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Signal and Telegraph News

Signal and Telegraph Reports from the Great Western Society Newsletter and Echo (from 2000 - 2011)

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Echo 195 - November 2011

Our major works this year have continued to progress the ‘Radstock area improvement plan’, whereby we are sorting out all those little things that we aren’t entirely happy with. The largest of these tasks was to bring the siding side of the level crossing up to the standard of the running line side, which was re-laid a few years ago when the branch trackwork was re-laid.  This involved replacing the crossing deck with some huge timbers, measuring 9” by 13” by 30’. We installed six of these monsters with four of them needing to be ‘notched’ to fit around the railchairs, if notching is an adequate term to describe a process involving a chainsaw, lump hammers and cold chisels! Inevitably this activity was further complicated by the need to largely re-timber the track panel through the crossing, as once exposed the majority of the sleepers were clearly unfit for reuse. One consequence of this activity was to release a further quantity of stone setts, which together with those we had in store have finally allowed us to extend the cobbled area behind Radstock ‘box all the way up to the board crossing - a task we were asked to undertake some fifteen years ago!

Work has continued, with the electrical department, to complete the rewiring of the Radstock area, and our telephone engineer is currently connecting up all the telephone cables laid in a few years ago when installing the new electricity supply. Once this is completed we will be able to transfer the signalbox and S&T workshop ‘phones over to the new wires, which should hopefully lead to an improvement in reliability. It should also provide an opportunity to get the box-box ‘omnibus’ telephone system working properly. We are also discussing the details as to how we might complete the final part of the ‘Radstock and District Electricity Supply Project’ by connecting Didcot Halt to the new supply.

Further clearance and planting has taken place in King’s Park, and the area continues to improve – though the rabbits continue to do their best to dig up the grass, eat any inadequately protected plants and generally pile up earth where it is not wanted.

Maintenance work has continued as always, though we have been rather frustrated, in our attempts at repainting, by the nondescript ‘summer’ weather. We have however managed to complete refurbishment of the disc and crossbar signal, and a few other more minor painting activities.  The usual tasks of cutting back, oiling, adjusting and minor signalling repairs have continued over the summer, although the time required for such tasks always seems to exceed the labour available to undertake them.

Our programme for the coming winter consists of mainly minor maintenance tasks that are just too big to carry out whilst the trains are running during the summer, with one larger item, namely the replacement of the wooden post on one of our smaller signals.  As always if you’d like to join us in our endeavours, we are always happy to welcome newcomers, and whilst our capacity for tea drinking cannot begin to approach that of the Civil Engineering group, we are a generally friendly bunch. More details on S&T matters, including contact details and working party dates can be found on the GWS Bristol Group website.

 

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Echo 191 - Autumn 2010

The Signal and Telegraph Department has spent the summer on matters of maintenance, some routine and others rather less so.

Routines include cleaning of electrical contacts, battery maintenance and a series of mechanical checks, adjustments and lubrication as well as regular visual inspection of the mechanical equipment. Inevitably some of these checks identify minor faults, as they are intended to do, and these lead to a series of minor repairs and replacement of broken components. 

Rather more noticeably we have repainted the small bracket signal near the London end of Frome Signal Cabin (Frome 15/16/17), which was starting to look rather uncared for, and have started to repaint the wooden frames which hold up the overhead signal wires in this area. Given that the weather is now turning considerably wetter it will probably be next year before we will complete all five frames and posts.  We have also substantially rebuilt the Frome staff set-down pad as much of the supporting timber was found to be rotten.

The S&T department has traditionally taken responsibility for maintenance of many of the attractive Great Western and other period fittings which enhance the ambience of the Branch Line, not to mention looking after a lot of the gardening and landscape maintenance in this area - probably fair as we were responsible for installing much of it! So we have repaired and painted the Branch Access Gate; repainted several signs, fire buckets, railings and buffer stops; and have spent plenty of time on the Signalbox flowerbeds and on assorted shrubberies, hedges and trees. We have also repaired the telegraph wires once more - following the attentions of a falling tree, and the landscaping in Kings Park repeatedly - following the attentions of the rabbits!

Over the winter we hope to undertake a major rebuild of the siding side of the level crossing, in order to bring it up to the standard of the running line side which was re-laid a few years ago. We already have the 30ft long decking timbers in stock, and will start by dismantling the remains of the existing crossing timberwork and removing the stone setts. We will then need to assist the PW department in re-laying one panel of the siding track which passes through the crossing, so that in the spring we can lay the new heavier duty decking.

Sadly we have lost several signalmen over the last year for various reasons, but we currently have several new ladies and gentlemen ready to start training, so part of our winter activities will involve signalman training – at least part of which can at least be done indoors in the ‘warm’!

As usual for more information, working party dates, and some pictures of current activities have a look at the Bristol Group website.

 

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Echo 187 - Autumn 2009

After the most enjoyable Radstock 100 celebrations in May, the S&T gang has returned to the work of keeping the signalling system in first class order.

The first activity was to reconnect the sand drag point and signal connections, several lengths of track including the sand drag pointwork having been re-laid on new timbers by the P-Way staff over the winter. This was completed at the beginning of June though the accompanying sand drag itself has yet to be re-installed

Work with the Electrical Department to replace the mains supply to Radstock box, Winscombe Hut (S&T Workshop) and Didcot Halt has continued. The armoured power cables laid over the previous 18 months have all now been terminated in a new 3-phase distribution in Radstock meter cupboard. Winscombe Hut has been completely rewired with all wires in steel conduit, with the exception of the overhead fluorescent lights which had been recently replaced. All sockets and switches have been replaced with new, and everything connected into the new supply via a new distribution.

Similarly all mains circuits in Radstock Signalbox locking room have been rewired and connected to the new distribution, again with much replacement of sockets and switches. We have also installed 16A sockets for temporary outdoor supplies in the meter cupboard, in King’s Park and under the outdoor workbench in the S&T compound.  This ‘just’ leaves the re-wiring of Didcot Halt and the redirection of all the telephone circuits down the new telephone cables before the job is completed.

As usual much was achieved at Work Week with some 46 man days being clocked up by the S&T Department. As well as transferring all power and lighting circuits in Radstock locking room as described above, the weather was, just about, good enough for us to progress some of our much delayed painting plans.

We completed the painting of Radstock signal 2 (the sand drag signal), which had been prepared prior to work week, and also replaced the timber decking of the lamp platform which would probably not have lasted until the next refurbishment. We also managed to a complete a repaint of the bracket signal – Radstock 16/17/19 – adjacent to Walrus Junction. As this is the largest signal in the display, and given occasional rainy intervention, this signal took the best part of five days to completely repaint. We were also able to paint the Level Crossing Gates, the Somerset County Council fingerboard, several other signs, some location cabinets, and a few miscellaneous other bits.

In addition we were able to make a small amount of progress with our Broad Gauge turntable project by completing the painting of one side of the turntable surrounds and turning them over with the steam crane so that the other side can be cleaned and painted. We hope to make substantial progress with this project over the coming winter. At the same time we were able to make further use of the crane to place the sand drag sections loosely back into position so that they can be re-installed properly over the winter period.

As well as all this we continued the assault on encroaching vegetation in the environs of the branch line. As ever we were also involved with the social side of work week and were not only pleased to support the 38 Mob’s Black Python bar but also managed to field 10 members of our group for the Work Week Outing to Oxford.

As usual more information about S&T matters at Didcot can be found on the Bristol Group website.

 

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Echo 186 - Summer 2009

Radstock 100

The second Radstock North Signalbox, which replaces an earlier ‘box of 1875 on the same site, has been at Didcot Railway Centre since 1975. The new timber box top was originally ordered by the GWR on 9th September 1908 from Reading Signal Works, according to notes discovered in an original signal department order book by the Signalling Record Society. Since no evidence has been found to confirm when it was actually erected or made operational, but we think it unlikely to have been completed before the year-end, the Signal and Telegraph Department have consequently decided to celebrate the box’s centenary in 2009.

The main celebrations took place on Saturday May 2nd and featured a 100th Birthday Cake cunningly fashioned into a model of the ‘box. Musical accompaniment was provided by the Goring and Streatley Concert band, which includes a member of the S & T department amongst their number. There was also a small exhibition showing how the signalbox was rescued and restored. It was good to be able to welcome back numerous former members of the S&T Dept. We tried to invite as many as we know of, but inevitably one or two may have been missed. If you are one such, please don’t take umbrage, and let us know your current address.

The guest speaker was Larry Crosier, former signalman and noted author on signalling matters, representing the Signalling Record Society. Larry stressed the importance of preserving signalling equipment and keeping traditional methods alive. Richard Croucher, replying on behalf of the Society praised the achievements of the S&T Department in recreating such a strong GWR atmosphere on the centre’s branch line.

The occasion was also marked by the formal opening of King's Park, a newly landscaped public area opposite Radstock Box. The park has been created in memory of Eric King who was a long time supporter of the Bristol Group's signalling project and we were pleased to welcome his widow, Joyce, to declare the park open. Joyce also presented a GWR memorandum, given to her late husband in 1931, to the Great Western Trust. Eric, a Radstock resident, had won a scholarship to study at Bristol University and went to Radstock GWR station to enquire about season tickets. The memo shows the rates at the time - 1 month £1.13s.0d (£1.65) and 3 months £4.8s.6d (£4.43).

As the box was moved from Radstock to Didcot on Sunday 23rd November 1975, by the Bristol Group of the Society, it is worthy of note that the ‘box has now been in preservation for almost exactly one third of its existence.

 

 

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Newsletter 323 - February 2009

Through the Autumn we have managed to complete many of those tasks which inevitably get left over from Work Week, though the continuing unreliable weather has meant that we have still been unable to repaint the signal posts – still there’s always the Spring.

