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Crich Tramway Box

Started by Mark, May 14, 2013, 04:28 pm

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May 14, 2013, 04:28 pm Last Edit: May 14, 2013, 04:29 pm by Mark
Hopefully within the next few weeks I will be making another visit to the Tramway Museum at Crich with the sole job of fully measuring the box inside and out, taking loads of photographs of everything and seeing what hidden clues there may be to either identify the boxes original home or aid in the exact fashion these boxes were put together.

Anybody who wants anything in particular detailing or photographing please drop a note here or via pm or preferably email and I'll try and please everybody! ;D


Hi Mark

As much close up detail of the ring beam as you can manage get into all those nooks and crannies (watch out for the spiders as it was full of them last time I looked)

Where the base meets the corner posts, (particularly the one where the door hinges are as the slab does not cover all of it).

How the carpentry and iron work attaches to the concrete.

I'd come with you like we discussed but work and kids house renovations are taking up every spare second at the mo.

Though I'm sure I could squeeze in another pub visit if your up in Sheffield in the coming months :).


No problem Dom all duly noted and I already have a duster at the ready.

I havn't received an email back from them yet but I did only send it Sunday but I will let you know the date just in case you can squeeze a few hours spare and if not I'll meet up for a Police Box discussion afterwards over that pint!

One thing I have already found about the ringbeam which was discussed ages ago was regarding the external fitting but you can really see it on this picture taken last week.



Got all my plans together so I can mark all the dimensions as accurately as possible and received confirmation from the Tramway museum that its ok to wonder round with stepladders and tape measure.

I'm aiming to go this Wednesday depending how long the car takes at the mechanics and how the weather is  ???

Anyone else have any specific requests, drop me a pm or add to here and I'll do my best.


Only took ovet a year but within the next 10 minutes I shall br setting off on yet another Crich visit.

Just reviewed all the requests and have a spare set of camera batteries.


Jul 10, 2014, 11:58 pm #5 Last Edit: Jul 11, 2014, 12:05 am by Mark
Well I finally made it and had a great day in the sun while meeting and enjoying the company of another fellow TARDIS Builder.

We were there about six hours, followed by a further hour and half outside a nearby pub pouring over our measurements while pouring a couple of well earned beers down our necks  ;D

Very tired though so I will post the pictures and findings when I get a moment.

A couple of things of interest to leave you hopefully wanting more.

1- got a couple of matches for the dark paint and an almost spot on match for the probable light blue paint thanks to a Pantone colour chart provided by Matt

2- more information gained that may help narrow down the box's original home prior to Hendon.


Jul 13, 2014, 01:15 am #6 Last Edit: Jul 13, 2014, 01:21 am by Mark
Sorry for not being quicker but been working.

Anyway. When I went to Crich the first time to measure the box (almost 10 years ago! :o) I found some aspects more difficult to get exact dimensions from. Either because of excessive paint or excessive wear. This time I thought it would be a lot easier because of the restoration but I was wrong. To be fair all we did find was more questions than we got answers for  ::).

Now after this visit I don't care that Adric has a badge for mathematics excellence or how many Logopolitans there are calculating stuff - There is no way Dr. Tom could have ever got accurate mesurements from any real police box in the 80s! ???

For now I will let you know the things I promised on the last post and next time I will explain my confusion.

1- The paint matches. It was actually very difficult to match the later dark blue/black. In some respects it was one while in others it looked different. In the end both me and Matt decided it was the latter and agreed on one which turned out to be Pantone 7547 c
DSCF4010 smaller.jpg
The actual sample according to the Pantone chart is the one behind the page 88 one.

The earlier light blue (presuming that is actually what it is) was a lot easier to agree upon

This works out as Pantone 653 c.
DSCF4012 smaller.jpg
For reference, these paint samples were matched initially from the spare lamp base that lives under the first aid cubbby in the box. It made sense that this item was likely more reliable as it hadn't been exposed to the elements as much as the box had. We the also matched the paint from a scuff on the interior surface of the wooden door for much the same reasoning before trying to match with exposed "old" paint on other areas of the main concrete parts of the box which seemed to indicate the same conclusion.

