.
We've established that the St John plaque was a four-screw version. Therefore maybe it was of thinner metal; perhaps it and the instruction plaque were printed rather than enamelled.

construction 7.jpg
Hmm... curiously, the Ickenham picture also seems to show a two-section lamp, though in the Barnet-style housing.
leonard cohen  1934-2016  standing by the window where the light is strong


Quote from: peted on Aug 30, 2010, 09:57 am

sorry if this has been said but I think the lamp is missing here because that looks like a bare bulb to me


Sep 28, 2012, 11:48 am #62 Last Edit: Sep 28, 2012, 11:49 am by ironageman
For some (or no) reason, I'd imagined a strict chronology to the updates of police boxes. I mean that it seemed likely that all the top signs were updated when the decision was made to do that, and the front sign moved to the telephone door on all boxes more or less at once, and so on.

However, here's a shot (which I have an uneasy feeling is going to appear sideways!) of what seems to be a box entirely 1929 in style, but with a white (glass?) telephone door.

leonard cohen  1934-2016  standing by the window where the light is strong


Sep 28, 2012, 12:36 pm #63 Last Edit: Sep 28, 2012, 12:56 pm by hb88banzai
Now that is strange... and fascinating.

Here it is changed to normal orientation for easier viewing --


No lower signage at all and with a "reactor" beacon.

Ironageman - where on earth did you find this?

It looks so much like some of the other early Richmond photos (location of which I finally figured out), but it's definitely different. Wonder where it was and when the photo was taken.


Sep 28, 2012, 02:24 pm #64 Last Edit: Sep 28, 2012, 02:32 pm by domvar
This maybe a bit simplistic but there is no writing on the glass so maybe it just got broken and they mended it with what they had to hand (possibly the sign) to keep the phone dry.


Ironageman, how the devil are you?

Definatley white looking glass but as has been mentioned, unless there is little detail because of white out, there appears to be no writing. The door frame though does look wooden and a lot thicker than later metal framed "pull to open" signs.

A very odd picture, and yet more questions than answers!


An intriguing picture.

I note that the Box appears quite weathered (with photographic evidence that the early boxes were thinly painted) and all hardware is installed, unlike the Bowes Street Box, which was clearly photographed well before the commissioning date. This implies the pictured Box has been on location and fully commissioned for some time. There are no lower signs, nor any indication signs have been removed - no holes or visual evidence of filler, though the resolution leaves something to be desired. Specifically, there is no phone instruction sign under the Phone Door and no St. John's sign, which would be visible in this photo if it were there.

The whited put Phone Door glass is the oddest feature. Otherwise, what it appears to be is a Mark 1 prior to the decision to put on any signage other than the pierced "POLICE" top signs. This is potentially quite significant as it appears to be the first photographic evidence we have that the initial Met Boxes were installed without any lower signage. There were reports that this had been the case, but this seems to prove it. This would make it the true Mark 1A.


I'm fine thanks, and hope that you are too. Well, here's a better copy of the picture. It may even be the right way up. It looks similar to some other publicity shots, of course: in which the boxes also look tatty, unpainted even. The white glass could indeed be a replacement: or if this box lacks its final coat of paint, the 'white glass' could be nothing more than paper stuck to the glass to prevent paint splashes.


picture for rebuilders jpeg.JPG

...there's also a curious feature of the wall construction on the left side. The bottom of the left piece of wall is constructed differently from its right-hand counterpart: the apparent line about an inch up (seen on other timber boxes too of course) doesn't extend beyond the inner edges of the vertical timbers. It's hard to explain it more clearly but you can see what I mean - it's as if the manufacturers began making the sides an inch too short and corrected the error as they went along.

Even more curious is the fact that the windows are significantly taller than the solid panels. Lens distortion, I thought at first, but it's too marked to be that. I'd guess that this is a picture of a prototype, not in service at all, set up like this with an anonymous bit of fencing just for the photograph.
leonard cohen  1934-2016  standing by the window where the light is strong


Oct 03, 2012, 10:22 am #68 Last Edit: Oct 03, 2012, 12:30 pm by hb88banzai
Wow - I can't believe I didn't notice the windows before.

I had noticed another feature that was a bit odd - the metal weather flashing above the sign boxes (such as they are on the timber models) is much thinner than any other timber box we have photos of, and they are quite consistent in size for all the others. In this photo they barely extend beyond the top edge of the sign boxes, while on all the others it extends almost to the level of the front surface of the pierced "POLICE" signs - quite a bit further.

As to the line one inch above the base - I think it actually does extend straight across just like all the other timber boxes. It's just that there is much more of a seam on the horizontal rails than the vertical stiles - probably due to weathering and mixed degrees of seasoning of the wood prior to fabrication.

Speaking of weathering, from all the photos I've been looking at, I think the ones where there is obvious "tattiness" with wood grain and knots showing through, it's only after many months of London weather. The earliest photos we have where the Boxes are still being sited (eg, Y10 in Wood Green - http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=3864) show a quite uniform paint job. Most of the other photos seem to date from about a year or more later, so I think it was just a paint that proved to not weather very well and/or there were too few coats for full protection. This means that this photo is most likely of a Box that's been in the weather for awhile.

The windows being a different height coupled with the narrower flashing could well be indicators that this might be the prototype.