We continued with the project to replace the ageing power supply to Radstock Box and district. So far we have been fitting out the former meter cupboard, under the steps of the ‘box, which is to become the electrical hub of this part of the site. The original concrete floor has been dug out and replaced with a wooden one, to allow room for the main armoured cables to be positioned under the floor. We have installed the distribution board and 3” trunking in the cupboard so all is ready for the electricians to start making off the cables. A wooden housing has been constructed and installed, to disguise a socket situated opposite the box, which is also due to be connected in this phase of the project. Planning work has now moved on to consideration of rewiring our S&T workshop – Winscombe Hut.

The landscape gardening section has been busy giving a ‘jolly good seeing to’ to the trees which were starting to grow through our telegraph wires near Walrus Junction and to the fir trees at the back of Radstock Box. A visit from the professionals to deal with two unrealistically large trees near Frome Cabin is anticipated. The team has also been working to complete King’s Park in anticipation of a formal opening in the Spring. This has involved painting the few remaining unpainted panels of spear fence, laying a short section of 1930’s concrete pavement – mainly to discourage rabbits from making holes in the pathway – and more planting, pruning, levelling and tidying work. We now await the final touch - a bench in memory of Eric King, a former member of the S&T gang, which is under construction as a homework project.

2009 brings us the 100th Birthday of Radstock Signalbox, something that we intend to celebrate on Saturday 2nd May during the ‘All in a Day’s Work’ event. We are not exactly sure when the ‘box signalled its first train but we do know that the structure was ordered from Reading Signal Works on 9th September 1908 so completion by May the following year does not seem unreasonable. The celebrations will include the Goring and Streatley Concert Band, which has one of the S&T gang as a member, a small exhibition, the inevitable speeches and of course a cake! Everyone is welcome – to the event, though not necessarily to the cake!

The sand drag to the rear of Radstock Box has been dismantled and disconnected by an S&T gang in order to allow the Permanent Way gang to relay three panels of track and a catch point over the Winter. Once this is done we will of course have to reinstate the sand drag and associated signalling connections.

Winter brings on the myriad of checks and minor maintenance routines necessary to keep the S&T equipment in order, and I’m pleased to report that the programme is well under way. As well as inspection and lubrication of all ground equipment this also involves removal of leaves, interlocking checks and lever frame maintenance. This year we have had to make adjustments to some of the pointwork detection, replace some signal wire pulley stanchions, both wooden and angle-iron types, and replace a defective battery charger in Radstock Box.

An inspection by those responsible for fire precautions has found a few minor issues with the use of our S&T Mess Van as overnight accommodation – as a result we have had to turn the vehicle so that the door faces out from the Carriage Shed and replace the electric heater with an approved type. This work having been completed we can once more retreat into the warmth when required.

 

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Newsletter 322 - November 2008

As usual Didcot annual Work Week at the beginning of August saw a concerted effort on S&T matters with some fifty-one man days being expended by the department. Our main project for the Week was the second and final phase of cable laying, undertaken as part of the Radstock Area Improvement Project. This involved laying the new armoured feed cable from Radstock box to Winscombe hut (the S&T workshop) together with a parallel telephone cable. The opportunity was also taken to lay cable largely in the same trench, to Kings Park to provide
an outdoor socket in this area. The cables necessarily followed a complex path, weaving their way between point rodding and being fed through the level crossing, so unlike the previous cable trenches this one has had to be dug entirely by hand. 

The work involved, amongst other things, dismantling part of the crossing decking, so the opportunity was taken to replace some of the poorer quality timbers.

Considerable progress was also made with the ongoing project to strip and paint the lengthy ‘spear’ fence which encloses King’s Park, opposite Radstock box. We are pleased to report that the painters have literally turned the corner and that the end of this task is now in sight.

As usual, Work Week provided an opportunity for an assault on encroaching vegetation. This involved the strategic deployment of hedge trimmers, mowers, strimmers, pruning saws and, of course, the traditional fork and pick-axe combination for weeding purposes.

Another mainstay of Work Week was painting and we had hoped to paint some signal posts this year. However the ‘magnificent summer weather’ precluded any major work of this kind.

It was still possible to complete some smaller painting jobs including the railings by Radstock Box gate, the boiler tube fence protecting the S&T Depot, and various smaller jobs such as completing the repaint of Winscombe Hut.

The installation of an improved removable barrier at the foot of Radstock box steps was completed in September. This is intended to make it harder for members of the public to stray too near the tracks on signal box talk days. Hopefully it also offers a neater and more railway-like appearance than its predecessor.

The S&T department prepared the GW pattern ‘stop’ sign and its associated post and ladder ready for erection by Didcot Halt as part of the Railmotor shed project. The sign was duly erected, to protect the ‘Branch extension works’, in September.

In the autumn we hope to progress the signal post painting which we were unable to achieve during Work Week, weather permitting. Having laid all the replacement cables in the Radstock area we will now be relying on the electrical department to do the connecting up but as a precursor to this we will need to prepare Radstock ‘Meter cupboard’ to receive the apparatus for the distribution of the electric fluid. There remains as always a level of general maintenance to keep the signalling system in good order.

 

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Newsletter 320 - May 2008

We are pleased to be able to report the successful conclusion of phase one of the renewal of the electricity supply to the Radstock Box, level crossing and Didcot Halt area. This entailed laying new supply cables from the Carriage Shed switch room to Radstock Box and from Radstock Box to the pagoda at Didcot Halt.  The trenches were mainly dug by hired mini-digger in the capable hands of Richard Jermyn (Zep), but were hand dug, in places 'where mini-diggers fear to tread' by a Signal and Telegraph gang, and friends. Due to an error on the supply front, by he who must not be named, the cables themselves were not laid on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November as originally planned, but were laid by a rather smaller gang, with the assistance of the Civil Engineering team, the following weekend. Our thanks to the team, to Zep, and of course to the members of the Electrical Department for their organisational skills and practical assistance. Subsequent workparties saw the re-instatement of paths, and generally making good, in advance of the Santa season. Finances permitting we hope to undertake phase two, involving a new supply cable from Radstock Box to Winscombe Hut (the S&T workshop) and some distribution panels, this summer.

Limited further work has been undertaken on King’s Park opposite Radstock Box. A slab base has been laid on top of the viewing mound for the new park bench and a couple of stone steps installed to reach the mound. We have also been doing some gardening work, involving grass seeding some of the newly landscaped area, adding some new shrubs and moving some existing ones - which were inevitably ‘in the wrong place’. All such work at this location is necessarily a battle against the ‘wetched wabbits’ and suitable fortifications have been required to protect the young plants from their attentions. We have also made a start on wire-brushing and painting the newly installed railings, this is expected to be an ongoing job for quite some time!

The timber repairs to the London end of Frome Cabin have been completed and prepared for painting. In the early part of the year our workparties have been alternating between the freezing cold and the torrentially wet, both of which are more conducive to overcoats than top coating, but now that spring has officially arrived we will now doubt be treated to a succession of warm and sunny days which will allow us to complete the task. Thanks to last year’s wasp infestation we have some limited repairs and repainting to do to Radstock Box as well. The first wasp of 2008 has already been spotted in the box and we trust that this does not bode ill for the future.

With the new Mess Van steps cleared from Wotton-under-Edge Signal Works and seeing active service at Didcot (and now having been painted in a fetching shade of black, to make them difficult to spot in the dark!) the Works has turned its talents to cycle restoration. Some years ago we acquired a 1920s(?) period bicycle for decorative use as the Radstock Signalman’s Bicycle, restoration of this is now under way, involving many visits to the local cycle shop for replacement parts from the back of high dusty shelves! During preparation for a repaint of the frame it was noted that the cycle bears a stamped serial number 96462 – Does anyone have the Ian Allan spotters guide for signalman’s bicycles?

Over the winter we have persevered with the S&T maintenance, gardening, tidying and minor repairs essential to ensuring the continued manicured appearance of the Branch Line. Particular items of note include straightening and reinforcing a bent crutch stay, removing an offending tree adjacent to Walrus Junction, replacing the level crossing finials, replacing Frome battery charger with a 240v model (twice – don’t ask!) and a jolly good oiling round.

The 2008 work plan is essentially to do more of the same. Having recently repainted both signalboxes, we now turn to repainting signal posts. Together with phase two of the electricity supply project, the completion of King’s Park and the usual S&T maintenance, this will probably keep us amused. We intend to have our usual presence at Work Week, which is always a good chance to make friends and influence people – anybody wishing to join in the fun is encouraged to do so!

As always we would welcome assistance with any of these projects at our broadly fortnightly workparties. The dates of these, and much more information about signalling matters at Didcot, can be found on the Bristol Group’s web site.

 

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Newsletter 317 - October 2007

Matters S&T have pottered on since our last update, though things to do with the signalling itself have settled down to basic routine maintenance.

Turning to infrastructure work, we have completed the restoration of the lamp hut rescued from Bridport, and have subsequently filled it with ‘useful’ objects.  We have also taken the opportunity to repaint the adjacent ‘Tetbury Rooms’ and ‘Winscombe’ hut as they looked shabby by comparison.

Much progress is evident in the development of King’s Park opposite Radstock Box. This park will provide a better destination for those tempted to cross the level crossing on Signalling Operating Days, and will also open up some new photographic vantage points.  We have erected a considerable length of recovered spear fencing to enclose an area approximately six times the size of the original photographers’ compound, A considerable amount of landscaping is also taking place in the park, with a ‘woodland’ path being constructed along the fence line and a large mound developed, on which a park bench will eventually be placed. Several self-seeded elders have been removed and a programme of planting more interesting shrubs and trees is under way. Some grass seeding will follow in the autumn. We will also need to paint the railings!

The work on the 240v installation within Frome Signal Cabin has been completed by our suitably competent persons and now simply awaits the imminent arrival of the volts themselves, after which we will be able to enjoy the benefits of the new-fangled electric current.

We have completed most of an external repaint of Frome Signal Cabin, but have discovered some soggy timberwork in the lower panelling at the porch end.  Inevitably the soggy bit is one around which the rest of the box has been built, so considerable dismantling and reconstruction is in hand, after which the repainting can be brought to a conclusion.

