NEWS 2020

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Last updated 26th November 2020

NOVEMBER

Token Holder and lamp
One of our new acquisitions, now restored and erected.

    
(1)                                 (2)                                     (3)

(1) The original set-up at Chesterton Junction on the line from Cambridge to Ely where the branch line to St Ives turned off. Photo taken by Andy Buckley in the 1980s before closure, and who donated the items to us.
(2) As re-erected in the signal box garden with replacement posts, the original posts being too rotten to be reused. Our Chariman, Tony Furse, re-enacts the original photo.
(3) Looking in the reverse direction showing the lit lamp which illuminated the token holder at night. Also visible are the springs top and bottom of the holder which held the token pouch in place but allowed the token to be taken by the train crew.

New Finial line-up:

With the two ex-GWR finials added and others repainted.

OCTOBER

Fogman's repeater signal erection

In the last half of 2019 we acquired a fogman's repeater signal. It was restored and has now been put in placed and connected to two of the signals at the North end of the garden, as the following pictures show.

        
(a)           (b)         (c)                          (d)                   (e)

(a) Signal as received; (b) after restoration;  (c) concrete mounting base; (d) erected - showing its location;
(e) close-up view.

AUGUST to OCTOBER

New Acquisitions

         
(a)            (b)                   (c)                       (d)

(a) An addition to our collection of signal post finials - the bits that go on top of the post to protect the wood from the rain. This is a Great Western Railway finial and would be fitted to a 'stop' signal as it's painted Red. We have even more recently been given a second one which will be painted yellow and would have been fitted to a distant signal post.
(b) In course of preparation is this Token pouch holder. It was a spring mechanism which held the token for one of the engine crew to pick up while the train was moving and was considered safer than the signalman holding the token pouch. The second post will hold the light that shone on the token pouch for the crew to see it at night. (See entry in November above for the final set-up.)
(c) Another new item is this level crossing gate lamp - seen here after a quick clean but before any other work has been done.
(d) Our fourth lamppost. Not in quite such good order as our previous three as the bottom third of the post is missing.

Restoring Gas Lamps

         
(a)                 (b)                            (c)                (d)                     (e)

Our lampposts need lamps on top.  Pictures (a) and (b) show the first lamp that was restored and electrified; it is the one next to our entrance. The second lamp, on the post by the garden railway, was as complete as this one. But the two lamps for our third lamppost (see February below) and our newest post (above) are missing all the pipework which feeds the gas from the central gas pipe to the two support pipes as seen in (c). One feeds the pilot light and the other the main light burner. We're looking at how we can replicate the pipework and the decorative arm that operates the On/Off stopcock for the main burner. (d) is our third lamp in pieces and (e) shows one of the problems where one of the holes in the shade has very little connection with the shade due to rusting!

Leaves on the line:

JULY- OCTOBER: Signal rewiring and repairs

The colour light demonstration with 1970s signal heads was in need of some attention - it's one of our older demonstrations and has been running for over nine years. Work on replacing the wiring had just started in late March when the Covid-19 lockdown started, and had to await the resumption of the regular working parties in July.
     
(a)                                             (b)                  (c)                   (d)                                       (e)

(a) Four months of hedge growth obstructed access to the wood cable duct running behind the hedge;
(b) so our electrician had to borrow a hedge-trimmer to cut back some 40foot of hedge.
(c) With access to the duct, metal plates with conduit connectors were fitted to allow wires to leave the cable duct in flexible conduit to the signal heads.
(d) All the new wires will run back to this Location Cabinet (LOC for short) where the signal sequence controller, formerly in the signal box, has now been installed.
(e) The 'LOC' with wiring completed and all working as it should.

          
(f)                                                        (g)                       (h)                  (i)

(f) The Banner Repeater has been showing signs for some years of water getting inside. The opportunity has been taken to clean up the front, removed the rotten putty - not helped by rusty split pins damaging the putty as seen here - and resealing with a modern silicon rubber.
(g) The resealed and repainted front back in place. (The screen at the back needs similar treatment!)
(h) The interior of signal 4 (the one with the 'feather' attached) showing the new wiring and LED lamps fitted.
(i) The signals working - the bulb change makes them visible over a wider angle.

JULY

The regular weekly working party resumed in July following some easing of the Covid-19 restrictions which allowed volunteers to attend the site with appropriate precautions. Let's start off with a tour round the garden soon after the restart:

      

From left to right we have rather overgrown LED signals, a half-hidden Midland ground signal, a somewhat large bush or two on the model railway (compare with picture (k) below in the section on the model railway rebuild!) and the view up the ramp with plenty more growth on show!

Besides the lamppost picture ((f) below) showing the repainted lamppost, we have also repainted the two boundary posts we obtained last year:
    

APRIL-MAY-JUNE

Little, of course, has been happening with the Covid-19 'lockdown'. Members within walking distance of the box have called in from time to time to see that the box and garden remain secure and safe.

The photo on the right was taken by one member on such a visit in late May and shows the abundence of flowers which, alas, most of us are having to miss.

The Trustees continue to monitor advice from the Government and from museum-related sources, but can only take steps to reopen the site when it is considered safe to do so. Firstly for our volunteers so we can catch up with a significant back-log of maintenance works, and only then for the public.

