NEWS 2019

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Visitor Numbers reach new levels!

With the last open afternoon on December 8th over, we were able to add up the visitor numbers - to find to our astonishment we'd had a total of 3,366 visitors, a 39% rise over 2018! Nearly half of these visitors had come during our four extended open days in March and September.

It's also pleasing to report that on the "Tripadviser" website, the 70+ reviews posted by visitors have been so positive that we have moved up our position to be 9th most popular out of 50 locations in St Albans this year; quite an achievement for our small organisation.

Thanks to all our volunteers who help with the visitors on open days or for party visits, or who labour on Wednesdays to keep the site tidy, maintain the box and introduce new items.

Out in the Garden

Besides the several months spent cutting back and disposing of the plants that have been dying off during the Autumn, a bit of planting has been going on as well.

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

(a) Boundary Marker for the London & North-Western and the Midland Railways
(b) Boundary Marker for the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway
(c), (d) & (e):A display of some thirty railway chairs - the things that hold the rails to the sleepers - which have been laid out for display.

Recent Restorations

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

(a) & (b): Fogman's repeater signal before and after restoration. New signal arms have been made to avoid overstressing the original thin and well-rusted signal arms.
Southern Region Ground Disc signal:
(c) As received - both the signal and it's floodlight were in a bit of a state!
(d) Restored and in position as seen in daylight.
(e) As night falls, the disc is lit by the floodlight shining on the face of the disc in contrast to the light shininghrough the coloured spectacles of the other LMS style discs.

Other Recent Additions

'Limited Clearance' sign in a typical position    Plate off a wagon used by permanent way staff

Constructions in progress

The garden railway is undergoing some civil engineering to improve running:

Not to be outdone, our Network Rail Neighbours are also carrying out works:

This is the new expanded entrance by platform 4 under construction.


Shortly before the Heritage Open Days (see below) we had a number of new acquisitions delivered to the site, mostly donated by a member who is down-sizing his collection. Besides a large number of railway chairs from different railway companies (the chairs that rails sit in, that is!) we had the following items:

(a) Our third Midland Railway lamp-post - to go at the north end of the garden     (b)                          (c)
(b) Unusual Boundary Markers from joint railways - on the left the Midland and Great Northern which ran from the Midlands into Norfolk; on the right one from the London & North-Western and Midland Railways - may be from the Birmingham New Street station area?
(c) A fog repeater signal - used to show a 'Fogman' if he needed to place detonator(s) on the track depending on what the signals were showing. (In need of restoration!)

Heritage Open Days 21st and 22nd September
We were open for these two days from 10am to 5pm, and entertained 379 visitors over the two days. Saturday started off with sunshine, Sunday was rather wetter, alas. Just a taster of what was on show:

(a)                                                          (b)                                               (c)
(a) Our 00 gauge layout with Thomas and his friends entertaining the youngsters.
(b) and (c) Members of the group concerned with restoring Bricket Wood station (on the 'Abbey Flyer' line from Watford) put on a display this year, assisted with the loan of Totems and a nameboard from one of our Trustees. 

Not shown are the usual photo displays, our friends from the North London Society of Model Engineers running their passenger carrying track, or any of the 29 demonstrations given on the operating floor of the box!

Network Rail Test Train:
During the Saturday of the Heritage Open Days, we were entertained by a passing NR test train


August saw the consolidation of various items, The 'Tipper' wagon restoration was completed, and it was placed on our narrow gauge point. (It's kept tilted so it doesn't collect rainwater!)

The Bank Holiday weekend included our second open afternoon, and gave us a glimpse of an unusual pair of passenger workings. King's Cross station was closed for major works, and Hull Trains ran a couple of workings AM and PM into St Pancras as replacements. On the left below is the afternoon 'Up' train, on the right below is the return 'Down' trip.

The unit was a class 180 (180 110), and had not been seen on this line before. 









On Wednesday, July 24th, the Preservation Trust was involved in two major events, one at the City Station and one at the box itself. At the station a board displaying the history of the station as a 'Time Line' was formally inaugurated. This board was designed by Mr Les O'Leary, one of our trustees, with assistance from the other trustees.

Photo (a)                                            Photo (b)                                              Photo (c)

(a) The designer shows the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Mr Robert Voss CBE, some of the detail of the panel.
(b) Mr Tom Moran, Managing Director of Govia Thameslink talks to the assembled guests.
(c) From left to right we have Mr Andy Buckley of the Community Rail Partnership, Mr Les O'Leary, the Lord-Lieutenant, the Mayor of St Albans (Mrs Janet Smith) and Mr Moran.

The panel:


The party then came across to the Signal Box where the Royal British Legion provided standard bearers. A short Service of Remembrance was held to dedicate the memorial, followed by wreaths and crosses being laid by those present. The guests then had a buffet lunch and were able to visit the signal box.

Photo 1.                             Photo 2                          Photo 3                       Photo 4

Photo 5                                Photo 6

1. The veiled memorial is flanked by the Royal British Legion Standards.
2. The Lord-Lieutenant bows after laying his wreath.
3. The Mayor of St Albans goes to lay her wreath.
4. The Managing Director of Govia Thameslink goes to lay his wreath.
5. Others present, mostly from the Community Rail Partnership, lay crosses commemorating the individuals.
6. The unveiled memorial in its permanent location with the wreaths and crosses.