New Mess Van steps have been designed and kit built at Wotton-under-Edge Signal Works. An erection at Didcot followed, and the new and much more stable structure awaits painting.

Outbreaks of repainting, gardening and tidying too numerous to mention, but essential to ensuring the continued manicured appearance of the Branch Line have continued throughout the summer. In particular we have completed repainting all the point rodding at Frome and the ‘South Devon’ pattern telegraph poles.

Our next project is the replacement of the inadequate, and ageing, electrical supply to Radstock Box, Didcot Halt and the S&T workshop.  The initial phase of this involves working with the site electrical department to bury some new and larger cables.  To this end we have arranged a weekend working party on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November during which these cables will be placed in trenches.  Most of the hard work will be done by hired mini-digger, but there are always places that cannot be reached and will need hand digging; you can never have enough hands to drag cables into place, so we would welcome anyone able to help, particularly on the Saturday.

As always we would welcome assistance with any of these projects at our broadly fortnightly workparties.  The dates of these, and much more information about signalling matters at Didcot, can be found on the Bristol Group’s web site.

 

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Newsletter 312 - January 2007

Radstock Signalbox was short listed for the Westinghouse Signalling Award at the National Railway Heritage Awards. The awards were announced on Wednesday 6th December and the winner was our good friends at the West Somerset Railway for their work on the signalling installation at Bishops Lydeard. It is always disappointing not to win, even against such tough opposition, so we will have to content ourselves with the pleasant and helpful comments made by the judges who inspected our work and in the knowledge of our own small contribution to the award winning Bishops Lydeard scheme.

For the record, we helped dismantle a large bracket signal at Dunster some years ago, which was scheduled for re-use at Lydeard, in exchange for a simple tubular post acquired for our own needs.

Regarding Didcot signalling, he National Railway Heritage Award judges were kind enough to comment that “The whole installation exudes an outstanding quality of detailed historical accuracy, correct materials, fine workmanship and ongoing maintenance. In many ways the Radstock / Frome installation is by far the best part of the Centre and its exhibits.”

In describing Radstock box, which they visited in August, they noted that “a vast amount of work has been undertaken by volunteer effort on reconstructing and restoring the box and its equipment and in creating a signalling installation, station and level crossing around it. The project won the ARPS/Railway Heritage 'Best Restored Signalbox' Award in 1989. Over the last 10 years or so a sizable programme of refurbishment and enhancement has been undertaken.”

“The signal box's external finish is superb, with renovation and repainting only recently completed, while the brickwork in the base and the re-slated roof have mellowed to give the appearance that it has always been there. Entrance is via an authentic wooden staircase leading from a traditionally paved area, neatly fenced with GW iron railings. There is a neat little well-maintained garden at the foot of the steps and fire buckets on the stairs. Nearby is a genuine corrugated iron (fireproof) lamp hut (as there should be) - the signals are lit by oil when night running takes place - together with a set of train staff exchange posts and nets. As the installation uses large staffs, rather than the more common tokens, this is probably unique. ”

“Inside the box, the declared aim of portraying the 1930's period is successfully realised. No concessions are made to modernity; rather there is a wealth of period detail, which brings the past to life. The attention to detail is exemplary; an enamel wash basin rests in its metal stand, an appropriate tea pot, kettle and water can sit with the iron 'Nelson' stove, a GWR ink pot sits on the desk next to pens with 'GWR' on the nibs and a GWR train register. Notices have GWR headings. Such attention to detail characterises the whole installation.”

“The lever frame and associated gatewheel are beautifully finished and resplendent with brass nameplates. These were made for the current installation - but look correct - something not always achieved, while the originals are in the site museum. Some of the bright steel lever handles could be more burnished, although this is a problem with boxes used only occasionally and not heated. The frame dates from 1898 and is of the GW 'Double-Twist' locking type, of which very few now remain, and is thus of historical importance, as are the curious raised treads which were fitted to some of these frames (all marked GWR of course).”

“The block shelf and its instruments, together with the period style signalling diagram, are fine features, together with the gas lamp, skilfully adapted to electric operation controlled from a brass wall switch, all of which enhance the overall image. An interesting and historically important feature is the use of a large electric train staff machine, as used by the GWR before the introduction of the ubiquitous key token - there is even a supply of reproduction staff exchange hoops.”

“Talks and demonstrations on signalling are given to visitors on selected dates as part of the Centre’s education programme, another commendable aspect of the scheme.”

“The locking room is neatly laid out and the lead-off rod and wire runs have been well-planned and include a variety of components from different periods, including appropriate round rodding. A disappointing feature is the concrete stools supporting the lever frame. These date from the early days when resources were limited and skills were being learned. It will be very difficult to do much about them, but the Society is considering ways of masking them.”

“Externally the box is complimented by a number of interesting items, most prominently a level crossing with working gates. This features a sett-paved road surface, period cast-iron kerbs and flag-paved footway and period road signs. A most interesting example of how such things used to be. The signals are to a variety of designs from different periods with different types of posts and arms. There is even a trap point with associated sand-drag.”

“All the work has all been well-executed with evident attention to detail.”

In between accepting all this praise, we have moved ahead with our winter work plan as described in the December Newsletter

The ‘Bridport’ corrugated-iron hut is now complete and clad, and just awaits warmer weather for painting and the arrival of some ordered timber to permit fitting of a floor. We now need to find somewhere to store all the S&T equipment that was moved so that we had somewhere to put the hut!

The new electrical supply cable to Frome Mineral Junction box has been trenched and buried and we are working on the termination box, which will ultimately fit unobtrusively inside the cupboard in the locking room.

We have also undertaken the repairs to the S&T workshop floor, which proved to be due to some tree roots pushing up the sleeper floor. These have now been ‘terminated’. The exercise was not a straightforward one as it involved lifting some of the sleepers forming the floor, which involved removing some of the cupboards and shelving which was standing on those sleepers, which involved removing vast quantities of tools, nuts and bolts and miscellaneous spares and hardware from said shelves and cupboards and then returning all items afterwards. Needless to say the opportunity for a good sort out was also taken!

As always we would welcome assistance with any of these projects at our broadly fortnightly workparties.  The dates of these, and much more information about signalling matters at Didcot, can be found on the Bristol Group’s web site.

 

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Newsletter 311 - December 2006

Following the department’s excellent progress at work week, during which many of the final details of the Radstock Signalbox and District refurbishment were completed, we have now moved ahead with several of our other maintenance and enhancement projects.

We are rebuilding and re-erecting the corrugated-iron hut which we recovered from Bridport last year. So far, we have removed all the original corrugated iron from the frame. The angle iron frame has been repaired and rebuilt and new lengths provided on the base, where the old ones had rusted to a point of non-existence. Specially ordered curved corrugated sheets have now been delivered and will shortly be fitted to the frame to form the new roof, as the original panels were beyond repair. We are hopeful that much of the original wall cladding can be re-used with some patching.

The main post of Signal F3, the short one at the end of the Transfer Shed platform, has attracted some rot and will therefore need to be replaced. A new specially tapered and pressure-treated piece of timber has been delivered and put into store, ready for us to tackle this work after Christmas when the trains have stopped running.

As part of the new electrical supply to the north end of the site, we will shortly be receiving a supply of 240 volts to Frome Mineral Junction box for the first time. To this end we will need to dig a cable trench across the tracks in front of the box to meet up with the machine dug trench in the path. We will also need to fabricate a suitable termination for the supply inside the ’box – a project which will include switching over our battery charging and lighting functions from the existing 110v supply.

The excavations for the cable entry to the box necessitated moving the old oak water butt, which exercise proved too much for said butt, which is now time expired and in need of replacement. It is not possible to replace it from the original supplier of some fifteen years ago, so by way of our special reader offer we would be most grateful if any society member could put us in contact with a source of second hand wooden barrels suitable for the purpose, and at a price we can afford!

Other maintenance projects which we will be tackling over the winter months, include replacing the boarded walkway in front of Frome ’box, some repairs to signal R3/5 – the small bracket adjacent to Didcot Halt, and repairs to the S&T workshop floor.

As always we would welcome assistance with any of these projects at our broadly fortnightly workparties. The dates of these, and much more information about signalling matters at Didcot, can be found on the Bristol Group ’s web site at: www.r.heron.btinternet.co.uk

 

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Newsletter 307 - May 2006

It is very pleasant, now that spring approaches once more, to look back over what has been achieved in winter. Byron famously suggested, that in England the winter ends in July, to recommence in August; but working, paintbrushes in hand and warm spring sun upon our backs, to prepare Radstock Box for its eager Easter visitors, it would be hard for even the members of the S&T department to aspire to such levels of cynicism.

The really good news for us is that we now have the signalling system fully operational again for the first time since the unpleasantness of Easter 2003. The final elements of this were completion of the level crossing surface at Radstock, and the re-instatement of the track circuiting relating to Walrus Junction.

The level crossing surface was nearly the final element in the ‘grand re-organisation of cobbles’ project which has seen us move and re-lay nearly every stone sett in the vicinity of Radstock Box. The inspiration for this work goes back to 1989, when the judges’ report relating to our entry of the ‘box for an Ian Allan award, noted that the least convincing aspect of the whole recreated scene was the road surface. As the judges were kind enough to give us the award that year, we thought it fair to take notice of their only criticism, hence the new pavement, and the re-organised and much more neatly laid setts which we have achieved the second time around.

The fact that it has taken us some fifteen years to get around to this should not be taken to imply a lack of commitment but rather to a question of priorities! For the record, absolutely the last bit of the project, involved relaying the rather untidy area of hardstanding at the foot of Bodmin water tank ladder - this too has now been done. I understand that the Civil Engineer has a few thoughts on ‘areas which would look nice in stone setts’, but I dare not mention these for fear of a revolting workforce, so I think we can now look forward to a sustained cobbling-free period.

The track circuiting was a major exercise, as Walrus Junction point had not simply been re-timbered as part of relaying the Branch line, but most of the rails had been changed as well. This meant that new holes had to be drilled to take all the ‘goalposts’ needed to make the electrical connections to the rail, and all four fishplate bolt holes needed to be opened up to take non-conducting material wherever an insulated joint was required. All this implies a level of access to the track which could not easily be achieved during an open day, so we are pleased to have completed this work before the spring Thomas weekend.

