NEWS 2021

(Clicking on photos below will open a full-size version in a new window;
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Visitor figures for 2021:
Sunday afternoon public open days, restarted on 25th July, saw 442 visitors come in on 8 days.
Heritage Open Days, on the 11th and 12th September saw 321 visitors over the two days.
Group visits brought in 90 people on six occasions.
Two birthday parties and other private visits added 50 to give a total of 903 visitors for 2021.

Thanks to all our volunteers for their maintenance efforts, particularly in keeping the garden under control, and for showing our visitors around.

London and North-Western Ground Frame

This controls the MR shunt signal and main signal on the lawn.
(a)   (b)   (c)   (d) 
(a) A relatively early addition to our interactive displays in 2012, it was mounted on timbers, as seen here.
But during this year's Heritage Open Days we found out the hard way, when it jammed, that some of the timbers had rotted away unseen by us.
(b) and (c) show the rebuilt ground frame, mostly mounted on steelwork. This has the advantage of not rotting as fast as wood, and has also enabled us to reduce the height a little to make it easier for our younger visitors to access. The old railings visible in (c) are to deter people taking a short cut across to the path and possibly tripping on the signal wires!
(d) The old railings have been cleaned up and painted green. (Note too the covered garden railway track on the right to keep leaves off the line.)

Gates at the south end of the Site

These are between the two car parking spaces and the fenced part of the site. Unfortunately we found considerable rot in them and have had them replaced in a different style.
(a)                                                   (b)                            (c)
(a) The original gates done in Midland Railway style to match the fencing.
The new gates are done in a 'Level Crossing' style to make the most of the level crossing gate lamp we have:
(b) View from inside the site; (c) view from the carpark spaces. Note the metal mesh added to stop people from climbing over!

Colour Light signals featured a lot last year when we rewired the 4-aspect demonstration arrangement. Attention has turned to other similar signals around the site, and we will be cleaning and repainting them.
(a)               (b)                  (c)
(a) Demo feather near stairs to box 1st Floor
'Signal 16' on the lawn (a) before repaint; (c) after repaint


Mentioned earlier in the year was the possibility of having some of our display boards on show in the windows of the unused retail unit in the new Platform 4 station building. This was finally arranged and on the 10th of August the boards with their photos were taken to the unit.
On the left the boards arrive at the new building; centre Tony Furze (Trust Chairman), Richard Kirk (Trustee) who organised the display and Andrew Chillingworth (Govia Thameslink Railways) outside the completed display and right the public view. (Thanks to Andy Buckley of the Community Rail Partnership for the photos.)


Put up outside the box on Saturday 17th July:

   We had 38 visitors on Sunday 25th July and 100 on the 8th August.


The box was restored in 2007/8 and had its first repaint in 2012 when some of our volunteers tackled the South end of the box. This showed we needed professional help and the rest of the box was repainted by a professional in 2013. In 2017 we had the second professional repaint, and in early May of this year father and son team Brian and Jamie started on the third. The following photos show something of the "Painters' Progress" and some of the problems their work revealed and which they have solved for us. We start off at the South end which suffers most from the weather.

South End:
1a:  1b:   2:   3:         4: 
1c:          1d:          

1a, b, c and d: The West face of the South-West corner post, showing the severe rot found by our painters. 1b shows the rotted wood cut away and partly replaced, 1c shows how a two-pack filler has then been used to form a flat surface prior to painting; 1d shows the end result. (The dappling is not uneven paintwork but a rare glimpse of the sun!)
2: First floor woodwork to left of the door showing (upper) rot exposed; (lower) after repairs.
3: First floor at landing level (upper) again showing exposed rot (lower) after repairs - the two holes left are deliberate - they allow the long rods holding the lever frame together to be removed if need be.
4: (upper) the South-East corner post top half after loose paint was removed.
4: (lower) General view of the South end nearing completion.

Stairs Handrail: 
1.  2.  3.  4.
Showing (1) a joint prepared for filling: (2) the filled joint with a first coat of paint; (3) a general view of a partially repainted stairs: (4) The completely repainted stairs and South end

Rear of the Box (The West side):
As with the previous repaint scaffolding was erected to give easier access, due to the steep bank behind the box.
1.    2.  3.   4.
1. Painter at work                     2. With the scaffolding in place, John Telford takes the opportunity to replace a missing slate; in addition during one weekend the roof finials were resealed and repainted.
3. The end result after the scaffolding was removed. 4. The completed West and North faces of the box seen from the lawn.

North end:
 1.   2.   3. 
1. The early stages of the work - note particularly the state of the left-hand window.
2. Close-up of the left-hand window after repairs and part-way through the repaint.
3. The finished N end.

East Side (Front of box):
1.   2.   3. 
One problem with this side is water overflowing from the roof gutter which has a slight dip in it above this window, (Which we've completely failed to cure so far!) 
1. The window with repairs nearly complete. 2. The restored and repainted window.
3. General view as the finishing touches were being applied - one painter is up on the outside gallery dealing with the first floor windows above.

