NEWS 2022

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DECEMBER

St Albans Abbey Signal Box Nameboard

Recently donated to the signal box was a board on which were mounted the original letters from the  nameboard of the Abbey Signal box. The original board and letters had been rescued after the box was demolished, but the finder had put the letters onto a new board as the original had rotted. After some discussion, a replica board was made and the letters cleaned and repainted. This is the result:

Visitor numbers in 2022

Our last open afternoon of the year saw 21 visitors come to the box, bringing our total for the year to 2,073. This shows a steady rise over the 900 plus in the second half of 2021. 1,255 people came on on our afternoon openings, 492 to the extended Heritage Open Days, 268 as group visits and 58 in private visits.

NER Slotted Post Signal - Its history so far

We understand that our signal was located at the south end of the down platform at Burton Salmon station in Yorkshire on the line from York to Leeds. (The station closed to passengers in 1959.) The signal is numbered 49 and appears on a hand drawn signal box diagram dated 1944 and provided by the North Eastern Railway Association. It controlled movement in the opposite (up) direction away from the station either towards a crossover to the up line (also controlled by ground signal No.46) or a siding (or loop) on the down side. Between the signal post and the signal box was an overbridge and we believe that it is because of this that the spectacle plate was located well down the post for sighting purposes from the box.

The signal was removed some time before 1959 when a signal box diagram was produced that is in the archives at the NRM. This shows the signal has been pasted over and the ground signal that controlled the crossover has been renumbered 49 (the siding or loop had been taken out by then).

We do not know precisely when the previous owner acquired it. We do know that he was an enthusiastic collector of artefacts from an early age and could possibly have had it from when it was decommissioned. It was erected in his garden in Sheffield until recovered by the Trust earlier this year.

Frost and Snow: 
A few photos from the 12th December and the 14th December:
        

NOVEMBER

Garden works
 Clearance of dying and unwanted plant growth continues around the site as we head into Winter from Autumn. Here Adrian and David, two of our Trustees, are hard at work.

Mind you, we're not the only ones clearing up.
    Network Rail (NR) have been busy opposite the box >
We think this was in connection with laying new cables to record the presence of trains in the Slow lines turn-back siding.

New Footbridge

Clearing the lineside is not the only thing that NR has been up to. A second footbridge was to have been installed at the City Station the weekend of the 4th and 5th of November. But problems with the crane meant it did not arrive until the next weekend, and we caught something of the works during our open afternoon on the 13th November.

1.    2.       3.   4. 

1. The crane jib towered over our signals when we arrived at the start of the afternoon.
2. As dusk fell, the stairs for Platforms 2 and 3 were being lowered into position after being hoisted from a lorry.

Work had been taking place further up the line, and we were treated to this engineering train passing slowly through the station  - Photo 3 shows ballast wagons at the head of the train and  Photo 4 the special wagons for conveying track componants, such as pointwork, which can't be be carried when laid flat because they would exceed the loading gauge.

NER Signal Restoration

In April below we recount the acquisition of a rare North-Eastern Railway 'Slotted Post' signal. Work has been going on with great care to conserve and restore the signal to working order. This is an update on progress in recent months.

1.   2.   3. 

1. Some of the parts removed from the post, got into working order, then cleaned and repainted.
2. Taking advantage of the reduced Winter opening, some items were moved into the ground floor of the box for cleaning and painting to take place in the dry.
3. Those working on the post have had to do it out of doors, alas! Rotten wood has been cut out of the lower part of the post and is being replaced with carefully selected wood to build the post up so it is strong enough to be re-erected.

OCTOBER

Member's Visit to the Epping and Ongar Railay: Members at the signal box recently spent a happy day at the Epping Ongar Railway. As well as the steam railway and the fleet of vintage London buses, members had a tour of the railway's signal boxes. Hopefully members will be arranging a further outing next year. See the Eppping Ongar web site at https://www.eorailway.co.uk/ for details of their news, exhibits and events. 

Private visits to the box: In addition to Open Days, we host private visits to the box for members, groups and organisations, After closure for Covid in 2020 and 2021, 2022 has been a busy year when we had the pleasure of welcoming school groups, a moped club, a birthday party, a family visit, many cubs and guides groups, special needs groups and several transport history and learning groups. We even had a film company use our site to record live train and mechanical signalling sounds

Private Visits have now been completed for 2022, and many thanks to all who have helped organise and volunteered to host our guests. Details of arrangements for private visits are given on this web site  see: - http://www.sigbox.co.uk/sigbox/opendays/organised.eb

 


A day at the Epping and Ongar Railway

RAILCAM ARRIVES AT ST ALBANS

At the end of October, following discussions between ourselves and the RailCam organisation, two cameras were installed at the SE corner of our site. There are two cameras - one looks at the station, the other looks at the tracks to the south. In return for supplying the location and the small amount of power to the cameras, we get some publicity and a link to the railway track diagram associated with the area - so we can now tell visitors what trains are passing the box.

The cameras are available to view to subscribers to the RailCam website - see:
https://railcam.uk/

SEPTEMBER

Heritage Open Days on the 10th & 11th were the main attraction and effort in September. This year we had 246 visitors on Saturday and 246 on Sunday - the first time we've had equal numbers on both days. Some views of the site during the weekend:
   
   
As can be seen from the first photo, the occasion was a little muted; following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a couple of days before, the Trustees took down the bunting we had already put up.
The signs on display in the righthand photos were courtesy of one of our Trustees. Out in the carpark our friends from the North London Society of Model Engineers were running their steam train. (Thanks too to the contractors working on the new footbridge for their cooperation in helping to see their part of the carpark was kept clear for the weekend.)‚Äč

JULY & AUGUST

Work continued on the NER Signal to free up the well-rusted mechanism. Progress was slow and in the end we had to cut the signal post by the signal pivot in order to get the arm and pivot released so we could work on them without damaging the post by heat or mechanical stress. Two views:

  

Work continues to strengthen the bottom of the post and to trace the history of the signal.

Signal 16

A more recent signal is signal 16, a replica of an actual signal installed at the station in 1973. Mounted on the lawn, it is a three-aspect colour light signal. When we set it up some years ago, it was mounted on a piece of old sleeper. This had rotted away over the years and a new base had to be formed. 

 1. 2.
1. Former for concrete set up with old wire ducts used to hold fixing screws in their places while the concrete set.
2. The signal sitting on its new base.

Gardening

Despite the heat wave and lack of rain the garden still needed working on and we are most grateful to the volunteers who've kept on cutting, trimming, planting and mowing to the appreciation of our visitors.

JUNE

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.

 

MAY onwards

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.  7.

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.
7. By August the top of the plinth had been concreted over and painted to match the engineering bricks in the plinth.

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

 

APRIL

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.

MARCH

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!

 

JANUARY & FEBRUARY

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.)