We have also managed to use the winter ‘closed’ period to undertake other minor but essential maintenance works. All this means that everything works again, though it is slightly alarming to note that it is very nearly three years since all aspects of the signalling system were available for use. Hopefully we can now proceed with the somewhat delayed passing out of our trainee signalmen, as this has not been possible with an incomplete system. We have at least one more aspiring trainee waiting to join us, but if anyone else is interested, please do get in touch.

In addition to all of the above we have continued the repaint and refurbish of Radstock Box, which is hopefully entering its final phase, and have also been redoing the lighting in the locking room and in our workshop.

Working parties continue on a broadly fortnightly basis, and if you’d like to know more, or would consider joining us just look at our website: www.r.heron.btinternet.co.uk

The department's thoughts inevitably drift to Work Week at this time of year, in a process that we like to pretend constitutes forward planning. As usual what we ‘might do’ will depend on progress in the next few months, on the weather, and not least on who cares to join us in our labours. However I can say that we will definitely have a presence on site all week from 29th July until at least 4th August, and the favoured projects at present are the repainting and refurbishment of a couple of signal posts and hastening the completion of the group's 'other project' - the cosmetic restoration of Hand Crane No. 205.

The signals to be dealt with are the slotted post Mackenzie and Holland type providing the starting signals for the mixed-gauge side of the transfer shed, and the post with the sighting board, near to the 'policeman's hut'. The Hand Crane project was not too far from completion, when the complete reconstruction of the branch line with the consequent implications on the signalling infrastructure became a priority. As a result of this we have not progressed the crane restoration for some three years, but we are now in a position to complete the work.

Work Week will no doubt also involve other painting, tidying and repairing, which taken with the sophisticated company which the department provides, surely constitutes an offer that is difficult to refuse. If you’re tempted, why not contact us via our website or ‘vote’ for Signal and Telegraph on the enclosed Work Week form.

 

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Newsletter 303 - October 2005

Volts and Amps, or rather the lack thereof, have been bothering us all summer. Firstly some of our signalbox cells started failing to deliver the required power, but considering they were given to us free of charge, more than twenty years ago on the basis that they were no longer serviceable we did not complain. We just removed the offending items, connected in the spares, and carried on.

Then one of our battery chargers failed and a few more of our elderly cells decided to quit in protest. So we reconnected things and carried on. Then the power supply to the box failed entirely, and a few more cells went off to meet their maker. The power supply was reinstated, thanks to Messrs. Jarvis and Sparey, and as we were now running short of spare cells, we borrowed some spare 08 cells, connected it all up and carried on.

However with cells continuing to shuffle off this mortal coil, and the spare 08 cells not looking to be long for this world either, we decided that drastic action was called for and have installed a new battery charger and all new batteries in Radstock Box and will shortly be installing new batteries in Frome. These new batteries are not of the correct railway type, as the real thing would have cost us several thousand pounds, but we hope they will solve the problems we have been experiencing.

In any case the new batteries will be hidden out of the way and the old ‘proper S&T’ batteries will remain in situ for display purposes and for powering the omnibus telephones.

In the meantime Work Week has come and gone. Unfortunately several of our regulars were not able to attend as much as usual, for a whole host of reasons, so numbers and consequent achievement were both down on previous years. Nevertheless all the Radstock level crossing gates were fully repainted, our vegetation was given a good seeing to adjacent to both signalboxes, and work on repairing and repainting Radstock Box progressed spectacularly.

The latter involved a relatively modest repair to the woodwork, which perversely required the removal of the box steps as a unit, with thanks to Maurice Williams and the diesel crane. With the steps removed, the actual repairs were fairly quickly conducted, though as always a few words conceal several days’ hard graft, and Maurice was summoned once more for the purposes of replacement (of the steps, not of Maurice!). Much cleaning and rubbing down of paintwork was undertaken in preparation for the box repaint and as I write the repaint is well under way with only the windows, doors and steps still requiring topcoat.

We have also taken the opportunity to release jamming windows, replace rusting hinges and repair various other ills which inevitably afflict buildings which are rapidly approaching their centenary.

Working parties continue into the Autumn, with the next one being scheduled for Sunday 23rd October. As always, we can be contacted via Didcot, or check out our website.

 

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Newsletter 301 - June 2005

Work has continued on the Level Crossing and on the track circuiting, but neither exercise is complete as I write. The delivery of the big timber for the level crossing surface (consisting of six pieces 7 inches by 12 inches by 30ft – Now that’s what I call decking!), was slightly delayed by the transit of No 5051’s bogie wheelset, and consequently they were fitted in May and not April as originally planned. It remains to relay the stone setts in the ‘six-foot’ and to complete the repainting of the gates, and we shall have a nice shiny level crossing once more.

We have also indulged in the minor diversion of a general tidy up at the Broad gauge end of the signalling display in preparation for the arrival of the great and the good for ‘Fire Fly’s’ launch. This has involved a great deal of cleaning of paintwork, slapping a spot of paint about and tidying up the point rodding where track repairs had threatened it with being buried ‘alive’.

Our hunt for Great Western ‘spear’ fencing finally paid off with the discovery of the identity of the contractors who were replacing the platform fencing at Keyham, Plymouth. A flurry of e-mails and a day trip to Devon secured ‘as much as we could carry’, and a subsequent trip with a small truck has provided us with enough fencing to extend the ‘photographers’ compound’ opposite Radstock Signalbox, with a bit left over for other purposes. Thanks very much to all those involved. Thanks also to Colin Craig who is working to remove the remains of the large dead tree opposite the box so that this extension can take place.

The next event on the S&T Calendar is the S&T Open Day on Sunday July 17th. We will not only be offering the usual signalbox talks at Radstock but also a chance to look at some of the historic ground equipment and the very rare opportunity to see inside our ‘broad-gauge era’ Frome Mineral Junction Signal Cabin’ which is normally inaccessible to visitors as it is the ‘wrong’ side of the running line. We hope to transport visitors to Frome Cabin in the Wickham Trolley, if repairs to it can be completed in time. Why not come and see what we’ve been up to?

Our programme of, mainly Sunday, working parties continues into the summer, and we would always welcome more assistance. The next is on 19th June.

We are also planning for our summer ‘bash’ at the Didcot Annual Work-Week, from Saturday July 30th to Saturday August 6th. Our main activities are expected to involve painting Radstock signalbox and restarting work on the GWR Hand Crane No. 205, which has been somewhat sidelined whilst the Branch line has been rebuilt. As well as this we have our usual extensive list of small items to be repaired, repainted, buried, dug-up, weeded, re-designed, mown, disposed-of, moved, replaced etc. as appropriate. There will also be some ‘fun’ evening activities to divert our energies should we have any left over. For more information, we can be contacted via Didcot, or check out our website.

 

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Newsletter 300 - April 2005

We are delighted to be able to report that for the first time in nearly two years, with a couple of minor exceptions, the branch line is fully signalled once more. Both boxes were recommissioned in mid January and since then the necessary repairs and adjustments have been made to make the system work properly. The minor exceptions mentioned above are the track circuiting and the final connection to the Transfer Shed point. Regarding the former we have made a lot of progress, but there is probably another couple of days work before we can complete this task. The connection to the point, awaits completion of the track repairs, but will need to be carried out before the launch of ‘Fire Fly’.

We should like to extend a huge ‘Thank You’ to all those Groups and individuals who responded to our ‘World’s Smallest and Least Exciting Appeal’ for help in purchasing the timber to resurface the level crossing. I am pleased to be able to report that this exercise is now fully funded and the timber is on order. If all goes to plan we might even have been able to install the timber by the time you read this, as our work parties on 10th and 17th April have been set aside for this purpose. Installation is of course entirely dependent on delivery, but we remain hopeful of a speedy outcome.

Other work at present centres on general tidying, fettling and cleaning of the signalling apparatus after a period of disuse, and following the winter. It seems it must soon be spring and time for the Works Rabbits to start eating our summer bedding once more! In particular we are trying to tidy the area controlled by Frome Cabin, in anticipation of the eyes of the world being upon us at the ‘Fire Fly’ launch.

Our programme of, mainly Sunday, working parties continues into the spring, and we would always welcome more assistance. If you are interested we can be contacted at Didcot, or check out our website.

 

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Newsletter 298 - January 2005

2004 was not the easiest of years for the Signal and Telegraph Department, as with the major Branch Line trackwork relaying we have had to remove much of S&T equipment from the trackside and subsequently, with the completion of trackwork in the Spring, reinstate it! Nevertheless, it has provided us with the opportunity for some ‘improvements’ and repairs as we have gone along and we are pleased to be able to report that as of the end of the year the system is all but mechanically complete.

The only remaining mechanical linkages are those associated with the mixed gauge point in the Transfer Shed, which is still being ‘tweaked’ by the Civil Engineer and his equally civil team; and the connections to Walrus Junction Point and the Branch access gate, which are ready to go and will be re-instated when we are ready to re-commission Radstock Box during the winter ‘closed’ season.

The remaining major task to complete the signalling is to re-do the track circuiting on Walrus Junction point, which we will be undertaking in January/February. This involves opening out around 30 ‘fishplate-bolt’ holes in the rails, to allow for an insulating sleeve and also drilling a good many smaller holes to allow for track bonding wires and the attachment of other electrical connections. We are, hopefully, on course to recommence signalling operations as planned at the May Day Bank Holiday weekend.

I am pleased to report that following the needle-gunning and repainting of the ‘Bodmin’ water tower base last summer and James Ward’s repairs to the stop-cock, James has completed the job by some stunt-work in the tank itself replacing the ball-valve and remaking some dodgy joints. Thanks to everyone involved.

As you can see work on the branch line approaches the stage, where all is working and serene once more. However there is one repair that we are at present unable to carry out. You may recall us reporting that we had been unable to find sufficient timber of adequate quality to relay the level crossing surface where it had been removed to permit the relaying of the Branch curve.

