NEWS 2023

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The last two months of 2023 have seen a continued range of works around the site, hampered at times by rather damp weather.

LNWR Signal: 

Work continues on the post. This involves sanding down the wood, repairing any  
small â€‹defects and then giving the post a coat of primer/undercoat to protect
the timber from the wet weather.

Miniature Lever Frame

This, during open days, sits outside in all weathers. We have given the frame
new timber to enclose the frame and associated electrical equipment and
replace rather tatty hardboard.

The 'tappet interlocking' had suffered some rusting and was partly dismantled
to be cleaned up and lightly greased.


Visitor Numbers for 2023

The year saw 2,422 visitors to the signal box. On Open Afternoons there were just over 1,500; as reported below Heritage Open Days saw 450, and organised party visits brought in 371 and a further 60 came in private visits.

The total is a 17% rise over the 2,071 visitors we had in 2022. Particularly pleasing was the opening on Wednesday afternoons for the three half-term weeks - these averaged out to around 140 visitors each time.


October was a month of quiet consolidation following the hectic start to September with Heritage Open Days. Contract gardeners were employed to clear away over-abundent Summer growth particularly from the boundary hedge. - not something that is easy to show in pictures!

Work continued on preparing the L&NWR signal for some work on the post

At some point we passed our 30,000 visitor since late October 2008 - regrettably due to an unfortunate mix-up earlier in the year with our numbered tickets we were uncertain as to who was exactly was the 30,000 visitor and were unable to mark the occasion as we would normally do.

Our half-term opening on Wednesday 25th October was attended by over 150 visitors, so we will continue with those openings in 2024 - full list of 2024's Open Days will become available in November.


HERITAGE OPEN DAYS Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th 

We had our usual extended opening for this national event with a total of 440 visitors. This figure included an American and the St Albans Member of Parliament, Daisy Cooper, as the following pictures show.
1.  2.  3.  4.
1: The entrance first thing on Saturday, awaiting the visitors.
2: The latest restoration was on display - a pair of levers for 'Detonator Placers'.
3 and 4: Signs with local and more distant connections - a display provided by one of our trustees.

5.  6.  7.  8.
5: Inside the marquee photos, posters and various railway models were on display,
6: together with our 00 gauge layout populated by Thomas and Friends.
7 & 8: Out in the garden our signals, full-size and small, were being worked by the visitors.

9.  10.  11.  12.
  9: Finally most of the visitors got to see the operating floor, where
10: on Saturday we were joined by our American visitor who is involved with an American version of a signal box.
11: Like many of our visitors, he too had a go at 'Lever 32' to work one of the garden signals.
12: Outside the box we had two forms of live steam - this is a minature traction engine.

13.  14.  15.  16.
13: Box members & friends from the North London Society of Engineers and elsewhere came with their portable track.
14: And it was the first of our attractions that on Sunday our local MP, Daisy Cooper, tried out.
15: Progressing round the garden she tried out our warning gong.
16: And had a go on the levers upstairs as well.

Another Exhibition

On September 23rd we attended a model railway show at the Whitewebb's Transport Museum near Enfield. We spoke to a few people who had visited us, and gave out several hundred leaflets to those who hadn't - and a few turned up the following day to our Sunday afternoon opening!


NER Slotted Post signal progress
1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.

1. A close-up of the base of the signal, showing how the metal supports keep it off the concrete to prevent further rot.
2 & 3. By mid-August the Spectacle, operating link from the arm spindle and the lamp housing were in place.
4. Then the counterweight and operating crank were added;
5. and the ladder, holding bracket and safety ring were prepared for fixing.
6. By the end of the fourth Weds afternoon the ladder and safety ring were in place; but it still needs to be connected up to the nearby ground frame!

Work starts on restoration of the LNWR signal:

Using the engine hoist (see July's entry below for when we used it on the NER signal) the LNWR signal post, previous stripped of its metalwork, was lifted onto breeze blocks.for easy access for cleaning, dealing with rot (although this post is in better condition than the NER one was!) and preparing it for eventual re-erection. See May below for more information on this signal.