Interior Clean-up: 
With the painting finished a major clean-up inside started on Weds 30th June to remove two months' worth of dust and dirt generated by the painters sanding down the box to prepare it for the new paint! Upstairs was completed except for washing and polishing the floor, downstairs about three-quarters of the Museum room was tackled from top to bottom. Wednesday 7th July saw the completion of dust and cobweb removal downstairs, and the washing of the upstairs lino on the floor. A few days later it was given a good waxing and polishing.


The weather has been encouraging the garden to grow - on the bend of the path towards the North end of the garden - considerable trim will be needed to allow visitors to safely access the box without a struggle!   But by mid-July the growth had been cut back.

Other clearances and repairs in anticipation of reopening included:
(From left to right) The Midland Railway ground signal; the north end of the garden and our gradient sign - new arms fitted as rot had set in.

Besides the major repaint, described separately above, other works have been taking place. Several years  ago we set up a 'St Albans South' sign in the garden (left below) but it suffered from problems of stones shifting when it rained. The sign has been given a 'make-over' and should need less maintenance (right below).

The small stones have been replaced by artificial 'turf' and the letters repainted white.

The nearby new entrance to the station was completed a little while ago.
The retail unit on the right has not been let, and we have been recently
invited to place a display in the unit. Trustee Richard Kirk is busy preparing
our display panels to go on display. (See August above for the end result.)

Other work at the station is now in hand to erect the second footbridge.
Seen recently at the station is this impression of what it will look like:

Ramp Handrail:

Mentioned below was the need to replace the handrail running from the NE corner of the site down to the bottom of the ramp. After a wait to get the concrete posts, due to a national shortage of the same, our contractor started work.
1.  2*.  3.  4.  5.
 In 1 & 2* above the concrete posts were being 'planted'; in 3 the wood posts are attached to await the new handrail.
4 shows the new handrail in place and 5 how at the North end of the site we've started painting the handrail. Once the painting is complete we'll be reattaching both the signal wire pulleys and cable ducting to get back to normal. (*The posts are upright and in line - the camera has caused some distortion!)

6.  7.  8.
6. The painted handrail          7. The replacement  8. Signal wire pulley reattached
                                                plastic wiring duct        to work the signal from lever 32.


At long last we can bring you some news as we've started up more work at the box as the Covid restrictions start to ease.

Unfortunately the daffodils are past their best, but other flowers are doing well:



During last year's lockdown we found a fox family trying to take up residence, so this year we have taken precautions by putting a substantial wood barrier in front of the box to stop them digging under it:





One of the outstanding tasks in preparation towards reopening is to clean the many windows.
But to do so, we start each year by a careful check of all the screws and brackets holding the
access gallery in place and holding the handrail to the gallery. Usually, other than screws thatare a little loose, there are no problems, but this year we found a handrail stanchion screw that was very loose - it seems that damp has got in around the screw and rotted the wood.
Until this is sorted the gallery is out of use, so the windows remain uncleaned on the outside! 
UPDATE: Early in May the problem was sorted out with a large dollop of two-pack adhesive, some 12mm diameter studding and a large washer and nut. But we didn't bother cleaning the windows as the painters were about to start work as described above.

Another Handrail Problem

Down the East side of the garden, nearest to the railway, there is a continuous handrail installed following the construction of the access ramp in 2007. In the picture of the daffodils above, part of this handrail is visible; it can be seen that it is a little 'wonky'. This is due to the rotting of the wooden posts. Also attached to the posts is a wood duct containing various power cables providing power to signal lamps and path lighting which has been damaged by the collapse of some of the posts. Arrangements have been made to have the handrail and supports professionally replaced.

To allow this to be done, we spent one Wednesday afternoon removing the duct and placing the wiring to one side:
Some parts of the duct have been salvaged for reuse. We've also had to disconect Lever 32 from the signal it works at the other end of the garden. We've used our 'Appliance Reminders', also known as 'Lever Collars', on lever 32 to remind people not to try pulling it - see the right-hand photo above!

What's in a Name?


Further donations from member Rodney
Marshall, taken from his collection of street
furniture, salvaged from council scrapheaps
in past decades. 
Many thanks!


Welcome to the New Year! We are, of course, currently constrained by the present Covid lockdown as to what we can do, so news of current and new projects may be delayed a bit, as we have had to switch back to a 'security and maintenance' state with only a few volunteers able to attend the box.


Chairman's Words

I hope you are all well and surviving these unusual times.

As you have probably guessed we have still not managed to open the signal box to the public and it doesn’t look as though that is likely to occur until much later in the year. I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your continued support at a time when we can offer you so little. You missed out on the Big Weekend, the summer BBQ, Heritage Open Weekend, the day at North London Model Engineers track, the Christmas Party and now it looks as though the AGM will have to go on line. These occasions have been the opportunity for the trustees to meet the members, to talk railways and to show off the box to the public, I miss it and I am sure you do to.

We owe a debt of thanks to those trustees and members who continue to maintain the site and keep the gardens to the usual high standard in readiness for an opening at some time in the future. We are not the only ones feeling the pressure; Govia Thameslink Railways have completed the reconstruction of the west side of the station and have been unable to let the retail unit they have just completed. We are, with the help of our friends in Community Rail, hoping to gain access to the empty shop so that we can display some of our photographic collection and perhaps some of our artefacts.

I hope you will join us on a Zoom AGM, it would be good to see you again even if it is remotely. 

Tony Furse, Chairman