The light blue sample in the picture is from the area which would lay between the lamp dome support strut and the lens itself. On this spare lamp base the struts appear to have been cut off rather than removed properly. All four of the lamp strut areas display this light blue suggesting either lazy painters when the dark was applied or the dark blue was scraped off when the struts were removed.

Unfortunately we never got chance to try and match the paint with the Met Police Post that lives at the museum but that will save for another day.

2- More origins info. The lovely curator (Laura) kindly photocopied the museum's "TARDIS archive" which covers most of the correspondence between the Tramway Museum and other parties during the time the museum was looking for a police box.

Nothing earth shattering here I'm afraid but there are a few items of interest.

a) the original police box the museum was aiming to receive was actually the Blackwall Tunnel's north side "Fire Brigade Box". As of a letter dated 15th November 1982 both Blackwall Tunnel ex Police Boxes were still on the streets and at the time "...the (fire) brigade is at present reviewing its communications procedure in the Blackwall Tunnel, which may render the telephone boxes surplus to requirements."

After this letter there is no further mention of the tunnel boxes so there is no information as to what happened to them or if they were ever offered to the museum.

Almost a month later (19th December) the museum seems to have secured a box from the Met itself however there are no letters only an undated memo recalling a telephone conversation and a visit by a Tramway Museum representative to Hendon to view said box.

Now although the next part doesn't help us locate the original location of the Crich box, it does through up something of interest. The memo explains the state of the box due which was for donation to the Tramway Museum and what would need doing to it as it sounds like it was in quite a state of disrepair but then the memo goes on to say "I was able to examine the box recently restored for the Museum of London......".

This reads to suggest the Tramway Museum representative was shown their potential police box and another "here's what it could look like" restored police box. Where did this second box end up? Where was this Museum of London located and did they ever receive it?

Now as for the Crich box origins, there is nothing really new. One of the documents says "We then had a phone call from the 'Outside Works' department of the Metropolitan Police themselves, who had recovered one from a site alongside the North Circular Road, and were thinking what to do with it."

According to the Met Box Map there are at least 12 boxes on the NCR and none of which that have a decent enough picture to even attempt a match. At this point I must point out that I hadn't really read the paper work I am referring to until we arrived at the pub for well deserved beer and I hadn't checked where the NCR even ran in London. The reason I say this is that while we were trying to measure the box we (well actually mainly me) kept getting getting distracted by a talkative old chap who apparently used to volunteer at the museum. I felt bad at leaving Matt to it but I'm the kind of person who seems to attract the "talkative ones" and I hate to appear rude so just listen. Anyhow this chap said he actually installed the phone system in the police box shortly after it arrived.

He went on to say that he remembered that there was some writing on the electrical board stating something of the local electric company that had installed it. All he could remember was it began with "F". He though it was like Finsbury or something. Unfortunately I wasn't paying close attention by the fourth time he came back (hopefully Matt will remember and post what he said) but he gave me a name for this missing F place. Regardless Finchley is very close to the NCR which would narrow down the search to around four boxes if correct.

This area is also very close to Edgware Road which has been mentioned as a possible original site for this box although I am unsure where this information came from.

One last thing that must be bourne in mind is the fact of the phone plaque that used to live behind the "Pull to open" door. The wording said it connected to the Tooting Police Station which would make no sense if the box actually came from the NCR as it is nowhere near.

Now to add one little bit of confusion is that, according to one document, when the box finally arrived at the Tramway Museum "...the surprise was to see a fully - restored Tardis complete with interior fittings and electrical work.". Was this in fact the other box which had been shown earlier as having been restored for the Museum of London? If this is the case then perhaps the Tooting sign was original to that box and this is indeed where the Crich box comes from. Of course the original NCR box could have been restored by the Met for the Tramway Museum as a surprise and there certainly was time to do it between the first viewing in December and the boxes arrival in June the following year.

I apologise if the above sounds like pointless rambling (it's getting late and), I'm typing as I think. I will be contacting the museums curator hopefully next week and I shall be asking if I can share the paperwork she gave us on these pages for the rest of you to read in full and dwell upon. I can't see why not as long as names and addresses are blacked out but I shall ask first.

There are a couple of people and places listed on the documents that I am aiming to try and contact which may be of great help however the chances are slim and I am not holding my breath as the paperwork is over 30 years old and I suspect the people and departments will sadly be no longer with us.