Other signalling alterations

1.  2.  3.
1. The stack of three LMS Ground discs is being assembled by two of our volunteers.
2. Assembly completed, the lamps inside await wiring to power them.
3. Wiring now complete, the discs are seen at dusk.

The early 20th Century MR signal on the lawn, close to the new location of the LMS Ground discs above, was rewired as part of the new signal layout. The opportunity was taken to carry out some work on it.
4.  5.  6.  7.
4. The 'Adlake' signal lamp was taken down, cleaned and given a well-needed repaint after better cable access had been arranged.
5. The lamp back in place on its bracket, with the new cable for the LED lamp inside just visible.
6. As dusk fell one evening, the signal was seen lit.
7. An addition is a small LED forming the 'back-light' for demonstration purposes. This allowed the signaller to see the oil-lamp was alight - when the signal was cleared the 'blinder' seen in 5 above moved with the arm to hide the back-light and show that the arm had moved correctly.

Signs, Feasts and other things

We have recently been given a number of signs, either found in the station during a recent clear-out or passed on to us as they were replaced.
1.  2.  3.  4.
1 and 2: Access point signs from around the station - replaced as information on them had to be updated.
3. Station sign that may have been at the head of the stairs from Victoria Street down to the station forecourt.
4. Along the top of the 'sleeper wall' by the ramp we now have this sign on display where passing train passengers can see it.

All the above may make you think we've been hard at work - well, we have - but we do take a break from time to time. Here are members of the Trust enjoying their Annual Barbecue:

30,000 visitors have been to the box since October 2008

Unfortunately due to a ticket mix up we don't know exactly who the 30,000th visitor was!


Concreting - Signal bases

1.  2. 3. 4.

1. The dismantled LMS three-disc ground signal - it has been moved to make room for the NER signal.
2. The ground signal is being resited on the edge of the lawn between our  Midland Railway ground signal and the later-style MR main signal. Hole for the concrete base has been dug and a wood former holds the four bolts that will fix the signal base in place.
3. The large hole dug (around 0.8m/2.5ft deep) to take the support steelwork for the NER signal;
4. and the steelwork is in place, held upright by several ropes tied to other exhibits.

5.  6. 7.  8.

5. We decided that to speed things up we'd get the concrete professionally mixed on site - this is the lorry that does the mixing at the south end of the site with a very friendly and helpful driver setting things up.
6. The first wheel-barrow is loaded.
7. The ground signal base is now filled -
8. as is the NER signal base hole, with the steelwork carefully checked for being vertical after each barrow-load was emptied into the hole.

Path Repairs

 With concrete readily available, several repairs were made to the footpath around the site.

 This photo shows where at the angled joins between path sections loose stones and gravel infills
 have been replaced by solid concrete.

1.   2.  3.  4.

1. Using a member's engine hoist, the post was lifted from its restoration stands (breeze blocks!) onto two trollies
2. so it could be moved to the other end of the site.
3. Again using the hoist, the post was lifted partly into place - only for the floodlight for the SR Ground signal having to be hurriedly moved out of the way - hence our volunteers on their knees!
4. The post was raised further by resiting the hoist and attaching a rope to the top of the post ready to pull it to the vertical with some pushing from behind.

5.  6.  7.

5. The post, now upright between the metal supports concreted in the previous week, has been strapped to them.
6. Here the large wood screws are being inserted to hold the post to the metal supports.
7. And here we see the new arrangement of signals at the north end of the site - all that remains is to paint the metal supports to match the post and add all the metalwork - operating levers, spectacle and lamp - back onto the erected post.

Associated Works:

A.  B.

A. The resited and repainted base of the LMS Ground signals. Note the electrical conduit on the base of the adjacent Midland Railway signal to supply power to the LEDs lighting the ground discs. This comes from
B. the supply, now revamped, for the MR signal. (Following an accidental cutting of the supply cable during garden works.)

Revived Sign:

The concrete letters have been repainted and the old plastic edging, which tended to shift, has been replaced by a large diameter rope carefully pegged down to the artificial turf the letters are displayed on. 




Fence works:

Late July saw repairs by a contractor to our boundary fence to replace rotten or otherwise damaged timbers - some 40 were replaced.
The West side of the site - now nice and even  North end of site                  NW corner - close to where the new footbridge contractors had their main site entrance.