It now looks as though we will have to purchase new timber for this purpose. The best way of doing this would be to buy pressure treated timber in as large a size as possible, this we believe to be 7 inches x 12 inches by 30 feet!. As you can imagine these are not cheap, and we need seven of them. We do have some funds in place and had hoped that the Society could make up the difference, but unfortunately the Society’s funds are a little tight at present and help will not be forthcoming from this source until later in the year.

We had really hoped to have the branch line back to ‘normal’ in time for the main operating season, which brings us to the ‘World’s Smallest and Least Exciting Appeal’ Could you help us make up the remaining few hundred pounds to purchase this timber? Brown envelopes containing used banknotes, or better yet cheques made payable to Great Western Society (Bristol Group), would be most warmly received. Thanks for your assistance.

In the meantime, our programme of, mainly Sunday, working parties will continue throughout the winter, and we would always welcome more assistance. If you are interested we can be contacted at Didcot or via our website.

 

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Newsletter 296 - October 2004

Another successful work week has passed with a further 45 man-days of effort expended on maintaining the signalling system and re-instating those parts removed for Branch Line track repairs earlier in the year. Unfortunately we were unable to make much progress on what had been intended as our major project, namely the new road surface on the level crossing, as we discovered a problem with ‘the wrong sort of wood’, or more correctly the wrong sort of rot in the right kind of wood.

It looks as though we shall have to obtain some new timber baulk for this purpose, rather than using the ‘second’ hand material as originally envisaged. Nevertheless we were able to undertake some preparatory work by fitting a number of new sprung steel rail keys (as it is impossible to keep a check on traditional wooden ones once the surface is down) and repairing some of the sleeper decking which had deteriorated recently. We have also taken delivery of some new timber to replace the adjacent foot crossing once the main crossing has been relaid.

In the absence of this work we were able to make good progress on the signalling system, such that all the rodding connected to Radstock Box has now been refitted. We now simply have to remake all the wire runs between the two boxes, rebuild the complex operating mechanism on Frome point and reinstate the track circuit connections at Walrus Junction. Once this is done, we will be in a position to make final connections and re-commission both boxes, hopefully before the next operating season.

In addition, Work Week saw the usual outbreak of painting and minor repairs. This year saw the S&T workshop (Winscombe Hut) windows were repaired and repainted, the capstan signal repainted, the branch access (Walrus) gate, which was repaired last winter, fully repainted, the new Radstock Box window top coated, and the boiler tube fence ‘re-bitumascticed’ once more.

A start was also made on repainting the level crossing gates and a rotten fence paling replaced on the approach fencing. Much cutting back of brambles, hedge trimming and weeding was undertaken – However this is something of an ongoing job as the brambles and weeds just keep on growing.

Our programme of, mainly Sunday, working parties will continue throughout the winter, and we would always welcome more assistance. If you are interested we can be contacted at Didcot or via our website.

 

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Newsletter 294 - June 2004

We are pleased to report much progress in the last few months. The crane has redeemed itself by helping with the repairs to the overhead signal wires, which it had previously helped to break whilst tracklaying. These repairs are now complete. Much of the point rodding, which required re-alignment due to altered track levels, has been dealt with and with the completion of the trackwork we can now start to re-connect the signalling gear to those items which it is intended to operate.

In addition the replacement sliding window for Radstock Signalbox has been manufactured and fitted and the other woodwork repairs to the box are well under way. Even better, we have very nearly finished the huge cobbling operation which has seen every stone sett on the Centre side of the crossing moved, many of them twice! Our in-house cobbling team has become very proficient in the ten months it has taken to achieve this, but will not be sorry to see the back of the operation. Nevertheless the finished product looks very good - do drop by and inspect our cobbles some time.

Turning now to Work Week, we intend to be on site from Saturday 31st July until the following Saturday. The major task scheduled for this event is to reinstate the road surface on Radstock level crossing where it has been removed to permit track relaying. This surface is mainly timber baulk, but just for old-time's sake will involve a small amount of stone setts. We also hope to make considerable progress on the continuing re-instatement of S&T equipment in general, and the ground level signal-wire runs in particular. As well as these primary objectives there will no doubt be plenty of miscellaneous gardening, painting, general tidying up and drinking of tea to be undertaken. All-comers welcomed - remember you don't have to be there all week; even a day's help will hasten completion.

In response to our invitation last time, we are pleased to welcome Steve Morris to our band of Box-talkers; we were also pleased to meet some more prospective volunteers at New Volunteers Day. Several people have been in contact with us in regard to our wish to obtain more GWR spear fencing, and we now have some contacts who might be able to put us in touch with those who remove it. What we now need to know is - where is there some fencing which is due to be removed? Can anyone help us any further in sourcing some more of this characteristic GWR fencing for Didcot?

 

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Newsletter 292 - March 2004

As predicted, we have been enjoying ourselves in attempting to keep up with the S&T requirements of the track gang and their Branch Line relaying activities. This has involved disconnecting all the point rodding and signal wires that cross the track anywhere on the Branch Line plus disconnecting the points at Frome and at Walrus Junction. This job has now been completed and we can start on the somewhat more protracted process of putting it all back again. We will also need to repair some rodding and wires that have inevitably been damaged by using a big JCB in a small space and indeed a tall crane in a short space! No criticism implied chaps; it certainly beats the alternative of manual track relaying.

So far we have reconnected the level crossing and all its associated stops to the signal box. This system has benefited from the gentle attentions of Mr. Gransden who has kindly welded up some boxes to retain the earth and ballast from around the operating mechanisms for the locks in the 6ft. These will almost certainly last longer than their timber predecessors, which have been donated to the Parks and Gardens Department and declared to be ‘Jolly Good Mulch’. We now turn our attentions to the long rodding run which heads down to Walrus Junction. We are not yet in a position to connect the point as there is trackwork to be done but there are still several crossings of the track to be dealt with. Unfortunately this is not simply a case or replacing rods from whence they came, as since the Branch curve now has a decent cant, not to mention a respectable ballast bed, we will need to make some adjustment for level. After that we expect to be turning our attentions to the Frome point.

A recent, regular inspection for rot on our Signalboxes, revealed that not only does one of Radstock’s windows need replacing, which we knew about; but also that the wood behind the lamp bracket at the Didcot Halt end of Box was held on more from the fine sense of tradition to be expected of GWR equipment than by any physical means, which we didn’t know about. The lamp has now been removed for renovation and the rot can be further investigated. Whilst we are about it we intend to make an accurate replica of the bracket that was originally used to support the lamp when the Box was at Radstock and before the whole assemblage was replaced with a more prosaic electric device. This can be seen in early photographs of the Box and is very different from the arrangement which we had previously installed at Didcot. We do not, however intend to restore the contemporary gas-lamp to the unit, but will replace the existing electric ‘oil-lamp’ for the sake of convenience.

Also as predicted, we have progressed with the cobbles. Having completed the level crossing approach ramp and started on the replacement of the ‘white cobbles’, we are hopeful that this is a saga which is approaching its end, albeit not as rapidly as we might wish. Just to add to the cobbling fun we are also about to start relaying the area of cobbles adjacent to Bodmin water tank. This area has been dug up partly to release grey cobbles for the level crossing area, but mainly to allow attention to be given to the leaking stopcock controlling the supply to the tank. The plumbing has now succumbed to treatment by James Ward and we will shortly be starting to relay the stone setts, only this time with white ones! James meanwhile will be tackling a plumbing leak inside the tank itself, which is most definitely a job for the warmer weather.

Thanks to those who responded to our appeal for help in our last article but if you missed that chance to join in the fun then the next opportunity arises on the New Volunteers Day, Saturday 24th April when, in the spirit of the new wave of interactive heritage railway galas, we will be offering all-comers the chance to, yes, lay a cobble! Seriously if you are interested in getting a little more involved this is a good chance to check us out, with no obligation. If outdoor work is not for you, then there are two further opportunities for you get involved, one of which doesn’t even involve coming to Didcot. Firstly we are looking to increase the ranks of ‘box-talkers’ who give ten-minute talks on the basics of signalling to interested members of the public in Radstock Box on major Open Days. This is generally done in groups of three staff on any given day, and full training is provided, so you don’t have to be a signalling expert or a brilliant public speaker, though a degree of interest and an ability to chat is of course invaluable.

Secondly we are looking to acquire some more GWR unclimbable (spear) fence, partly with a view to increasing the size of the public viewing area opposite Radstock Box and partly with a view to some long-term ideas that the most civil engineer has. We need about ten panels for our project whilst the courteous engineer will as always take as much as he can get. We know that the big railway is removing this fencing, but have no idea where it goes – does anyone out there know who we should talk to? Any clues gratefully received via Didcot or contact us via our website.

 

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Newsletter 290 - December 2003

‘A load of old cobblers’, is what we seem to have become, as we continue to relay the stone setts behind Radstock box. All those immediately behind the box have now been relaid, and work on the ramp to the crossing is progressing well. The optimistic view is that we will finish this section before Christmas, but in practice we think it might take one further working party. This just leaves the area formerly laid with the ex-Bath setts, known colloquially as the ‘white cobbles’. We hope to relay this area with grey ex-London setts, displaced by the paving slabs last year, before the start of the main operating season.

This gives us something of a challenge as the Permanent Way gang also intend to replace completely the ‘Walrus Junction’ point and to re-timber the point outside Frome cabin in the New Year. This means that we will need to remove the S&T gear from these points and subsequently re-instate it, together with all the S&T equipment that has already been removed to allow the plain track to be relaid. Then of course there is the level crossing to be rebuilt and other general maintenance tasks to be carried out, so it can be seen that we have plenty to do.

