NEWS 2022

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130th Birthday Celebration

The box had been opened on Sunday, 12th June, 1892. So on the 12th of June this year - also a Sunday, the box celebrated its 130th 'birthday'. The Trust marked the occasion by holding a Barbeque for members and their guests on Saturday 11th June; this was also our first major social function since Covid started in 2020.
A general view of the get-together        Queueing for food                        After eating some had a go in the box.

Other Activities in June

NER Slotted Post Signal: Work continues to slowly dismantle the signal parts so that it can be got working again.

'Surround Sound': For some while we have played background sounds of railway activities around the garden when open to visitors. The installation has suffered particularly from accidental chopping of the speaker wires during gardening works as they had only been laid out in a temporary manner. Work was undertaken to run in more substantial wires in existing ducts and conduits to protect them from gardening tools, and the speakers were overhauled as well.

New Sign: Now on display on the sleeper wall alongside the ramp:
 It's a 'Stop Valve' sign from the St Albans Waterworks Company which has been tucked away inside the box and has now been put on display following restoration.



Lamppost Number 4

Earlier this year (see January-February below) we showed the completion of our 3rd lamppost.  The following photos show the progress we have made very recently on our fourth lamppost.
1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6. 

1. The lamppost having received its undercoat a few months ago; the small pole threaded through it was used to lift and turn the post during the painting.
On a very damp Wednesday afternoon a number of members combined to erect the painted post. It was placed on a length of 2inch diameter tube which was lowered into a deep hole.
2. The start of the erection process with ropes and several members lifting the post.
3. Ropes and several members make the final adjustments in position. With a couple of members holding the post, the pipe was fixed in the hole with fast-setting 'Postcrete'; two other members with spirit levels monitored the post while others fetched water and added the Postcrete.
4. The post upright and firmly held by the 'Postcrete'.
5. A close-up of the remaining part of the hole. After a hole has been cut in the back of the pipe to allow an electrical conduit in for powering the lamp, the rest of the hole will be filled in with concrete to form a wider base. A brick plinth will then be built on this base to 'disguise' the fact that the lamppost is actually missing the bottom 24inches of its column.
6. By the end of May the brick plinth had been built.

Work carries on off-site to get the fourth gas lamp head restored and converted for electrical working for eventual fitting to this post.



New Acquisition - North-Eastern Railway (NER) 'Slotted Post Signal'

One of our members lives in Sheffield, and heard of a rare original NER signal lurking at the bottom of someone's garden. After some negotiations we bought the signal in 2020, but it remained in the Sheffield garden as Covid halted any attempt to get a working party together! On the 27th of April a party finally made the trek to Sheffield and brought the signal back to the box. The following photographs show the signal in the garden, getting it out of this garden and back to the box, with some close-ups of the signal back in St Albans.

1.   2.  3.  4.  5.
1. The signal - rear view - as first seen.
2. The front of the arm - the view limited by the tree that had grown over the decades that the signal had been in place.
3. During the Summer of 2020, we received reports that the signal had started to lean over. Our Sheffield 'agent' and a friend hurried round and were able to successfully lower the signal int a stable position.
4. Most of the party take a breather while moving the post, stripped of much of the ironwork to make it lighter, through the extensive garden.
5. Now loaded onto a trailer ready for the return to St. Albans.

6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
 6. A better view of the unique feature of this type of signal - the slot in which the arm moves. 
 7. One concern for us was the condition of the bottom of the slot, a known weak point of these signals. A cursory inspection indicates that it is in reasonable order.
 8. The same can't be said of the bottom of the post where parts of the bottom three feet (one metre) have badly rotted.
 9. The signal was constructed by the McKenzie and Holland Company of Worcester, signalling contractors favoured by the NER, as seen here on the blinder - the object which moves with the arm to reveal or conceal the 'back-light' to tell the signalman the signalling is working at night-time.
10. The back of the spectacle - the device that holds the coloured glass in front of the light - shows the abbreviated NER SD ('Signal Department') and the McK & H W marks cast into the object.

11.  12.
11. An external view of the signal lamp; 12. the interior, complete with burner and a collection of cobwebs!

In Photo 1 above, it can be seen that the lamp and spectacle are about halfway up the post, a further unusual aspect of this particular signal. Initial research suggest that the signal may be from the early 20th Century, although the NER used this type of signal up to and beyond the 1923 Grouping.

We now have to sort out where we site the signal in the garden and what restoration/conservation works are needed to get it working again.

First Model Railway Show for over 2 years

The 23rd of April saw our publicity stand making its first outing since January 2020.
We were invited to the De Havilland Model Railway Show in Welwyn Garden City. We met many people, gave away a quantity of leaflets, made some modest sales and were given donations as well. 

More flowers that bloom in the Spring

Some views of flowers in the garden that have replaced the daffodils and other flowers that can be seen below in March.

1.  2.  3.  4.
1. South end of the garden railway
2. By the path close to the NW corner of the garden.
3. By the path close to the NE corner of the garden.
4. Above the ramp wall.


Spring in the Garden
The next few photos, although taken in March, really represent the culmination of determined effort over the Winter months by our small team of dedicated gardeners. Much effort has gone into clearing away old planting to leave room for the new year's growth. We start off with some of those cleared areas.
1. 2. 3. 4.
1. Area north of the Midland Railway ground signal, allowing access to the signalling items for servicing.
2. Flowerbed between the access ramp and railway fence - new items have been planted for flowering later in the year.
3. The large area on the slope between the lawn and the lamp hut, cleared of brambles, nettles and excessive hedge growth.
4. The path in front of the box: the weeds have been removed from between the paving slabs and around the displayed chairs.

Now for views of some of the early Spring Flowers:
5. 6. 7.
5. The new flowerbed next to the LNWR ground frame, set up after the ground frame was rebuilt last year.
6. The model railway - old planting cleared away and some new greenery planted.
7. Good display of daffodils towards the North-East corner of the garden.

Our thanks and congratulations to the gardeners!



Extra Open Afternoon Trial

We held our usual Second Sunday afternoon opening on the 13th of February and had some 60 visitors. We had decided a week or so beforehand that as Wednesday 16th was during half-term, we'd try out using what would normally be our working party day as an Open Afternoon. Despite minimal publicity, we had 45 visitors. 

As a result, we plan to open on half-term Wednesday afternoons as well as the regular Sundays.

Gas Lamps

We already have two Midland Railway gas lamps lighting our entrance gate and by our model railway, having been converted to electrical operation. In 2020 we erected a third post, but restoring the lamp head to fit on it was held up by the Covid lock-downs. Work was resumed late last year - here are some pictures of the progress we made.
1.   2.   3.   4.   5. 
1. The lamp as received with missing pipework.
2. The restored lamp with a coat of primer.
3. Showing how a standard lampholder has been fitted - the wiring has been placed through the pipework.
4. The LED bulb we shall be using in the lamp being tested; it is a 12 volt bulb sold for use in boats and caravans and was chosen to avoid mains voltages running round the site. (It's the same bulb as used in the other street lights and for our 'Running-in Board'.)
5. The third lamppost completed with the freshly-painted gas lamp and seen here with the glass globe fitted and the bulb lit for test purposes.

We have a fourth lamppost under restoration - see it's erection under May above.

Coffin Carrier

For some years we have had a coffin carrier on display. But a close inspection last year showed considerable rotting of the timbers, and a complete rebuild was undertaken by one member with occasional assistance from others. Here are some views of the rebuilt carrier:

(The last picture above shows the names and dates of the restorers.)