The Railway Children
In June members of the OVO Theatre Company, who are doing a production of "The Railway Children" at the Roman Theatre in July and August, came to our signal box for some publicity shots:

Other News and Works for June

1.   2.  3.  4.
1. New benches/tables were purchased to assist our visitors to enjoy the garden and our light refreshments.
2. A lovely display of roses against the fence between us and the railway.
3. Much has already been written below about our 'New' signals, but we have continued to maintain some of the longer-standing ones, This one, worked by lever 32 in the box, needed a repaint of the arm, seen here awaiting reattachment.
4. We are always keeping an eye on the present-day railway - here on the 25th of June a train which developed a fault - it lost one of its two pantographs - sits in the down slow platform with at least one person working on the roof of the train.

Not shown here, but work continues on preparing the NER slotted post signal for erection - more information above in July's posting. In May's report below we mentioned the rotten timber on the window cleaning gallery; we had to spend over an hour repairing a broken gutter joint close above the affected timber which may have contributed to the rot.


Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Rebuild of St Albans City Station

On Monday May 15th, the station commemorated both the rebuild of 1973, which saw the old buildings demolished, and also the more recent changes to those 1973 buildings. 
A.   B.  C.  
 D.  E.

A. The Replica nameplate and mural of "City of St Albans" were fixed on place in the station building on platform 1. ("City of St Albans" was a Stanier 4-6-2 "Coronation" class steam locomotive, British Rail number 46253; it entered service in 1946 and was withdrawn in 1963 - it was not preserved.)
B. The nameplate had been on display in the box for some months from mid-2022 onwards.
C. A small version of the mural is presented to the Mayor of St Albans; Richard Kirk, a Box Trustee is behind him with Daisy Cooper, St Alban's MP.
D. After the unveiling signal box members posed with (left to right) Marc Asamnoah (GTR's Station Manager), Andy Buckley of the Community Rail Partnership, Daisy Cooper MP, and Chris Parry, a GTR employee at the station.
E. The photographic display, on Platform 4 and prepared by Richard Kirk, is 'Unveiled' by Ziggy on the left and John Telford, the Box Trust Chairman. (Ziggy, in his eighties, is GTR's oldest employee!)

Following the unveiling of the 'City of St Albans" Mural and the photograph display, many of those present came back to the box to continue the celebrations.
1.   2.  3.  4.

What were they waiting for in Photo 1 above? It was the cake seen in Photo 2!
Photo 3 shows the general throng disposing of the cake, tea and coffee.
Photo 4 shows some of the visitors on the operating floor of the box after a demonstration of how it all worked by one of our members, seen on the left of the photo.

The Garden keeps on blossoming
Another round of photos of some of the garden flowers, with thanks again to our small group of gardeners:

More Rotten Timber

On the front of the box there is a gallery for access to allow the windows to be cleaned.  

Usually we examine this in March to ensure it is safe to use, but this year it was April
before we got round to it due to the wet weather. Unfortunately a large chunk of one of the planks forming the the gallery was found to be badly rotted - see the photo.
So the windows remain uncleaned while we sort out new timber, remove the old and 
fix the new in place.

'New' Signals: A update

At the end of March the donated LNWR signal was collected from its location south of London and brought to the box.

1.   2.   3.   4. 
1. The signal is held up by the HIAB crane on the lorry while the post is sawn through at ground level;
2. and the signal is lifted onto the lorry for transport back to St Albans.
3. The following day - a Wednesday - the work on the signal started - here it is being moved to allow access to some of the parts.
4. Close-up with one of the 'Spectacles' being prepared for removal.
As with the NER Slotted Post signal obtained last year, all the metalwork is being removed for cleaning and renovation as required, leaving the post free for a careful examination for rot and other damage before it is repainted.

The NER Slotted Post Signal
With the work done on the LNWR signal above, we could start putting the NER signal back together again.