If I'm reading John Bunker's comments in "The Rise and Fall of the Police Box" correctly, then there were two experimental prototypes built and sited on the Becontree Estate in 1928, the implication being that there was one from each of the two primary contenders to build the full string of test boxes in Richmond and Wood Green the following year. As the subsequent decision to go ahead full steam with the project occurred in early 1928, we can assume that these test Boxes were potentially out in the weather for quite awhile before the real ones came on line late 1929 and early 1930.

Perhaps we need to find some old photos of the Becontree Estate and see if that type of fencing is visible anywhere.

Regardless, a most interesting photo.


That extra "trim" at the bottom of the sides seems to mimic what is at the front, I've outlined it to show it.  It may be because there is a 2" step on top of the base.
Bill "the Doctor" Rudloffpicture for rebuilders jpeg.JPG


Oct 16, 2012, 08:41 am #70 Last Edit: Oct 16, 2012, 08:59 am by ironageman
I like the idea that this is a Becontree box. Incidentally, it looks to me as if the telephone door on the 1929 boxes was just a prototype door extended at the bottom to fit the new taller panels. There's a piece of square section timber (or conceivably u-section metal) attached to the bottom of a shorter door.

telephone door.JPG

This is as good a copy of this as I have, but I've just spotted that there is a sharper copy of this detail of the Twickenham Road box in the Metbox Catalogue.
leonard cohen  1934-2016  standing by the window where the light is strong


Oct 16, 2012, 02:44 pm #71 Last Edit: Oct 21, 2012, 11:12 am by hb88banzai
Very interesting idea. I had always assumed the added strip was for weather proofing or a drip edge.

If this is a filler strip instead, though, why would they have made so many in advance of the final contract and design, necessitating this kind of adjustment on all of the Boxes (at least all the ones we have photos of)?


Found another copy of this photo that has some bits the others don't (and missing some they do) --

Timber Box from 1930s Book of Pictorial Knowledge.jpg

The source says it came from a 1930's book of Pictorial Knowledge - publication date or exact title & publisher not given. If the captions can be believed it was a Richmond Box rather than one of the experimental Becontree ones (unless it was resited as part of the full pilot project). Of course their calling a traffic control box a "Police Box" doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.


Quote from: DoctorWho8 on Oct 03, 2012, 01:59 pm
That extra "trim" at the bottom of the sides seems to mimic what is at the front, I've outlined it to show it.  It may be because there is a 2" step on top of the base.
Bill "the Doctor" Rudloffpicture for rebuilders jpeg.JPG

Or possibly the floor slab?


Oct 22, 2012, 06:24 am #74 Last Edit: Oct 27, 2012, 02:57 am by hb88banzai
Except there is more than a little evidence to suggest that the base of this type of Box might have been timber instead of concrete.

In John Bunker's book "The Rise and Fall of the Police Box" he gives a breakdown of the costs for the initial 43 Boxes (an oddity itself, however, as the Met List only shows 42 of them actually being Sited - perhaps the last was used for training and exhibitions like Radiolympia).

Here's the breakdown --

G. Groves & Sons -- for boxes                                     £1,615.18s.6d.
Patent Victoria Stone Co. -- concrete roof                          £189.0s.0d.
Dales -- name plates                                                          £60.4s.0d.
Wood Green UDC -- altering railings                                    £3.10s.3d.
R. Cooper & Sons -- altering cupboards                             £9.11s.10d.
Engineering Branch Services                                            £545.19s.8d.

                                              Total                          £2,424.4s.3d.
                                              Telephone Rentals           £741.16s.6d.

So, we have a rather thorough accounting of costs for the pilot installation, but no mention of anything regarding the bases. Box and roof are separately sourced from different contractors and it is only logical that if the base was also concrete that it likewise would have had to be sourced apart from G. Groves & Sons. If concrete bases were sourced from Patent Victoria Stone Co. and included in the price of the roofs, then why weren't they listed as "concrete roof & base" instead of just "concrete roof"?

In support of this idea, analysis of the photos of both the timber boxes and the concrete ones shows a distinct difference in how they were Sited. The timber boxes were all placed on top of any grade - often with leveling piles of dirt, gravel or rocks under one or more corner leaving plenty of ventilation for under the box for the rest of the base in most cases. In contrast, all the concrete ones were carefully supported on all sides, very often dug right into a grade instead of just resting on top, with many having special foundations laid or poured for level support.

This is exactly what you would expect with wood vs. concrete for anyone familiar with the materials - wood needs ventilation and as little contact with dirt as possible to avoid rot and is very forgiving of spanning large distances or irregular ground, while concrete needs good, even support to avoid cracking, especially with thin, flat components.

The bases on the timber boxes were thinner than any of the all-concrete ones. Again what you might expect for timber vs. concrete.

Here is a section of just about the clearest photo we have showing the base of one of these things --

This shows how thin the base was, how they were practically shimmed into place with resulting ventilation to the undersides, and there's even the suggestion of wood grain on the edges - possibly even a hint of covered nails, screws or fixing dowels near the right corner.

Alone none of these would be necessarily convincing, but taken together they seem to form a self-consistent picture - that the bases were made of wood on the timber boxes. Certainly at least a fairly strong possibility.