And here's the wider coverage on the web:

Herts AD, 
RailBusiness Daily, :
Lord Lieutentant of Herrtfordshire


The Buffet:

This facility, erected last year, has worked well over the Winter and Spring months, giving welcome shelter to our refreshment ladies. Work started early in July to install permanent electrical power and lighting to improve things further.

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

(a) Work underway on the permanent lighting - note the already installed sockets rear right of the Buffet.
(b) The completed lights - unseen is the switch by the door so we can turn the lights on as we enter.
(c) When designing the Buffet with its 'Station Canopy' we hadn't realised that the canopy woiuld intercept light from the adjacent street light until the dark evenings in the Winter! So we've included two low-power LED lights supplied from the same transformer as the path lamps to compensate.
(d) They are seen here lit in August as the nights start drawing in.

Keep that Wagon rolling! 

Last year also saw the installation of our narrow-gauge point. We've now been lent a narrow gauge 1930s tipper wagon to put on the track. But work has had to be undertaken to restore the wagon first. Here it is seen in two parts - we'll post more pictures as the restoration continues.


Early June saw us off-site at two functions - The Steam Show in St Albans and the Abbey Line's Community Rail Partnership day - held this year not at the Abbey station but nearby close to St Stephen's Church. Following the success of the simple circuit of track we used at last year's steam show, a more permanent circle of track has been arranged. The two photos on the right show it in use. (Please note the parents gave permission for their children to be included in the photos.)

Not pictured here, but members of the box attended the formal launch of the new Community Rail Partnership for the Midland Main line between Bedford and St Albans - see the two items below in May's news as well.





Community Rail at the City Station

The sigbox was at the centre of the recent promotion of the Community Rail Partnership at City Station on the 15th May. Across Britain, there are about 60 community rail partnerships, plus hundreds of station friends and other groups and social enterprises,  This promotion was part of the Community Rail in the City day.  The miniture signals, photographic displays and sigbox volunteers were on hand for a busy day meeting travellers and staff at the station.

Planters at the City Station

Volunteers were out in force on the 8th of May to set-up the new planters on the platforms at St Albans City Station.  Rain did not dampen efforts and all was completed in a timely fashion.  We trust that travellers will appreciate the floral displays over the summer and thanks to all who took part.


The "Big Weekend" is a "Big Success" - nearly 1,200 Visitors in two days!

Following the record number of visitors on the 10th of March to one of our Sunday afternoon openings, we wondered what the "Big Weekend" on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th March would bring. To our amazement it brought 1,197 visitors through the gates. This is the highest number ever since regular public opening started following restoration of the box. On the right is Thomas doing his first circuits of our garden railway with young admirers looking on.

Near by there were smaller models and the larger steam-hauled passenger service.
The various lever frames were popular with our visitors:


  Also on display, next to our lit lamps, was our new 'On/Off' sign:







Refurbishment of the 1970s Colour Light Signals

The four-aspect colour light signals with banner signal are one of our longest-running demonstrations, having been operating since 2011. They have been repainted twice, and occasional repairs made to the wiring (particularly after being nibbled by rodents) or to the relay boards in each signal head.

These boards have proved more susceptible to climatic conditions than we expected and a couple have had to be replaced. In addition, we have found the carefully focused 5 watt car tail-lamp bulbs can only be viewed over a limited angle - and the plugs and sockets linking signals to the fixed wiring have also given problems.

So we are carrying out a major refurbishment - this will include:
1. new control system in a weather-proof Location Cabinet - the one that used to house our incoming mains supply;
2. complete re-wire using heavier duty wire to stop rodent damage;
3. new wires to run in flexible conduit from ducting to signals without plugs or sockets;
4. replacing the filament bulbs with LED lamps giving a wider angle of view.

In February and March we worked to relocate the Location Cabinet:


Record number of visitors attend:
The Open Afternoon on March 10th saw a new record set for the number of visitors attending a Sunday afternoon opening - 250 came, more than twice the previous record of 120 set in February 2018.

A Spring Planting:
One of our members has passed on the 30 Mile Post that once graced the Midland Railway's Hemel Hempstead branch.
Mile Post in place             Map showing location (the arrow)                       Restored and on display
The location was approximately halfway between Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead.



The unusual warm spell towards the end of the month encouraged a number of outdoor works, beside a display of early blossom:

                                     We were able to start again on preserving the fence and have replanted the 'T' sign.

Track work has taken place on the garden railway where fixed curves have replaced flexible track to improve running:


Courtesy of the Chiltern Model Railway Association, we were given space at their annual exhibition, now held at Stevenage Leisure Centre.

We had a good team on the stand, sold nearly £200 of bits and pieces,and spoke to hundreds of people over the two days of the show and gave out virtually all our remaining leaflets! (A reprint is being organised.)

Back at the box, the same weekend saw our first open afternoon of 2019 with some 75 visitors.