Concept and aims:
Although not formally listed, the station sign at West Runton in Norfolk is understood to be of historic importance. A date of December 1921 is etched into the structure, and it is thought to have been manufactured at the former Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway works at Melton Constable, making it the only such example still in existence on the national rail network.
Those behind the project wanted to repair the historic running in board by finding a new material for the lettering which would tolerate extremes of weather, sourcing a suitably authentic font, and respecting the sign’s heritage by not creating an overtly modern, polished, or clinical finish.
The Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership did not know whether the original board contained a painted name, had lettering embedded in the concrete, or had cast iron letters affixed to it. It is thought that during the Second World War, the lettering had been removed as an anti-invasion measure, and a photograph from the 1960s showed just a blank panel.
Although structurally sound, they knew that the sign’s lettering was in such an exposed location it was prone to weather damage and occasional theft. As they were unsure of the original font, the group did some research and found the remains of a similar board at the former Gedney Station in Lincolnshire that allowed them to replicate the design.
The team removed the sign’s remaining wooden lettering and commissioned new letters built in modern glass reinforced polymer, affixing this to the panel without drilling into the structure. Having been aware of successful projects at stations in Suffolk carried out by Essex-based Dura Composites Ltd, the community rail partnership approached the company about the project, and they kindly undertook the work for free. Given there is no power at the site, most of the labour was done by hand, using just one battery-powered hand tool.
The volunteers behind the project achieved their goal of finding a modern solution to replacing the sign, without comprising its heritage and history. The structure has suitably aged over its 100-year history and the aim was to preserve its original, traditional feel while using sustainable materials that could cope with weather demands.
Following the refurbishment, the community rail partnership was congratulated by the Sheringham Dementia Friends, as the font they have used, with its large scale and contrast of black lettering on white, makes for an easy-to-read sign they would like to see replicated at other locations.