Therefore we are making the unusual step of publicising our working party dates rather more widely than usual, and extending an invitation to the wider readership to come and help with these tasks. Jobs are available to suit (almost) all abilities and ages! The dates are:

Monday December 29th
Sunday January 11th
Saturday January 24th
Sunday 8th February
Saturday/Sunday 21st/22nd February

Please let us know you’re coming, get more details, by e-mailing us via our website or by writing via Didcot – or just turn up and look for us in the vicinity of Radstock Box. As usual, more details of the signalling project can be found on the Bristol Group website.

 

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Newsletter 289 - October 2003

‘Mad Scots and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ (With apologies to Noel Coward, as we didn’t have a dog, only a pet Scotsman). Nevertheless with the temperatures in the 90’s, and the rest of the country sitting on a beach (probably Weymouth, in the best GWR tradition), early August found the valiant stalwarts of your S&T Department indulging in the far from restful activity of laying stone setts. This activity will no doubt prove to be the enduring memory of Work Week 2003.

However in addition to the cobbling, which saw the entire area at the back of Radstock Box re-laid to a level of quality hitherto unachieved on site, much else was done. With the Man-day-o-meter slightly up on last year, at an excellent 66, and in spite of a marked increase in tea and ice-cream breaks occasioned by the heat, several minor repairs were undertaken, notably to Radstock porch floor and to Frome Board crossing, and the usual excess of painting and gardening was also noticeable. Those items painted included the remodelled fencing at the entrance to Radstock Box, the level crossing and Somerset County Council road signs, the signal location cabinets and the plunge detection for Frome signals 1/2.

We should also like to thank the Young Volunteers' Working Party for painting the long fence by Bodmin tank with Bitumastic paint, before the start of work week, which certainly saved us one job.

The leather on the staff set-down post pad serving Frome box had deteriorated to the point where it needed replacement. This is a heavy object which once removed from its post required four people to remove it from site. The leather replacement is being undertaken professionally by a firm of saddlemakers near to Bath Racecourse.

The strength of the employees of this company is impressive and can be judged by the fact that the pad was lifted from our Treasurer’s car single-handedly by a very obliging young lady. The fully refurbished pad will soon be returned to its rightful position.

In addition to all this, one rather sad duty of work week was to demolish the remains of the timberwork surrounding the rails of the main running line through the level crossing – that is to say that timberwork which had not previously been demolished by a recalcitrant small engine earlier in the year.

Whilst it is never the happiest of tasks to undo work already done, it has to be admitted that the planking was no longer in the first flush of youth. The work was necessary to permit the relaying of the branch line curve, and the crossing will be fully reinstated once this work has been completed.

Work Week was concluded with a visit to the Oxford Bus Museum. This is a very impressive organisation that has successfully purchased its site from the railways, at a price it could afford, and has subsequently enjoyed the grant-aid that such security of tenure can bring. They have a magnificent collection of buses, which are well presented in context, yet the focus of the museum is still clearly on the buses themselves. Some very thoughtful people returned from that trip.

The decision taken at the end of August to close the Branch demonstration line to passenger trains, in view of the deteriorating state of the trackwork, has impacted rather badly on the signalman training programme. With no trains to signal, practical experience has been found impossible to organise. Still there is always next year. As usual, more details of the signalling project can be found on the Bristol Group website.

 

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Newsletter 286 - May 2003

The S&T Department, in common with the Civil Engineering Department spent the early part of the winter messing about with drains. In our case, it was the rainwater drains at the rear of Radstock Box, which required a slight relocation due to the installation of the new cast-iron downpipes, and which also required unblocking as they had ceased to remove the water at a rate faster than the rainfall could deliver it. Inevitably this meant that the whole assemblage needed to be dug up and this activity resulted in the appearance of two large holes behind the box and a great deal of technical adjustment over a couple of Sunday working parties.

We were pleased that during this period the catering department thought fit to provide traditional Sunday roasts once more, something much enjoyed by our workparty members. Indeed something similar must have happened to inspire the Bard himself to write ‘Now is the winter of our drain event, made glorious by this ton of pork’.

After a brief interlude to recover from this appalling mistreatment of English Literature and, arguably more significantly, to assist the ‘boys’ of the Permanent Way department with some major relaying work on the Branch Line, work continued in the spring. We had for long felt that, to really finish off the back of the box nicely, a decent pavement was required. There were also some other features, dating back to the early days of the signalling project, that really didn’t ‘look right’, such as the meandering spear fence by the box gate and a confusion of levels by the lamp hut.

Readers with a remarkable memory for trivia may recall that we had acquired some cast iron kerbs from Bristol Docks, and had some new concrete imitation flagstones delivered last summer. The opportunity has now been taken to make something of this collection of building materials. Firstly a large quantity of the granite setts has been removed from behind the box and stored temporarily. The kerbs and flagstones have been installed and at the time of writing merely await final grouting and a start has been made on relaying and adjusting the levels of the existing stone setts.

This latter activity will probably keep us amused for much of the rest of the year, as we will need to relay virtually all of the setts. However as part of this process we do hope to release the white setts, that were acquired from Bath many years ago, for use elsewhere on the site.

By way of another interlude, we had mentioned in passing to the Society’s arch-acquisitor Amyas Crump that if he ever came across a small to medium size corrugated iron hut, then we might in a year or so be looking to acquire one to increase the amount of covered storage in the S&T compound, and thus further reduce our trespass on the C&W, by removing more of our stores from their wagons. True to form he rang us, a few days later, to say he had been offered a hut in Dorset, which was available ‘free to a good home’ as its owner had failed to sell it on E-Bay (honestly!), and could we move it by Friday before it was ‘dismantled’ by JCB, as it was making a prestigious housing development look untidy.

A February day trip to Bridport was therefore called for by some of our members and Amyas’ lorry. The hut in question apparently started life at Burlescombe, so it should be amongst friends at Didcot. More recently it was taken into domestic service in Exeter, before being moved again to the garden in Bridport. We have now dismantled it and moved it back to Devon into temporary storage until transport to Didcot can be arranged.

Getting finally onto signalling matters we are pleased to report that we will be training two new signalmen this year. Hopefully in my next report we will be able to leave Bob-the-Builder-land and concentrate on rodding and wires once more.

I could not however possibly finish without extending our annual invitation to mad members everywhere to come and join us at Work Week - lots of maintenance gets done, paint-jobs get painted, outings are outed, tea is drunk, engines are driven, and we can’t of course forget all those stone cobbles just waiting to be relaid (we’d like to, but we just can’t). So if you can’t think of a good excuse for being anywhere else in the first week of August, come and lend us a hand. S & T Department - Cobblers to the Great Western Society ! (Part 2). As usual we can be contacted via Didcot office or via the Bristol Group website.

 

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Newsletter 282 - October 2002

As the autumn looms it must be time to report on the peak of high summer, Work Week. Along with the Civil Engineering Gang and the Museum’s Outdoor Gentlemen, the S&T Department once again put up a good showing with some sixty man days (and two woman days) of effort, largely dedicated to improving and maintaining the signalling display. In the absence of a major project this year lots of little things got done. Paint was applied to the railings near Radstock Box, Frome Lamp Hut, the Tetbury Hut, the ‘Beware of Trains’ sign, and the park bench, as well as to both the distant signals on the main demonstration line and to some parts of Radstock Box which it was considered would not last until the next full repaint.

As well as the painting and a few minor repairs, the prominent plastic rainwater downpipes at the rear of Radstock box have now been largely replaced with more appropriate cast iron materials. I say largely as the final foot or so at the bottom of these pipes has yet to be installed as we are awaiting final ground levels, which will not be determined until the new paving has been laid over the course of this winter.

We also took the opportunity to modify the battery shelf at Frome to improve access to the lower set of batteries, to repair the rail greaser, and to take delivery of the paving slabs for the Radstock project mentioned above.

In addition to all this hard work, time was found for an outing to Hook Norton brewery, probably the only brewery in the country still powered by a stationary steam engine! Naturally the S&T department had to soften its normally near teetotal position to sample the establishment’s finished product – to do otherwise would have been impolite and we were all on our best behaviour!

S& T workparties normally take place about once a fortnight on Sundays and we would always welcome new volunteers. Entering the world of high-tech we can offer the ‘Working Party Direct’ service whereby you can receive e-mail notification of future working parties. Whether you then attend the working party is of course entirely up to you! If you’d like to be added to our list please contact me via the website below, or via Didcot.

As always details of our activities are available on the Bristol Group Website.

 

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Newsletter 280 - June 2002

Winter and spring has seen us mainly involved in S&T work associated with various track relayings around the Centre – and even on occasions he S&T gang getting involved in assisting with the relayings themselves. But enough of this flexible working nonsense! The S&T works concerned were the main line ground frame and associated point indicator and various track-circuiting connections on the branch line. The ground-frame work involved disconnection to allow further trackwork retimbering to take place and subsequent reconnection.

The opportunity was also taken to fettle the various linkages and generally improve the arrangement. On the branch line two lengths of track had been replaced with concrete sleepers and this involved us in removing track circuit connections and bonds, and insulated rail joints. The replacement of these items again naturally provided opportunities for a nice bit of fettling, and there’s nothing like a nice fettle on a cold day!

Other winter work has involved some repairs to instrumentation and especially to the Radstock Box clock, which had started to read correctly on only two occasions per day. These occasions were both at 17 minutes past 7 when the signalmen is rarely on duty anyway, so it was realised that repairs and a clean were overdue.

We have received a generous donation of a GW signalbox hand lamp with ‘F N Box’ scratched in a somewhat primitive way on the side – could this be a reference to our very own Frome North Box, the name carried by Frome Mineral Junction cabin, in modern times, that is to say after 1895? This lamp was in poor repair and is currently being renovated using parts including coloured glasses which were also, separately, donated. The main component required to complete this work is a suitable burner assembly.

We have continued with our improvements to the environs of Radstock box, by further developing the woodland area opposite. We have cut down a self seeded elder untidily close to the track, the stump being removed by an enthusiastic party of Young Volunteers and the ground levelled and seeded with grass. This tree was one of three that will need to be similarly treated over the next few years. Lest anyone be concerned by the silvicultural implications of this move, it is good to note that the Young Volunteers Party have also planted an oak sapling, this time much further away from the track. Silver birch and laurel will be planted to further improve the signalman’s aspect.

