NEWS 2018

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Our 20,000th Visitor!

Ryan Frake thought that he was just travelling home with his family from Margate to Nottingham on Sunday 8th April. However there was a surprise in store for the nine year old railway fan as the family diverted to visit St Albans South Signal Box on our public open afternoon that day. Not only that but Ryan turned out to be the 20,000th recorded visitor to the Signal Box since it began open days in 2008. He was presented with the souvenir entry ticket. Ryan's Dad Bob said that the visit had been planned for a long time and the family were not disappointed. "Our son Ryan was fascinated not only with the signal box, but the passing trains too. The day out was made even more memorable by him being awarded the title of the 20,000th visitor."

Signal Box Trust Chairman, Tony Furse, commented that it was a huge achievement on the part of the Trust and its members to have reached this milestone in the story of St Albans South Box and its restoration. It was a delight to welcome Ryan and his family along with all the other visitors who ventured out on what was a miserably wet afternoon.

The photograph shows Ryan holding his souvenir ticket along with his sister Erin and parents Bob and Cath.

Station Lights - the work goes on
The light at the south end of the box (described below in March's news) was wired up at the end of March, and became active on the 4th April.
On the same day the second light was fitted to its post by the lamp hut and its wiring put in place, but awaited the final connections. We have managed to get two new metal-clad external waterproof switches, which are in the style of the sort of switch used fifty or sixty years ago, to help keep the right appearance of things by the box.

Photo: 1       2            3         4          5           6

Photo 1: Station light at South end of the box, seen from the box door on the 1st floor.
Station light near lamp hut:
Photos 2 & 3: Partly completed, seen respectively from the box and from near the main entrance.
Photos 4 and 5: Completed light from similar viewpoints.
Photo 6: The new light switch.

Station Lights are lit!

On Monday 9th of April, the station lights, now fully working, were tried out as the Trustees met to discuss future work at the box. It was a dull and damp evening too, so the lights were most welcome!

Photo:  1        2                 3               4

Photos 1 and 2: The Station light at the South end of the box, as dusk fell and later that evening - the stairs have significantly improved lighting now.
Photos 3 and 4: The light at the North end, seen as dusk fell, from near the main entrance and then from the box.


Snow and more snow
The snow fell twice during March, providing a natural blockage to the running of trains, not only the full-size ones but our model as well.
March 3rd    18th      Cold Passengers  and light brackets
The notice near the light brackets seems a little inaccurate - but it's where we display our lit paraffin lamps. (See photo 6 under "The Big Weekend" below.)

By March 21st the snow had gone and our passengers were enjoying some sunshine:

Station Lights
Work on renovating and adapting these to light up parts of the site continues, with several members working on the various parts of these lamps during March.
Photo 1:                        Photo 2:  Photo 3:                 Photo 4:  Photo 5:

Photo 1: The plastic bowls cleaned up;
Photo 2: The control gear removed and rewired for an LED general service lamp;
Photo 3: The brackets after cleaning and first coat of paint; one has also had the feed wires added. Both brackets have been bent to fit round the two telegraph poles that they'll be mounted on. (see Photo 5);
Photo 4: The shades and other parts of the lights after cleaning and while being repainted;
Photo 5: One of the posts being prepared for mounting one of the lights.

On the 21st of March the first restored light was erected:

Waterloo and City Line Track Diagram
The original printing on this in-house made diagram had rather faded, so it was stripped off and a reprint added:

The diagram has also been mounted in a frame for better viewing.

New St Albans South Sign

Made from small cast concrete letters laid onto small stones for a background. This is at the north end of the lawn. (See photo 2 below.)


This took place on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th, at the end of English Tourism Week. We had extended opening from 10am to 5pm on both days. There were 115 visitors on Saturday and 235 on Sunday; 350 in total. Sales and donations made a welcome addition to our funds.
A selection of pictures from Sunday:
Photo 1:   Photo 2:                      Photo 3:                        Photo 4:                    Photo 5:

Photo 6:                Photo 7:

Photo 1: Outside in the carpark, our friends from the N London Society of Model Engineers ran their railway.
Photo 2: General view of the box grounds - not visible are those serving tea and greeting visitors. The new St Albans South sign mentioned above is visible behind some of the visitors.
Photo 3: Inside the tent on the left in Photo 2 we had a small model railway railway layout and many photographs on display.
Photo 4: Garden Railway watchers; this was central to many small visitors' attention!
Photo 5: Visitors have a go on the Midland Railway ground frame.
Photo 6: Down by the lamp hut we had our lit lamps.
Photo 7: Our President, Keith Webster, does one of the numerous demonstration upstairs in the box to a full house.