1.  2.   3. 
1. Various refurbished metalwork parts are being tried out for fitting to the post, including
2. the counterbalance weight and arm that returns the signal to danger, particularly if the signal wire breaks.
3. The top part of the signal with the signal arm bearings back in place and the newly made signal arm ready to be fitted. (A new arm has been made as the original is in a fragile condition.) Also visible is the newly-obtained signal post finial appropriate to this make of signal.


March moved on into April with some excellent flower displays, thanks to our various gardeners.


Mill Green Museum Railway Day on 15th April
We were invited to attend this mini-exhibition being held at the water mill museum near Hatfield, so we took our sales and information stand along, met a large number of people who hadn't yet heard of us and made some modest sales.


The Play's the thing!

A performance of Charles Dicken's "The Signalman" in Oxford. Performed by the Creation Theatre company, they approached us for some assistance with props. We have lent them a set of block-bells and our recently acquired two-lever ground frame, all visible in the photo, and some other minor bits and pieces.

More on signal works
Last year we got a NER (North Eastern Railway) Slotted Post signal from a garden in Sheffield. (See the News 2022 page.) The bottom of the post was badly rotted, and much time has been spent in rebuilding the bottom of the post - the result is seen below in the left-hand picture. The signal arm and its pivots were badly rusted together and it was necessary to cut through the top of the post to release them; the centre photo below shows the top being reassembled. Finally the right-hand photo shows three 'new' LNWR ground frame levers we've recently obtained which will be assembled and used to operate the new signals.

Antique Midland Railway Map Poster
 This poster has recently been passed to us. It dates from around 1905, so is over 100 years old. It is   mounted on a wooden board and has seen considerable damage, so we are seeking advice from the   Herts Association of Museums on the best way to conserve it.

  It was recovered in 1968 from Carndonagh Station on the 3ft gauge Londonderry and Lough Swilly   Railway in Co. Donegal in the the the NW of Ireland. The station had closed in 1935 and subsequently   was used for various businesses. (It still exists.) The Midland Railway in 1903 took over the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway and subsequently two ferry routes between Ireland and England and Scotland.


The two open afternoons of the Half-term week saw over 200 visitors at the box.

Mr John Telford, one of our long-established Trustees, was appointed the new Chairman of the Trust in place of Mr Tony Furse. John has overseen the regular site workings and the reception of organised groups making private visits. Tony has been been our Chairman for twelve years and has overseen a considerable expansion of exhibits at the site; in particular the institution and expansion of the garden railway which is much enjoyed by our visitors.

LNWR Signal - some more pictures and information

1.   2.   3. 

Photo 1 was taken on a visit by members to the signal's location in Southern England as part of the planning of how to remove it back to St Albans.
Photo 2 shows a plaque on the signal's post giving something of its history.
Photo 3 is a picture from 1972 we have found showing the signal in position at Dallam Lane, Warrington. It was then considerably taller and had a platform accessed by ladder from the works side of the wall separating the works on the right from the railway yard on the left. (The works were rail-connected at one time.) We continue to investigate how the signal was used when operational.

Network Rail Test Train
Seen as dusk fell on the Open afternoon of the 12th of February:



The first open afternoon of the new year was held on the 8th of January in appalling wet weather. Despite the weather some 25 visitors came - congratulations to them and to our volunteers who showed them round!

Water Leak causes some problems
As the weather warmed up after December's snow, we found a water leak behind the sink on the first floor of the box. Besides soaking our electrics on the ground floor, which had to be carefully dried out, when we lifted the lino upstairs to aid drying-out we found a rotten floorboard which had to be replaced after the January Open Afternoon had passed. The pictures below tell the story.
1.  2.  3.

4.  5.

1. The rotten board near the rear wall seen after the sink was removed.
2. Close-up of the rotten board.
3. After most of the board was removed; we were concerned that the damp may have got in from outside, but the solid part of the board showed this wasn't the case.
4. The replacement board in place.
5. The solid end of the removed section of board - it's 60mm (two and three-quarter inches) thick!

Another New Signal to come to us

We received news of an unexpected gift resulting from the will of a railway enthusiast. The signal, made by the London & North-Western Railway (LNWR), seen here >, has been given to the box together with a sum of money to cover its removal from its present location to the box and its restoration and erection. As can be seen, it is actually two signals in one.