The winter months have encouraged some of our members to eschew the cold and stay inside poring over books and papers in our continuing search for definitive histories of our two signalboxes, their contents and their associated signals and equipment. Much study of documents such as Bristol Committee Minutes, and Society Newsletters, together with visits to libraries and museums and assistance from many knowledgeable individuals has enabled us to unearth much new information. These studies are ongoing and may well merit an Echo article or two when complete. However the results of our researches to date are available on the Group Website at www.r.heron.btinternet.co.uk Look under [S&T Project] and then [History].

We are also engaged in rewriting our Signalman Training Manual, being the basic information given to new trainees. It had become rather out of date over the years and the format was somewhat tired so we have taken the opportunity to significantly revamp this important document. At the end of May we helped with the New Operating Volunteers Day, and during this several members expressed interest in training as signalmen, so it looks as though we may well soon be putting this manual to good use.

As always the S&T department intends to participate fully in Work Week from 3rd to the 11th August. We shall be drinking tea and beer and consuming crumpets etc. with the best of them and some of them are world class! We also hope to get some work done on S&T maintenance and are preparing a list of things which need oiling, painting, repairing or replacing, or in some cases all four. Should you wish to join us for this week of madness, or indeed just for a day or so, please let us know via Didcot or via our Group website. We’ve never yet turned down a volunteer. Even the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon (and surely therefore a Great Western man) must have attended as he makes a clear reference to it - ‘argument or a week, laughter for a month and a good jest for ever’ (Henry IV, Pt1, Act II, Sc2), so you would be in good company! Better description I cannot give, so if you want to know more . . .

 

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Newsletter 275 - October 2001

Unlike our esteemed colleague – the most Civil Engineer - we prefer to write our report of Work Week after the event, an approach which whilst perhaps reducing timeliness should at least ensure accuracy. A report on this follows shortly, but first to a matter which has, no doubt, been keeping you on the edge of your seat for several months. You will remember the saga of the signal worked from Frome 17 and Radstock 4 whose repair had started in March, with the simple intention of replacing the ‘green’ aspect glass. This had progressed, by June, to a ‘now it works – now it doesn’t’ situation which had completely failed to grip the attention of the nation in the way that Big Brother had, but was nevertheless a source of considerable annoyance to the S&T Department. The final solution when discovered, was predictably straightforward. Some idiot (namely your author) had connected the wires to the two balance weights the wrong way round with the result that the Radstock signalman was trying to lift a 70lb weight at a considerable distance. It should be noted, lest your author be thought a perfect fool, that he redeemed himself somewhat by being the first to spot the error – nobody’s perfect!

Turning, as promised, to Work Week, our regular team was very pleased to renew acquaintances with old friends as well as making some new ones. In total, we were able to contribute some 71 man-days to S&T maintenance during the week (or maybe I should say ‘person-days’ as we were favoured with the company of Gil all the way from South West Group for three days). The highest total on any one day, Tuesday actually, was 14. Our two major projects, namely the external repaint of Frome Signal Cabin and the replacement of the telegraph wires on our pole route with new heavier gauge wire, were both completed to a high standard. Additionally we indulged in a frenzy of gate painting such that we not only painted our own gate, protecting the branch link line, but also, at the request of the Civil Engineer, painted the ‘mixed-gauge’ gates giving access to the goods yard adjacent to the Transfer Shed.

We found time to repaint the Frome staff-exchange apparatus and several of the cast-iron notices along the branch line. Together with lots of tidying up, gardening and a plethora of minor repairs we were well satisfied with progress. We even had time to indulge in some ‘fun’ activities beyond our usual ‘tea drinking’. These included the Civil Engineer’s Crumpet Party, a Barbecue held by the Museum’s Outdoor Team to ‘finish off some spare sausages’, and a visit to the Bygones museum. This latter comprised an enormous collection of discarded objects, ranging from a Steam Roller to a Sinclair C5, housed in a former cowshed and barn. As well as being a fascinating collection in its own right, it also served as a warning to the S&T Engineer as to how his own garage might appear in twenty years time, if he doesn’t take more care.

Meanwhile, back at the branch, the story continues to be one of minor repairs and maintenance. The TRS -‘Train Ready to Start’ bells to Radstock and Frome boxes have both been restored to working order, as has the Omnibus telephone system. A reported fault on the site telephone system, leading to the lifting shop being asked to confirm what bell code they had just sent, was however later traced to a defective signalman! The clock in Radstock Box has finally stopped after more then twenty years use and has been taken to a specialist for cleaning and repair.

Progress continues to be made with preparations for signalling the short southwards (non-passenger) extension of the Branch Demonstration Line beyond Didcot Halt, when this finally occurs. All the components of the searchlight signal head have now been restored repaired or manufactured as necessary and this signal awaits the restoration of post and ladder and their subsequent erection, when the exact line of the extension can be determined. Similarly our Westinghouse signal motor has now been restored to health by Mike Hanscomb and is now back in on-site storage.

The S&T Engineer has started to consider what modifications will be required to the locking of Radstock box to incorporate these two signals, so more of this later.

We intend to open both Radstock and Frome boxes during the annual Photographers’ Evenings and would, as always, be delighted to see you.

 

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Newsletter 272 - June 2001

We have always been enthusiastic adherents to the principle of ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ but are now tempted to extend this principle to include the concept that ‘even if it is broke, you will find that on occasions, fixing it will involve you in a great deal more work and general inconvenience than you would imagine possible’. It is accepted that this new principle lacks the punch of the original adage but it does fully describe current difficulties which all started with the discovery of a defective green aspect in the slotted signal, which is worked from Frome 17 and Radstock 4. This aspect had suffered the usual chemical breakdown problem resulting in a white film forming on the surface of the aspect ‘glass’ (actually a type of plastic known as Cobex). The Group signal arm restorer was prevailed upon to undertake the work of replacing the ‘glass’ and repainting the arm on the basis that it was removed from the post.

This was duly undertaken in sub-zero conditions after a signalbox open day in early March. Proving impossible to separate the arm from the spindle it proved necessary to disconnect the whole mechanism from the post, which is not the most pleasant activity at 6pm on a freezing March evening 20ft up a post. Once on the ground the aspect was duly replaced, the arm repainted and the assembly replaced on the post in good time for the next operating day. The only problem was that the signal no longer operated – it would neither give a good ‘off’ nor return properly to danger. The problem was eventually diagnosed as a poorly designed and supported, and now weakened, down rod (the one that runs up the post from balance weight to arm).

A new rod was duly designed, manufactured and fitted and behold, after some adjustment, the signal worked properly again. It was noted however, that a block of wood attached to the base of the signal post (on which was mounted a frame carrying the pulley wheels around which the chains operating all the signals on this post run) had a severe case of rot and it was therefore scheduled for immediate replacement. On a subsequent occasion all the signal wires were disconnected the rotten block removed and a new one installed. The wires were reconnected, the system adjusted and sure enough the signal had ceased to function properly again. No amount of adjustment on the wire could produce a good Great Western ‘off’ of 45 to 60 degrees. At the time of writing this latest fault is still being investigated but perhaps this experience will teach us not to interfere – though on past form, I very much doubt it!

On a happier note the eventual resumption of tolerably dry and warm weather has allowed us to undertake all the little outdoor painting jobs that our winter activities had generated. Talking of warmer weather leads us inexorably to thoughts of Work Week where this year's ‘big’ projects are a full repaint for Frome Signal Cabin and the replacement of our telegraph wires with some of a heavier gauge in an attempt to discourage their tendency to tangle. As always we would be delighted if additional members would like to join our gang in undertaking ‘the finest work in England’ and of course the tea drinking.

Work Week this year runs from Saturday 28th July to Sunday 5th August and we expect to have a presence on site on all of these dates. If you’d like to join us on any of the days look for us in the vicinity of the Branch demonstration line. For those disinclined towards the major jobs there will undoubtedly also be our usual enormous selection of minor painting, gardening, repair and tidying up jobs that get done on such occasions. See you there, or let us know if you’re planning to attend by contacting the Didcot Office. We are, as always, happy to see volunteers for the whole week, for a single day or for any variation in between. However if your attendance is limited we will be better able to make use of you on non-running days, in other words Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. We look forward to seeing all our regulars and any newcomers.

 

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Newsletter 271 - May 2001

It’s finally been declared to be the wettest winter since 1776 – a time so distant that even the Signalling Engineer himself can only vaguely recall it! This has proved something of an obstacle to outdoor work, bearing in mind the delicate constitution of S&T technical staff – unlike those nasty, rough men of the P-Way department who seem to positively revel in working in a downpour! However I’m pleased to place on record that we have not been entirely idle but have instead concentrated on rushing out into the rain, unbolting something and then taking it somewhere nice and warm to restore, refurbish and repaint, before reinstating it in weather conditions that had by then often deteriorated to falling snow. Items dealt with in this way over the winter include several of our visitor information boards, the two road lamp tops adjacent to the level crossing, a signal arm, both the staff exchange apparatus ladders and a selection of signal lamps. This now leaves us with a legacy of numerous small outdoor painting jobs, where these items have been unbolted, new brackets fitted etc. which we will tackle if we ever get a dry day.

Further work has also been undertaken on the Westinghouse signal motor and the searchlight signal which are both now well on the way to completion. Before we can use either of them we will of course have to erect the necessary posts (which are in store at Didcot) at the London end of Didcot Halt platform, together with running the necessary cables and making the related modifications to Radstock locking frame. Before any of this, if the finished result is not to look ridiculous, we will need as a minimum, to make a short extension of the Branch Line into the centre sidings area. All of which goes to suggest that persons waiting to see these two new signals operational would be ill advised to hold their breath.

The ‘closed’ season after Christmas provided the opportunity to complete the rewiring of Radstock box. This has now been done and fully tested. Replacing all the low voltage signalling wire within the box with PVC insulated wire, instead of the original which was becoming only partially insulated with rubber, should avoid any unpleasantness in the future. However just when we were all looking forward to meetings without discussions of volts and amps the Assistant S&T Engineer (Electrical) has announced his intention to rebuild and ‘improve’ the fuse board in Radstock box, so watch this space.