We now have less than 100 visitors to go to our 20,000th recorded visitor!


Open Afternoon Surprise
An amazing new record was set on the 11th February for the visitor numbers at an ordinary three hour-long Open Afternoon - no less than 121 people turned up, despite hail, snow and sleet showers! Previous best was in October last year when 103 visitors came. We edge closer to our 20,000th visitor - only 500+ to go, and in under 10 years of public opening.

Station Lights - new acquisitions
In June 2016 we erected two old telegraph poles with the intention of fitting them with railway lights of some type to light the staircase to the first floor of the box and the area between the box and the lamp hut. But we looked in vain for the lights to fit on them - until January when two "Station Lights" were spotted for sale on the Internet. They were bought, and our Chairman drove off to Bristol on Wednesday 14th February to collect them. He returned with them at the end of our regular working afternoon, but the weather was against photography due to clouds and rain. But here they are now:

Photo 1:       Photo 2:           Photo 3:        Photo 4:            Photo 5:

Photo 1 shows one of the lights in general - the photo has been turned to help show how it will look once erected. (The lamp is not lit - just the strong sunlight present when the lamps were photographed!)
Photo 2 shows the decorative ironwork at the top of the "Swan's-neck" pipework.
Photo 3 shows the underside of the shade and bowl.
Photo 4 shows that one of the lamps has a crack in the plastic bowl which will need to be repaired.
Photo 5 shows the interior of the lamp and the room we have to place a new light source inside if need be.

These lamps are thought to have come originally from the Brighton area, hence the green paintwork for the Southern Region. The actual light fittings currently have a 50W Metal Halide lamp and control gear fitted; date stamps on parts of the control gear suggest that the fittings date from 1988.
There is a fair degree of work to be done - cleaning up, particularly the Swan's-necks and the rust thereon, designing how to fit them to a round pole rather than a flat surface, and a complete rewire, probably with a new light source, as the present ones will be too bright!

Restart on Fencing

One section of the external fencing that wasn't given a fresh protective coating last year was that at the back of our two car-parking bays. Work hadn't been done on these due to wind and rain after October last year bringing things to a halt. But a bright Sunday afternoon with little wind gave an opportunity to start again.

Photo 1:                       Photo 2:                                     Photo 3:

Photo 1: Shows the fence concerned.
Photo 2: The flat tops of the fence pales have encouraged some to rot - so we have sawn a bit off to give what is actually the correct Midland Railway appearance. This should also shed the rain much better.
Photo 3: The fence after the top foot or two had been coated - time (and temperature) prevented further work.


The Garden Railway Extension
Work on this continued and was completed in time for the first Open Afternoon, followed over the next two days by classes from a primary school in Bedford doing a project on transport.
The following pictures are a recap of the development of this railway over less than two years:

In May 2016:          Extended late '16:   Early 2018:            Completed by 14th January:

Chiltern Model Railway Association Annual Show, Stevenage, 13/14th January
We were again invited to take the Publicity Stand to this major event.

After setting up:        and with visitors: 
New features of the stand included improved lighting, display of our large banner on a modified framework and a pair of working block instruments as well as bells. A modest amount of sales were made and a lot of people spoken with and leaflets given out. Thanks to our volunteers for manning the stand and to the CMRA for giving us the space.

Open Afternoon, 14th January: Meanwhile, back at base our first afternoon opening of 2018 saw some 75 visitors.

Elstree and Borehamwood Museum: "All Change!" - 150 years of Rail
Through our membership of the Herts Association of Museums, we had been aware that our fellow museum was planning an exhibition to commemorate the arrival of the 'London Extension' to serve their area in 1868, and the changes that this event had brought to an essentially rural community, including it becoming Britain's "Hollywood". We have lent them some items from our collection, as a result of which our Chairman and Publicity officer were invited to attend the formal evening opening on Monday 22nd January. A few pictures of their excellent display, which we warmly recommend you visit - details on the flyer.

Flyer:         "Station":    Three displays: (with items loaned from St Albans South)

The above exhibition will now continue to the end of September due to it's popularity!