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St Albans South Signal Box

77388 Views 239 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  John Webb
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.

John Webb
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Some donations from the Elstree and Borehamwood Museum, who have moved to new premises in Borehamwood, but did not have room to display these items, and very kindly thought of us.

Boundary Marker:
As received:

After a clean and repaint, as 'planted' in the garden (by the boundary fence, of course!):

Elstree Tunnel Sign:
As received:

Being worked on:

The end result:

(From photos and the cleaning process, it seems that the sign was originally white letters on a black background, so we restored it to that condition.)

Storage of Bicycles Sign:
A BR(M) enamel sign - is on display as received:
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Signal 16 Resiting
Signal 16 was a 3-aspect ground-mounted colour light signal installed at St Albans in 1973, between the Up and Down slow lines, and allowed service passenger trains that terminated at St Albans to return to London without further shunting. It was ground mounted as there was insufficient room between the tracks for a post. The Red aspect was at the top to get it nearest to the driver's eyes.

In January this year only the Red aspect could be clearly seen through the garden plants:

It was clear that as the planting grew, it would become invisible, and so it did, by April it was difficult to see the red aspect at all, and the decision was taken to move it. But this had to be done so that while visible from the box's first floor (since it is worked by lever 16 on the frame), it wasn't visible to passing train drivers!
After one experimental placing near our boundary fence, we decided to put it on the lawn:

At least here we know there won't be plants growing in front of it, and a few moments with the shears will keep the grass down!

After a couple of days to reroute the cable to the signal, carefully protecting it in plastic conduit to avoid damage by any enthusiastic gardener wielding cutting tools, we had the signal working again:

Other bits and pieces:
Our new 'Level Crossing' gates - not quite full-size, but we wanted to display this gate lamp we had been given:

We continue to attend events outside the box - here we're at a local fete:

Work continues on various maintenance and new projects - so more to come!
John Webb
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A further round-up of recent works.

A new metal gradient post being 'planted' in the garden.

A recently acquired concrete milepost has also been erected, not far away from the above gradient post.

A recent view of our downstairs 'Museum Room' now displaying a much increased range of signalling and other railway items.

Heritage Open Days in September: One of our members brought along a live steam loco which he had on display and chugging away.
During the two days we had over 600 visitors.

Work is carrying on to make our simulator more 'robust'. New interface boards have been made and are being trial fitted for the first time behind our track diagram.

The next two pictures are rather unusual. In late September I spent two days in the "Search Engine" at the National Railway Museum, looking at original copies of the Midland Railway's "Weekly Notices to Staff" for several years which we knew marked particular events in the box's history.
The first picture shows part of the Weekly Notice for the week ending June 18th, 1892, which announced that on June 12th, the (present) St Albans South box would be erected and brought into use.

This is 'as photographed', and I returned with over 70 other images like this.
They were then put through "Photoshop" to improve the contrast and label them with the source details:

It is interesting to note that they started work at 3am on the 12th June to dismantle the old box, erect the new and bring it into use that day!
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Lovely John.
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Last roundup of pictures from 2014:
As the dark nights drew in upon us, we looked at lighting the external stairs, and temporarily used an ex-railway Tilley lamp:

However, work will be undertaken in 2015 to form a replica 'Yard lamp' as a more permanent light for the stair at night-time.
(The hand-lamp, signal lamp and Shunt Limit sign are all lit with paraffin burners for demonstration purposes - although the Shunt Sign recently had to undergo repairs when the burner flared up and melted the soldered joints, causing the sign to fall apart!)

In our early days, when we first had a need to run electric cables round the site, we fashioned some cable ducting from feather-edged fencing boards. These were nailed together, and some six years exposure to weather and vibration from passing trains had caused some sections to disintegrate, as seen here:

Some new trunking has been made up, properly screwed together this time, and after suitable weather-proofing, has been installed:

At the top end of the site a fabricated bend was needed to link up with the line of the trunking across the top of the garden:

The lightweight original trunking at the top of the garden is being rebuilt with recovered boarding from the replaced duct run in a screwed construction designed to improve both strength, life and protection to the cables:

The top is an inverted "U" shape which slips over another smaller "U" shaped base.

Finally, a picture taken from an upper floor of the multi-storey carpark almost opposite our site:
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A few updates from the first half of 2015 - not a great deal because most things we do now are maintenance and not very interesting, to be honest!
The garden in March after a spring clean-up:

The cable trunking in front of the fence had just been reconstructed when this picture was taken.

The older style Midland Railway signal at the far end of the garden is worked by (spare) lever 32 in the box's frame by the traditional wire over pulleys system. But we have no easy way of adjusting the wire tension and in the current warm weather the lever has a considerable distance to move before the signal starts to move.
So we've decided to fit an adjuster both to allow us to alter the tension in the wire and to demonstrate how they work.
This is the adjuster after being dismantled, cleaned and given a coat of paint.

(This is an LMS adjuster which came in a 'job-lot' of bits and pieces from the NRM.)

We've had to move the existing pulley and add a second one - work in progress here:

And the final set-up will look something like this:

I'll post another picture when the job is completed.

