Keith, on Wednesday 30th November 2022 I joined an IRSE (Institution of Railway Signal Engineers) visit to Didcot where the Railway Centre has built a small signalling museum which includes an exhibit by the Swindon Panel Society.
During resignalling mania in the 1960s, most of the contractors were busy with West Coast Electrification, so the Western Region signal works at Reading designed its own Turn & Push NX (Entrance-Exit) Panels based on the Swiss Integra system. They used the Domino mimic panels manufactured by Henry Williams and were installed at Old Oak Common, Slough, Reading, Swindon, Gloucester, Bristol, Newport, Cardiff and Port Talbot. Birmingham and Plymouth were the precursors to all of these, designed in the 1950s. In the 1970s BR imposed standardisation and Oxford was a later addition with a Push-Push Panel, while Westbury and Exeter were provided by Westinghouse. This substantially completed the conversion of the WR from Absolute Block to TCB (Track-Circuit Block) with MAS (Multiple-Aspect Signalling), and resulted in the closure of about 90% of some 2000 GWR mechanical signalboxes which were extant at nationalisation.
Swindon opened in 1968 and was staffed by two signalmen operating the station area, and Wootton Bassett and Thingley Junctions, whereas the rest of the area from Uffington to Badminton could be set to automatic. In the 1980s bidirectional working was installed, and the WR mechanical train describers were replaced by LEDs, and later by VDUs. The system was not immunised against electrification so was replaced by the Thames Valley Signalling Centre aka Didcot ROC (Rail Operating Centre) in 2016.
Network Rail sold the panel for a pound, and the Society has set up a computer simulator so that the panel can be operated in real time. Ironically, they've also sold sessions back to NR to train professional signalmen. The current panel layout predates the new Down Platform at Swindon, so it's easy to lock up the route waiting for a Down HST to stop at the Up Platform, a Down Freight crossing Wootton Bassett, or an Up Westbury crossing Thingley. Great fun - maybe an idea for a CRS visit?
It was great to catch up with everyone at the November meeting and good to see the Society bouncing back from the Covid closures. Season's greetings, John.
Bodmin & Wenford
Jon Hird & Mark Lynham
I was especially pleased with the picture of the steam loco in the sun, with the crew waving back at my son in the field. That will be a nice one for him to look back on when he’s older.
All the best, Jon Hird