Let me know your thoughts.


Jul 13, 2014, 09:33 am #7 Last Edit: Jul 13, 2014, 11:21 am by hb88banzai
Absolutely brilliant stuff Mark!

As to the colours - in zooming in to your pics I'm actually seeing at least four or five distinct colour layers. Looks like there may be a slightly lighter very dark blue under the final Pantone 7547 C layer (these possibly corresponding to the two paint samples taken from Crich at an earlier date http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=2760.msg28811#msg28811), but this may be corroded iron showing through - hard to tell from this angle. Below the very dark layer(s) are two medium blues and a very light blue. The topmost medium blue is the darker of the two (by only a little), immediately below that is the very pale blue, and then the lighter of the two medium blues which seems to correspond to your Pantone 653 C.

That very pale blue, being sandwiched between the two medium blues, could represent the post-war, severely weathered shade we see in so many late-40s photos. It also looks a lot like the very light layer in the photo you posted of Crich's base last year http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=2760.msg53185#msg53185. Originally these things were supposed to be repainted every year or so, but the war shortages meant many didn't see any new overall painting for over ten years.

Another complication is that standard procedure (at least with the British Railways) was to undercoat using a paint a few shades lighter than the topcoat. This may have only been at the first painting or after a full paint stripping, however, with most subsequent paintings just being the topcoat colour, and I'm sure standards weren't always adhered to.

Great stuff, regardless. I'll have to dig out my Pantone and BS381C colour fans to see if there is a likely cross-reference for these colours in the ready-mixed paint standards of the time.


As to location - it's interesting to note that the Grade II Listing info also said the Crich box was originally sited on the North Circular (though that's about all it does say), that info being from 1987 when it was listed.

The only Edgware Road reference I've found was from a posting by lorisarvendu in the "Original Police Box Colour" topic, but that was in regards to a different box, only discussing it as a memory reference for how dark they were in the late 1960's (http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=2760.msg28716#msg28716).

Oddly enough, synchronicity being what it is, it was in doing a survey of the North Circular Road boxes (after finding the Grade II Listing) that I finally identified the box in the "Boxes in the Media" thread http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=1603.0 as S30 at Staples Corner, which is Edgware Road and the North Circular, most notably in West Hendon only about one-and-a-half miles south of the Hendon Police College. The only pics I have of it are from fuzzy video and some aerial shots, so we can't even positively identify it as a Crich type Mark 4, much less Crich itself, but it is also only about a mile or so west of Finchley. The two Finchley boxes that were on the North Circular Road, S36 & Y14, were about 1.5 and 2 miles away, respectively, from Staples Corner (with Y14 being by far the oldest and the most likely to have needed replacement with a newer Mark 4 before c1950).

Then there is the indication from around the time of the 2006 refurb that Crich came from "Ealing Broadway". There was no box there, but just down the same roadway at Ealing Common was T50, which just happened to have also been on the North Circular. I've got a photo on order from the London Transport Museum that should indicate whether it was a Mark 4, at least as of 1947.

From my reading of Mike Knight's entry here http://tardisbuilders.com/index.php?topic=3801.msg62102#msg62102, it's unlikely that Crich got the London Museum Box as there seems to be documentary evidence they were both sold through to their respective recipients. Very interesting question as to what happened to that London Museum box, though. Of course, Mike's data as he remembers it also seems to indicate that the Crich box just may have actually come from Tooting Bec (W30), so the phone would indeed have been connected to the Tooting Sub-Division Station.

Of course, with so much renovation having been done, that Tooting phone instruction sign just may be a red herring - the inner phone door to which it was attached (and even the whole phone cupboard) may have originally come from a completely different box.

Too many choices, too little data.


Jul 13, 2014, 04:18 pm #8 Last Edit: Jul 13, 2014, 04:29 pm by Mark
I agree with what you say about the layers and agree with the undercoating potential. The light blue I matched with the colour chart is very glossy and seems to crop up on other areas of the box.

This was taken on the inside of the wooden door where it looks as though something has scrapped the pain away.

DSCF4009 smaller.jpg

Ignoring the lighter paint which looks like its just a scuff of the current paint, you can see the lighter one underneath.

We were speaking of a return journey as time ironically beat us on the day, and I shall try and have a better look at the windows. It was my intention to try and locate any hint of blue underneath the white paint.

While you are here Banzaai, I did check and there are no ventilation areas under the sign lintels on any face.
DSCF4030 smaller.jpg

matt sanders

Jul 13, 2014, 11:31 pm #9 Last Edit: Jul 13, 2014, 11:35 pm by matt sanders
Quote from: Mark on Jul 13, 2014, 01:15 am
....   while we were trying to measure the box we (well actually mainly me) kept getting getting distracted by a talkative old chap who apparently used to volunteer at the museum. I felt bad at leaving Matt to it but I'm the kind of person who seems to attract the "talkative ones" and I hate to appear rude so just listen. Anyhow this chap said he actually installed the phone system in the police box shortly after it arrived.

He went on to say that he remembered that there was some writing on the electrical board stating something of the local electric company that had installed it. All he could remember was it began with "F". He though it was like Finsbury or something. Unfortunately I wasn't paying close attention by the fourth time he came back (hopefully Matt will remember and post what he said) but he gave me a name for this missing F place. Regardless Finchley is very close to the NCR which would narrow down the search to around four boxes if correct.
One last thing that must be bourne in mind is the fact of the phone plaque that used to live behind the "Pull to open" door. The wording said it connected to the Tooting Police Station which would make no sense if the box actually came from the NCR as it is nowhere near......

I was with Mark when this guy offered the information about the box's original electricity supplier - he was adamant that it began with F.  

To begin with he was pondering Finchley, but was far from convinced, and sure it was something else.  So, whilst Finchley may be appealing for those favouring a North Circular origin, I really think Finchley is a red herring, because:

An hour or so later, he came back, and now he was positive that it was actually FULHAM.

On the map attached, I've googled Electricity Sub-Stations in London, and come up with 8 of them within the M25.  None are near Finchley, but one of them -- West Brompton -- is in Fulham.  So maybe this guy does know what he's talking about.

See on the map, that Fulham is quite close to Tooting Police Station (mentioned in the box's telephone instructions.

The only part of the North Circular that is close to Fulham, is the western end - so maybe the Ealing Broadway/Common lead  still has legs...?

So the questions are:
-   What was the sphere of influence of Tooting Police Station...?
-   What area was covered by an electricity supplier in Fulham...?
-   Where did those areas overlap...?
-   Did that overlap include Ealing...?



Hey Matt!

I was going to email you tomorrow (well today!).

Yes he was an intereating guy. Have your memory stick ready so if you email or pm me your address I'll post it to you.

I do agree with what you say, but there is something hidden on the electrical distribution board that starts with "F" but I noticed it is impossible to see the what without attacking it with a sonic, er screwdriver.

BTW, if you are still up for a re-visit, let me know.

The chap in question did seem to know enough about telephones and installation and the NTM to make him semi reliable as a source of information. Agreed about change of mind and thanks to Matt for clarification. Really must pay attention more lol


Jul 14, 2014, 05:57 am #11 Last Edit: Jul 14, 2014, 06:51 am by hb88banzai
Mark - absolutely stunning photo of the underside of the sign box. Many thanks. Great to finally see the full detail of that weather drip edge. Now if only someone had taken photos of Barnet from that angle with even half that clarity.

Honestly, I'm not sure I would have even noticed the Mark 2's had vent holes there in the photos we have if I didn't already know they were there from reading about the problems they had with them in certain documents.

Matt - regarding your questions...

1 - The way the Met's Police Telephone Box System worked when fully implemented is that each Box was connected to the nearest Sub-Divisional level station. Early on (before various changes to the Met switchboard installations in the mid-1930's) some boxes located at boundaries between two different Sub-Divisions had a switch and power booster knob inside to be able to connect with either, but it was always supposed to be switched back to the main, attached Sub-Divisional station so anyone picking up the phone from outside would be connected there.

Further, the way all the met phone systems worked through the mid-1950's there was no need to push a button on the telephone the way it's described in the Crich/Tooting instruction plaque (and the almost identical one currently in the Post at Northwood), so that sign was probably current when the box it belonged to was removed.

All this means is that any Box or Post with an indication it was going to be connected directly to Tooting Station would have been in or immediately adjacent to the Tooting Sub-Divisional area in W Division - basically W23-W32 & W46 per the original Met List.

2, 3 & 4 - The question as to the range of West Brompton/Fulham power sub-station might be complicated in that 45-plus years ago the distribution system might have been different as well. There may have been more and/or different sub-stations circa 1970, or whenever that marking was placed on the electrical board (possibly as early as 1939 if our dating of the Mark 4's is correct, though most of the components look to be from the 1950's or later).

I also don't know if the Thames is a major barrier for power distribution such that the West Brompton/Fulham sub-station may (or may not) only supply power to the north side of the river under normal circumstances. Then, as above, would any overlaps back in the day be the same as they are currently?

Do note, however, that the Ealing Common Box (T50) at Uxbridge Road & Hanger Lane/North Circular (and not far from the Ealing Broadway part of Uxbridge Road, which didn't have a box at all) is actually closer to the Fulham sub-station than Ealing Broadway. Per your map, this also makes it a little closer to the West Brompton/Fulham sub-station than the next nearest at North Hyde to the west, not that that necessarily means much.

All this is assuming the electrical board was also original to the Box and not something replaced (from spares taken from other removed boxes) during the renovations done just before Crich took delivery of the box.

Mark - you mentioned some details in that undated memo about what work needed to be done on the box that was inspected at Hendon - is the description detailed enough to get an idea of what might have been replaced or repaired?

Oh, for a time machine to go back and ask the questions then.  ;)


"The box is in reasonable state, with minor damage to the concrete shell particularly at the top around the illuminated glass panels. The interior has been stripped except for the the electrical telephone connection panel. Some panes of glass are broken including the access to the telephone, but frames are intact. The lamp housing on the roof is missing but a spare exists and would be mad available to us. The glass panels below the roof require some work to restore the blue background."

There is also another undated document which is less vague about the damage but does mention the initial Tunnel boxes saying "...even getting near enough to photograph was an adventure..." so one would presune that the NTM representative did take photos to show the other members back at Crich.

I have emailed the curator asking if the person who wrote the document is still with us and if so, would he spare some time.


Well that is golden!

It means that the whole telephone cupboard and desk were almost certainly from a different Box, so the Tooting telephone instruction plate attached to the interior phone door is likely entirely moot, as is any number plate which may or may not have been observed as it would have also been attached to either that door or the cupboard frame.

In contrast, the electrical panel is quite likely the original, so any markings on it take on added significance. So the North Circular Road info is much more likely, barring any contradictory documentation Mike Knight might come up with.

It unfortunately also means that the phone door sign is not original to this particular Box, but we have other photos of signs exactly like it on in situ Metboxes so it is an original regardless.

Incredibly useful info - great job getting it! I hope Crich will let you post the originals.


Jul 14, 2014, 03:23 pm #14 Last Edit: Jul 14, 2014, 03:59 pm by hb88banzai

In looking at old Crich photos originally posted by Mark in the old Proboards site I've come across these --




The engraved wording along the top edge of the teak electrical distribution board (running behind the GPO relay box) appears to say "F. ELECTRICITY DEPT."

There's definitely a period after the "F" and I don't think there would be room for a fully spelled out name considering what follows it. From what I can tell in my brief searches, "Electricity Department" would be correct period nomenclature for labeling on a London area power supplier's products, including a power distribution board such as this. They would supply the board and mains power portion, with the GPO supplying the telephone/lamp relay and other related equipment.

Here is a source for historical info on London area power suppliers: http://www.metadyne.co.uk/pdf_files/electricity.pdf


Fulham had a power plant at Sands End (doing business as "Fulham MBC") which continued in operation until 1978.

Ealing's power plant went out of business in 1928.

Chiswick (closer to the NCR) had a power plant that shut down somewhere between 1936 and 1953.

I haven't done a comprehensive survey of the all the power stations and their locations yet, but Fulham's plant just might have been the supplier servicing the southwest portion of the North Circular Road at the time the Crich box would have been removed.

So, the gentleman you both spoke to may well turn out to have been spot on, even if the distribution board doesn't actually say "Fulham".