One project which did require our venturing into the great outdoors was the S&T work in connection with the relaying of the main demonstration lines access point. Some years ago we had provided a ground signal by way of a point indicator to discourage locomotive crews from taking their charges through trailing points which were locked against them and thereby bending the metalwork. A strategy which, it should be noted, has proved completely successful. To allow unobstructed JCB access to the point relaying and to expedite spot re-sleepering on the link line it was necessary to remove the signal wire with all its pulleys and their supporting stakes – and of course to reinstate them when the P-Way job was complete. This was not of course as easy as it sounds – you cannot hammer stakes in the ground with the pulley casting still attached, at least not if you want the pulley casting complete at the end of the exercise – so all the pulleys had to be unbolted, often making more use of a hacksaw than a spanner. Completion of the exercise took place in falling sleet.

Whilst we were working on this task it was pointed out that whilst there was a lamp correctly bolted to the adjacent rail access gate, the lid of this lamp was in the General Manager’s office. This being an obviously undesirable state of affairs we retired once more to our warm dry place clutching both lamp and lid, grateful to have found an indoor job once more.

We have also found it necessary to make some repairs to the pole route in the vicinity of Frome Box where a large portion of tree bounced of the wires whilst engaged in breaking-off during a winter gale. The branch itself was quickly despatched by chainsaw, courtesy of the GWS forestry department, but we needed to restore a telegraph pole to the vertical and to re-tension some of the wires before normal service was resumed.

Finally we are pleased to congratulate Kevin Hampton and Andy Braben on becoming fully qualified Signalmen having completed their training and successfully passed a string of theory and practical examinations. Well done, chaps!

 

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Echo 151(accompanying Newsletter 267)- October 2000

Things progress, although not as rapidly as we might sometimes hope. Work Week has come and gone with a thoroughly enjoyable time had by all; cruising down the river on a steamboat, leisurely trips to local hostelries, the Civil Engineers' celebrated tea and crumpets evening, and we even managed to get a bit of work done in the intervening periods. The S&T department was very pleased to welcome up to thirteen people each day, including several new faces that that we hope to see again in the future.

There was serious consideration given at one point to renaming this year’s event ‘National Fence Week’ for whilst the Civil Engineering gang spent their week beating panels of spear fencing with sledgehammers down at the rapidly emerging Oxford Road station, the S&T department undertook the more genteel activity of rebuilding the timber paling fences on either side of Radstock level crossing. As with most jobs at Didcot this started as a relatively large task and turned out to be much bigger. We dealt with the screws that wouldn’t unscrew and the original construction which dictated that the wicket gate post, which was rotten and due for replacement, had been installed first and everything else in the area nailed to it. We found that a large area of the board crossing was not only rotten but was supported on rotten beams, resulting in a rush job for our local timber merchant. We discovered that having painted one pair of crossing gates, the other pair looked terribly shabby by comparison.

Nevertheless the fences were rebuilt and repainted, the wicket gate post was reinstated and the gate rehung, all four crossing gates were repainted and the board crossing reconstructed to a higher standard using, amongst other things, a length of bridge rail (as done, a few years ago, on the other side of the crossing). Result - an area that looked much the same as when we started, albeit glossier, but which was in fact in a much better state of repair (ie. not in danger of imminent collapse). Work Week also provided the usual opportunities for lots of painting, tidying up, gardening and other minor maintenance tasks of which we have a seemingly unending supply. One task which unfortunately did not take place was the painting of Frome Mineral Junction Signal Cabin, this will now have to be undertaken at a future date.

We have now had two lamp interiors made for us, by Hetheringtons, to fit the staff pick-up and set-down apparatus at Frome Mineral Junction, they will probably get their first use at the Photographers’ Evenings. We have also purchased two wooden ladders, one for each set of apparatus. These are to be hung on brackets on each of the setting-down equipment posts, and will finally provide proper access to the lamps for the lampman.

Further progress has been made on both the Searchlight signal and the Westinghouse signal motor, both of which are intended for use when the branch line is finally extended into the centre-sidings area. The searchlight signal had an unfortunate entry into its preserved life when the BR Techniciand dismantling the signal dropped the lamp casing from a gantry and subsequently left it under a hedge for some years, a fate thankfully not shared by the interior which had been previously removed and handled with more circumspection. You will not be surprised, therefore to learn that the lamp body required some weld repair and this has now been carried out. We are also in the process of manufacturing the circular sighting board, some 3ft in diameter, which will be required for this signal and restoring the various brackets and other attachments needed.

 

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Newsletter 265 - July 2000

Firstly an update on projects already reported in the March Newsletter. The replacement of the signalling electric wiring for the signalling in Radstock signal box has progressed well during the ‘closed’ season, with the signalling technicians replacing eighty individual wires, representing more than two thirds of the job. As trains are now running most weekends there will probably be a short delay before this project can be completed. The Radstock signal box pavement project has also progressed, with the cast iron kerbs previously acquired from the Bristol area having been transported to Didcot and put into store. We are following up some leads on sources of suitable flagstones but it appears that whatever route we take it will be more expensive than we had hoped, and than our current financial position will stand. This project may therefore also be subject to a short delay whilst the necessary fund raising takes place. Last time we asked about the design of the interiors for the Frome Staff exchange apparatus lamps, which are replicas of a 19th Century GWR design. Joe Moss contacted us to suggest where we might get such interiors made and we are currently following up this lead.

The next big event in the S&T calendar is Work Week 2000. The department has turned its thought (yes, one is all we could manage) to drawing up a suitable work list. We have decided that this year’s work week will be fine and sunny and that plenty of painting is therefore practical. The two major projects will be the exterior repainting of Frome Mineral Junction signal cabin and a repaint of the public side level crossing gates and associated timber paling fencing at Radstock.

This second item will require some woodwork repairs to the fencing, which reminds one of the old dentist joke - the good news is that your teeth are fine, the bad news is that your gums will have to come out! - for whilst the palings themselves are (largely) sound, the posts and arris rails are all suffering from the dread rot and will have to be replaced. The result of this of course is that the fences will have to be rebuilt entirely. The new timber for the posts and rails has been pressure treated to delay a recurrence of the problem and is in store at Didcot together with ample supplies of brackets, screws and paint.

The S&T department will be present during Work Week from Saturday 29th July until at least Friday 4th August so if you’d like to come and join in the fun, fill in the general work week form sent with the March Newsletter or contact the S&T Department via Didcot. Work and play is available for all, unskilled and skilled - who knows, you might even enjoy it so much that you come back again next year, as several of our regulars do.

Finally, you may remember that last year the S&T department anticipated the extension of the branch line into the Centre Sidings area, should the negotiations between the Society and Railtrack ever prove successful, by acquiring two suitable tubular steel signal posts. Whilst the negotiations are still progressing, we have been restoring equipment to fit to these posts. We intend that one post, that giving access to Didcot Halt from the Centre Sidings area, will carry a motor worked semaphore arm (Radstock signal No. 1). We have a suitable Westinghouse semaphore signal motor in stock but find that it is missing the vital clutch magnet assembly. So our ‘appeal of the week’ is ‘does anyone know where we might find such an object or even drawings of same ?’. Your help, as always, would be appreciated.

 

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Newsletter 262 - January 2000

Work continues apace on the maintenance, refurbishment and general minor improvements to the S&T display. On the maintenance front it is pleasing to note that the ongoing refurbishment of all our signal lamp casings is nearing completion. This project has involved the removal of each lamp from its signal post, gate, buffer stop etc. - we now have 25 lamps in use. Each lamp has been taken to ‘Wotton-under-Edge Signal Works’ (a members double garage!) where any necessary repairs have been carried out and the lamps repainted. The result of all this labour has been clear to see from the Santa Special trains for which all the signal lamps were lit. This is simply the latest phase in an operation which over many years has seen the same journey made by the lamp interiors and even the signal arms themselves. The only lamps which we are unable to light are those in the Frome staff exchange apparatus as at present they have no interiors. The lamps are replicas of a 19th Century Great Western design and we are unclear as to the design of the interiors which are clearly not of the modern standard type. Does anyone have any information on this esoteric subject?

Refurbishment, at present, is centred on the replacement of the signalling electric wiring in Radstock Signal Box. When this wiring was installed in the late 70’s, use was made of genuine ex-railway wire - unfortunately being rubber covered, the insulation on this wire has now started to deteriorate. We are therefore taking the opportunity to replace all this wire with new PVC covered cable which should prove rather more long-lasting. This work will progress gradually in the capable hands of our signalling technicians and it is not expected that the box will be out of commission for any noticeable period. It is incidentally pleasing to note that, despite earlier concerns expressed by these learned gentlemen, both signalboxes have proved to be entirely Y2K compliant.

One ‘minor improvement’ that we wish to undertake at some stage is the construction of a pavement around the back of Radstock Signal Box, linking the Box access gate to the level crossing wicket gate. This would finish off the street scene which currently has the stone setts running right up to the back wall of the box. When we finally undertake this work it will also provide the opportunity to tidy up the stone setts where required, and to install underground conduit to permit the eventual replacement of the electricity supply infrastructure in this area of the site. We are pleased to say that this project has been progressed by the acquisition of sufficient quantity of cast iron kerbs from the Bristol area to complete the job. The 18cwt of kerbs is now in store awaiting transport to Didcot. All we need now before the job can be started is around 18 sq yds of suitable flagstones preferably of the sandstone variety, being typical of the Westcountry scene we are creating. Sadly new sandstone flags are unobtainable and the other potentially suitable new material, York stone, is prohibitively expensive. Therefore in the finest traditions of the S&T department we ask whether any member knows where we might obtain such flagstones second-hand and relatively cheaply (or preferably free !). If you know of a source of this material please contact us via Didcot - we are, as always, more than happy to arrange collection.

 

Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway