Model Railway Forum banner
1 - 20 of 141 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just a reminder to those interested in signalling that the preserved St Albans South Signal box, currently being restored, will be open to the public 10am-4pm Sat 7th and Sun 8th September as part of the national Heritage Weekend.
It is in Ridgemont Road off Victoria Street, close to the SW side of St. Albans City Station.
There will be a small 4mm layout demonstrating signalling principles, both semaphore and colour-light.

See the Events Calender for more detailed information.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Well, the Heritage Open Days went well. The slates were replaced on the roof and new electrics inside the box finished the day before, so we had the unexpected luxury of power direct from sockets and no more lengthy extension leads. We had nearly 420 visitors, almost exactly 100 up on last year when we were open for the first time.

My simple little layout demonstrating both semaphore and colour light signalling went down well with visitors - one three-year old stood entranced for nearly ten minutes watching the trains go round!

We have already discussed having a model of St Albans (City) station, but in 4mm scale it would be several feet longer than the signal box, which might be a bit of a problem; we may have to look to 2mm scale. Ideas about a 'Mini model railway exhibition' for one weekend next year (when the building works on the box have been completed) are also being floated.

Back to signalling - I'd used Ratio kits for the three semaphore signals, but found out that they are rather frail for exhibition use. One was slightly damaged in transit, another when the leading bogie on the loco derailed and hit the signal post before the loco could be stopped. So I'm going to look at the metal items available from Model Signal Engineering. It will be good practice before I use similar signals on my own layout.

It is hoped the restored box will be formally opened around Easter next year. See www.sigbox.co.uk for information over the next few months. After this opening we should be open, at least at weekends, on a regular basis.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A brief update. Outside, the box woodwork and windows are all done, and the top two-thirds of the box painted in 'Midland Railway' colours by the contractors. The replacement external staircase to the operating floor was put up last week, making access to get on with cleaning and scraping paintwork for redecoration at today's 'working Party' much easier. Work continues on the lever frame. Downstairs in the locking room we now have a toilet. The electrics are nearly finished, which will then leave the Trust members the main 'DIY' job of painting the interior.

We have already received a number of complimentary letters and e-mails from passing commuters over the improvement to the area they feel that the box's restoration has already bought about.

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Thanks for your comments. There are some 50+ members of the Trust, of which around 2 dozen are actively involved in the restoration work, so it's not me on my own, thank goodness!

Structural works are complete. We have finished repainted inside upstairs, the lever floor, except for the cupboards and other wooden furniture. Work on the lever frame continues, as does finding all the instruments needed to recreate the box's equipment. Painting downstairs is now underway to tidy that up (much covered with graffetii). All paint and varnish used inside the box is to an 'intumescent' fire-retardent spec to fulfill English Heritage requirements - the box being made completely of timber, of course!

We have recently realised that the ground around the box requires further levelling and we need to install the replica wood walkway in front of the box (which was of course over the emerging signal wires and point rods) for safe access before we can have the box regularly open to the general public. Recent weather has not helped us to do much of this work. The formal opening has therefore been delayed and might now be linked to the Heritage Open Days on 13/14th September, when we shall be open again regardless.

Outside the box the garden now looks very good. Beside flowers we have planted a Midland Railway lampost, three ground signals and two trackside speed-limit signs. But no sign of these yet breeding replicas of themselves!

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
We're a strange mix of local residents who were getting tired of seeing the box getting derelict and vandalised (all 144 window panes were broken!) and railway enthusiasts from further afield. I joined up after the Trust got a mention in the local papers 3 years ago.

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
QUOTE (Lancashire Fusilier @ 14 May 2008, 02:43) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I like the photos on the website too John. Good stuff for painting my Wills kit! What colour is the enterior - it is a bit hard to tell from the photos. I am thinking of some cream colour for the enterior of my boxes and this loks to be not far of the mark. What do you think?
All I can say is that we were told what colours our contractors should use on the exterior by the National Railway Museum at York.The interior colours are less accurate as they've been altered over the years anyway and we've gone for something approximating to the red and cream inside. I'll find out for you what colours were used. The interior painting, which we've been doing ourselves, is fire retardent as mentioned above and the colours are not available in such a wide range as ordinary paints.

I spent four hours on Sunday removing the five large metal brackets which support the instrument shelf following its removal to floor level for cleaning and repairs. These brackets have to be scraped and sanded down prior to repainting. The backs never seem to have been painted at all! I got one done completely and painted in black, which seems to be the predominant colour for the ironwork inside.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
QUOTE (BRITHO @ 14 May 2008, 13:06) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Just been reading/studying the website (I really should have done it earlier). When you see what has been achieved in the time scale it is even more impressive.

Congratulations to all concerned.
Thanks again. The considerable delays in negotiating a lease with Network Rail enabled the Trust to get itself organised so that as soon as the lease was signed and the safety fencing erected, we could got quotes from companies and then go to the various funding sources with our intentions clear from the start. This facilitated getting the funds in which meant that the orders could be placed quickly with the chosen contractors. There are inevitable problems - the recent hot weather allowing sun on the Midland Red painted woodwork has shown up some timber problems as the wood expands/contracts with the temperature changes. Fortunately the box faces a bit North of East and so only gets the sun right in the box in the early morning. But opening up the three large sliding window panels soon cools things off!

And although they are not steam trains, the passing rail traffic adds much atmosphere. (I don't mean the diesel fumes from HSTs etc. either!)