Finally additions to our museum display - a couple of signalling relays:
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As a contrast to the March photo of the garden above, here's what it looked like 4 months later last weekend (11th July):
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The completed adjuster set-up:

The chain to which the wire is connected goes up and over a pulley and then down again, as can be glimpsed here:

We're planning to put a signal repeater near the adjuster. That needs a switch worked by the signal arm to work the repeater. This is the switch after renovation:

The central contact rotates with the external arm and at each end of the movement makes contact with one of the brass strips - these can be adjusted to clearly show via the repeater if the signal arm is in the correct position.
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The arm repeater switch fixed to the signal post:

And the repeater inside the box, near the new adjuster shown above, which shows the signal moving:

The power source for the repeater is derived from the power supply to the electric light in the lamp housing for the signal - so if we've forgotten to turn the power on, the repeater shows "Failed" as it would have done had the original oil lamp not been burning!
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Didn't realise I hadn't posted anything for a long time!
In September we had the 'Heritage Open Days' - this year with the help of members and friends from the North London Society of Model Engineers, we had a steam railway outside:

Inside the grounds a number of model railway items were up for sale:

One very unusual addition in 2015 was one member's display about The Home Guard:

In October we took part in the commemorations of the opening 150 years ago of the Hatfield to St Albans Line. The picture below shows us on the track bed underneath the London Road bridge:

Back at the box work continued on various matters, but first an atmospheric shot at dusk:

With the loss of vegetation as Autumn passed, final works were carried out to repair/restore our wood cable ducting.
A 'before' picture - note the dropped end of the older duct compared to the duct repaired early in the year on the right:


The long run of duct between our hedge and the fence was also inspected and repairs carried out:
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At the end of 2015 we were presented with a large number of signs on long-term loan. Here are some of them on display:

A 'T' (Termination) sign recently acquired:

Fin(i)al shot for 2015: we have here a number of Midland Railway finials; left to right, they are a signal post, two signal box, another signal post and a roof end finial from the old station building just up the line at Radlett:
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2016 started off with the arrival of a number of LED signals dating from around 2004-2008, donated by a Midlands company:

General view of them set up as a temporary display (the signals on the left are our original 1970s signals):

We left them there for the Open Days during the CMRA's exhibition at which we were exhibiting:

This is the last exhibition the CMRA were holding at St Albans - next year they move to Stevenage with a larger area all on one level and a much better carpark. We're still hoping to attend the exhibition, but will not have the box open at the same time, which will ease our manning problems.

We tried out several of the signals on Wednesday this week:

We are starting to plan how we shall erect them for display, the sequence(s) we shall use etc. They'll be put up somewhere close to their present location, so a direct comparison can be made with the older bulb-type 1970s colour light signals adjacent.
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I didn't mention in the previous post that we'd had 175 visitors to the box over the two days of the CMRA Model railway show.

That number was more than doubled over yesterday and today for the "Residents: Enjoy St Albans!" weekend, when over the two days of extended opening we had 373 visitors.

Next January will be less busy - with the CMRA show moving to Stevenage and the "Residents: Enjoy St Albans!" weekend probably moving to March in 2017 to conclude the national 'English Tourism Week' held in that month. So our leaflet is going to need a rewrite!
Arrived this week from the National Railway Museum at York, as surplus to their requirement:

It's a demonstration "eNtrance-eXit" panel, made by Westinghouse for the Science Museum around 1971, and at some time moved up to York. Besides the panel itself, there are two standard signal relays and a model signal. There is an information panel on the front right:

We've not seen the inside yet - the back is locked and there's no key - we're probably going to have to do some careful breaking and entering!
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Here's a view of the interior:

It's a right mess of wiring - we reckon the Science Museum rewired it for some reason but didn't make a neat job of it.

It partly works:

But not as it ought to. Work is ongoing to get it working as it should.
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15,000 visitors to St Albans South!

On Sunday 14th February, we had our 15,000th visitor to the box since October 2008, which is when we started giving visitors a souvenir "Edmundson" card ticket.

The visitor was a 3-year old boy from Dunstable who came with his family - rather remarkably his Great Grandfather worked in St Albans South in the 1960s!
In post #106 above I mentioned the use of a Tilley lamp to light the bottom of the stairs. We've now set up a more permanent and somewhat different way of giving light.
We had an existing 4-aspect colour light signal which was on 'static' display near the stairs to the first floor; we've taken one of the (bulb) Junction Indicators (JI) that came in the batch of signals in January and fitted it to the signal:

Back against the fence separating us from the railway, it shines at the bottom of the stairs and gives us a significant improvement in the lighting of the said stairs:

And the shades over the lights stop people coming down the stairs getting the glare of the lamps in their faces.

We've not used the original 24W 12v signal bulbs in the signal or the JI - we've used 3.5W 12v LED GU5.3/M16 lamps instead:

A suitable lampholder is mounted on a small aluminium bracket, as seen above, which is attached to the original lampholder for support.
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QUOTE (Bear 1923 @ 31 Mar 2016, 03:48) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Neat John

When's the next open day?

April 10th, 24th; May 8th and 22nd: 2-5pm all these days.
(Full list of 2016 Open days - click here)

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