 

Remarkable Poster Find at the Station

The two posters below were found in the old platform 2/3 waiting room during its demolition in early April. By good fortune we were able to get them off the workmen and they will eventually go on display.

  

 

 

 

 

MARCH

On the morning of Saturday 7th March, the Gresley A4 pacific loco "Union of South Africa" came past the box with a rail tour. This is probably the last time we shall see this locomotive passing the box as she is to be shortly retired to a museum.

 

 

Among items recently acquired has been an unusual Midland Railway 'Limited Clearance' milepost used under a bridge or in a tunnel where the larger '3D' post (left photo) would get in the way. The other photos show how the new post is now displayed at the North end of the garden. It is thought to come from Pig Tor tunnel a few miles south and east of Buxton.

The brick pillar erected to display the milepost has been capped by an old coping stone from Bridge 107 on the north side of St Albans; these were replaced when the line was electrified and the bridge parapet altered for safety.

   

Our Open Afternoon on the 8th March was more successful than February's opening with 90 visitors.

But regretably just over a week later, one sign we never thought would need putting up:

As a result no major works are being undertaken for the time being, so updates here will be infrequent.

FEBRUARY

Storm Denis was passing by on the 9th of February, with the result that we had just 6 visitors during our three-hour opening that afternoon!

Erecting our third Midland Railway lamp post.
     
(a)                                        (b)                                       (c)                     (d)                     (e)                    (f)
(a) Here members are digging the necessary hole and 'unearthing' a large quantity of small coal - note the heap on the left!
(b) We also found the edge of the loading bay still in position a foot or two down; it's just about visible.
(c) With an engine hoist and some muscle power, the post is being raised.
(d) And is being lowered into the hole.
(e) Wired up and ready to have the lamp fitted after painting the post and repairing the lamp itself.
(f) After resumption in July of more regular work at the box, the lamppost was painted.
Work continues on the lamp fitting.

MAJOR REBUILD OF OUR GARDEN RAILWAY

The original foundations of our garden railway were wood stakes supporting patio planks. Unfortunately the timbers have suffered from damp and started rotting, causing problems of uneven track and derailments. The construction also provided shelter for unwanted garden pests. The decision was made to rebuild the railway with lightweight concrete blocks which will not rot and so provide a permanent and stable foundation. The work started immediately after our last opening in December 2019, and has been proceeding ever since. Rather than split photos across several months, we will put them altogether in this section of the page.

   
(a)                                             (b)                                  (c)                                            (d)

(a) December 2019 - the outer track is being lifted to clear the ground for the new foundations;
(b) January 29th 2020 - the concrete blocks have been laid for the outer track and work has just started to cement them together;
(c) and (d) February 12th 2020 - the concrete blocks for the outer track are now cemented together and covered with a roofing felt on which the track will be relaid. The inner track has been removed and ground preparations are in progress prior to laying the blocks for the inner circuit.

 
(e)                                       (f)                                                                 (g)
(e) By February 19th, blocks forming the trackbed of the inner circuit are being laid at the North end;
(f) the blocks for the centre and South end of the inner circuit are already laid out and cemented, with a gap for
(g) the bridge to fit across.

  
(h)                             (i)                        (j)                                    (k)
By March 18th, the rebuild was complete with the tracks laid and tested. Work then started to tidy up the soil around the railway, lay out new plants and wood-chip the soil to deter weed growth.
(h) View of the work at the south end of the railway nearing completion; we didn't have to send "Obstruction Danger" for the watering can on the line as the line was completely closed for the safety of gardener Caroline.
(i) As a contrast, here is the as yet untouched north end of the railway.
(j) At the end of the afternoon the front of the central part of the railway is complete.
(k) We now have the completed south end shown in close-up.

JANUARY

Hertfordshire Music Service has launched the first production from its "Songwriters Originals" programme - a brand new live performance video series for young people in Hertfordshire (see web site for more). Filmed at the signal box in December 2019, young songwriter Miriam Nyarko (accompanied by Teyan Karuthasami) has a powerful and moving message for us all in her song "Rise".. 

Although just 17 years old but with a passion for the performing arts, Miriam has already performed in three west end musicals (The Lion King, Matilda and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory). Miriam is currently playing a lead role in David Walliams’ brand new musical “The Boy in the Dress”, running until March 2020 at Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. She also volunteers as an assistant acting, singing and dancing coach at The Bull Theatre's Saturday School.. 

"This was a great opportunity to help Herts County Council with their community work" said Tony Furse, chairman of trustees. "The box has been used for a number of arts productions since opening in 2008 and it has been great to be able to help young people with new ideas in this way". 

Check out the video here..

Happy New Year. 

The Chiltern Model Railway Association (CMRA) gave us an invite again to attend their Annual Exhibition, once held in St Albans, at Stevenage Leisure Centre on the 11th and 12th of January, Two pictures below showing the stand ten minutes before the hordes were admitted on Saturday morning:

  

We had a central position in one of the two halls, spoke to hundreds of people and gave out around 500 leaflets. Our thanks to those members who came and manned the stand over the two days, and to the CMRA for giving us the space.