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Well, we got all five large wrought-iron brackets for the instrument shelf cleaned up and painted and returned to their correct places on Sunday, reinstalled the shelf on them, and tried out the new track diagram connected to a computer so that not only did we get the correct bell signals, but were able to see a 'virtual' train pass through the station by the lights on the diagram, at least on the up slow line.

One large problem is going to be how to fit microswitches to the levers to tell the computer what position the levers are in so that the appropriate actions are taken.

External works continue to ensure the long-term health of the box from damp and safe access for volunteers and visitors. And we've been promised a working signal that can be sited in the garden away from the adjacent railway line but where it's operation from an appropriate lever in the box can be arranged.

We expect to be open on the Heritage days in September (13th/14th) and I'll post more details when this is confirmed.

We have visitors next week to consider entering us in the annual National Railway Heritage Awards scheme; quite a feather in our caps if we can win one of these awards!

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks, B.

I hope to go broad-band in the next month and will post a few photos once I can do so without it taking many minutes!

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'd wondered about doing something like that as well. But I think we'll get the levers and instruments working together first!

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for the suggestion, Brian. The main problem is how to fit any sort of switch to the framework of the lever frame with:
1. The minimum of interference with the historic metal-work (over 100 years old and listed!)
2. The minumum of effort - there are 44 levers less 4 detonator levers and a couple of spares, but a switch is required at each end of the lever travel, so we are approaching 80 switches to be fitted.
But keep the ideas flowing in; it's all appreciated.

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #21 ·
QUOTE (dwb @ 12 Jun 2008, 16:52) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Definitely a case of get the main parts working before adding the "Bells and whistles"!
The bells are no problem -we've had two Midland ones for some time and have recently got two BR block instruments to replicate what was in the box in the early 1970s prior to closure.
QUOTE You know, this is not unlike the kind of setup required by an electromechanical church pipe organ. I was thinking of how the pedal board clicks a switch to activate a switch which opens a valve or whatever. Maybe a chat with an organ builder might be worthwhile. It would have to be someone who was sympathetic to "non tracker action" activation. The divide between the two camps is as emotive as the DC / DCC debate in some circles
...
44 levers = half a standard 88 keyboard - I should have seen the potential connection, being interested in church organs myself!

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
QUOTE (BRITHO @ 11 Jun 2008, 12:39) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I hope all goes well during the visit and that you at the very least get entered - even better if you win an award!

Thanks for that. It turns out I'd misheard our Chairman. It was actually a couple of dozen members of the local '40+' club - the follow-on to Round Table or something similar? So we split them into two groups - one lot sat downstairs for a talk on the history of the box, the Trust and the restoration route, the others upstairs for a look at the lever frame and a quick demo of the rebuilt illuminated diagram and one set of block-bells. After half-an-hour they swapped over and we went through the process again.

We still await to hear when the visit from the judges for the Railway Heritage Awards takes place.

Regards,
John
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Heritage Open Days - September 13th/14th 2008

I'm pleased to say that we shall be open between 10am and 4pm on both days. The whole box will be open now the major repairs and redecoration are completed. Admission will be free and light refreshments will be available.
There will be a small-scale signalling demonstration and my model railway showing both semaphore and colour-light signals. (And hopefully some Hornby live steam!)

We are in Ridgemont Road, St Albans, off Victoria Street, 200 yards south of the Platform 4 entrance to St Albans City station; parking by the box will be free.

If you can't get to us on either day, we hope to be opening regularly before the end of the year.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Hi, Thunder! I was there from around 2.30pm onwards, so we might have passed each other.

Another major landmark was passed last week when the mechanical work on the restoration of the frame was completed.

Come and have a look on the 13th/14th September - see post #23 above.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Just a few photos to whet the appetite for September, now that I've gone broadband.

View after external works were completed early this year:


Interior of the first floor in September 2006:


And how it looked a couple of days ago:


The reconstructed track diagram:


(With a 'virtual train' leaving on the Up Slow line (top line) as shown by the red lights.)

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I'll be with the model railway layout in the ground floor of the box most of the time; any MRF members who come - please make yourselves known! There will also be continuous videos running downstairs showing the box in use and a few other things. Upstairs they will be running the signalling demo throughout the day - we can only allow about twenty upstairs at any one time because of space constraints, safety etc., so we're hoping everyone will be able to see it eventually!

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Thanks, gentlemen, for your concern. We have, so far, had no problems with returning vandals. Various security measures are in place and being added to, which for obvious reasons I'll not make public.

The site has a 5ft high fence (Midland /// style) where it abuts the (private NR) road, and 7 ft metal fence where it abuts the railway proper. We've not found any trespassers about so far....

I'll be starting a new thread next week, I hope, on the small layout I've built to demonstrate various 'aspects' of signalling and of railway modelling.

Regards,
John Webb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,506 Posts
Just a brief note to say that this weekend's 'Heritage Open Days' went amazingly well - we'd expected over 500 visitors, printed souvenir tickets for a 1000, just in case - and we had 1075 approximately!

The model railway was working and generated much interest particularly in the young visitors, as the photo shows:


The Hornby live steamer ('Flying Scotsman') had six outings each day and attracted a lot of attention from the adults and added a lovely wiff of steam and hot oil to the atmosphere in the box.

The inner oval running a 'Bubblecar' has automatic colour light signals worked by the train (reed switch under the track operating a relay to put the signal to red etc.) and the outer oval has semaphore signals, but the signalling is not yet completely installed - I need more practice on assembling MSE signals.

Regards,
John Webb
 
1 - 20 of 141 Posts
Top