Category Archives: News

All the latest news and developments from the Society

Grand Opening Date for Swindon Panel

A date in Swindon Panel’s exciting and sometimes unbelievable journey to preservation that you won’t want to miss!

The grand opening of the new signalling building at Didcot Railway Centre, including the ceremonial opening of Swindon Panel, will take place on 23 June 2018.

We are delighted to confirm that the opening ceremony will be officiated by Francis How, Chief Executive of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers!

The ceremony will also be accompanied by other special attractions and visitors…. watch this space!

EasyFundraising Extra £1 for SPS

£152.60 has been raised for Swindon Panel in the last few months via EasyFundraising! Well done everyone!

When supporters shop at one of over 3000 online stores, those stores donate money to Swindon Panel, without costing the shopper any more. If you aren’t registered yet, please consider doing so, and using this special link will attract an extra £1 donation for SPS, without costing you anything extra, or, in fact, anything at all!

There are even browser extensions available for Chrome, Firefox, etc, that automatically recognise you’re a supporter so you don’t have to remember to log in before shopping.

Swindon Panel & Friends, Slight Change of Plan!

We are all looking forward to the Swindon Panel & Friends day on 11 March, where we hope to welcome all those with a past connection to Swindon Panel to visit it in its new home (full details).

In response to feedback we have slightly changed the emphasis of the evening from ‘dinner at a restaurant with a bar’ to ‘drinks at a pub that serves food for those who wish to eat’. We hope this meets with your approval, and we hope you will be happy to join us for a drink at The Ladygrove, Didcot (OX11 7SZ) from 6.30pm. We will have a specially-reserved section of the bar/restaurant. Those who wish to may still order food, but there is no expectation to do so.

The panel itself is open from 2pm in Didcot Railway Centre (full details).

Swindon Panel Saturday 4 Feb

The next working day at the panel is Saturday 4 February, where we will continue (and hopefully finish) the threading-in of the 8-core cables that will connect the PCBs to the tag blocks.

Please note that due to a change in DRC policy, the building is without mains electricity at present. This, unfortunately, means no heating is available, so please wear your coat!

2017 Update to Volunteering Documents

Each year we review our documentation for working members. We also renew work permits (red cards) each year.

View the updated documents.

The briefing booklet for volunteers has been considerably updated. It contains all the necessary information required for safe and happy volunteering with Swindon Panel Society and will help ensure your safety and the safety of those around you as much as we can. This applies to all activities undertaken with SPS, not just on the DRC site.

All working members will be given with a copy of this new booklet on the first occasion you volunteer with us in 2017. At the same time we will ask you to complete an acknowledgement/emergency details form and we will renew your red card for 2017. Links are provided here for anyone who wishes to download/read/print at home (printed copies will be at the panel).

We also review the Risk Assessment for the work we do annually, so this has also been updated.

We will be very glad to receive feedback on the Induction Booklet and the Risk Assessment, please let us know if you have comments about how these can be improved or developed.

Thank you for volunteering!

Please Vote for SPS in Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund!

SPS is taking part in the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund this week!

Five small community projects such as ours are awarded gifts of £300 from the Fund each week, and this is our week!

You can vote for SPS any time this week by following the link below. If we finish the week with the highest numbers of votes, Galaxy Chocolate will donate £300!

This donation will be used to further the fitting-out of the building, which still requires a ceiling, flooring, doors and sink!

Please vote, and encourage your friends to vote, for SPS!

The Search is On…

As you will be aware, our Swindon Panel gathering of past and present signalmen and friends is taking place in just under eight weeks (read more details).

We are keen to invite as many former signalmen and staff from Swindon Panel as we can, so if you are in contact with anyone with a connection with Swindon Panel in the past, in any capacity, official or unofficial, please either let us know about their contact details or let them know about the event!

Thank you.

Your chance to be a Signalman

Just in case you had forgotten what we look like, he is the latest photo of Swindon Panel in restoration!

As you can see – all the walls are now plastered and painted in the panel room, and carpet has been laid in the working area behind the panel.

The ceiling cannot be complete yet as, until the panel is placed in its final position (which will be determined by a bit of trial-and-error), we don’t know exactly where the lights in the ceiling will be positioned, which affects the positions of other ceiling equipment such as air conditioning, etc. The moving back into final-position of the panel will also be the time at which it can be removed from its lifting frame.

Wiring of the panel is well advanced. We are nearly complete in wiring the ‘live’ to one side of every switch and button in the panel, re-using as much of the original wiring as possible (and at considerable extra effort!). When this has finished it will be time to start wiring in the 8-core cables from the tag blocks to the PCBs that will interface to the “interlocking”. Exciting times ahead!

It is planned that the first phase of the wiring will be an extension of our existing working section of panel at Wootton Bassett West, extending the control area west to the fringe at Alderton with Bristol PSB, followed by the addition of the main line between Wootton Bassett Jn and the fringes at Box and Thingley.

Your chance to be a signalman…

Of course with this new soon-to-be-working panel, we now need to turn our attention to how we’re going to demonstrate it! It is the moment many of you have been waiting for – we are recruiting signalmen!*

( * And signal-women too of course. As we are re-creating a 1980s panel, the word ‘signaller’ has not been invented in the railway context yet!)

SPS volunteers will work the panel and encourage visitors to have a go. Of course, no real trains will be involved, so it doesn’t matter if any mistakes are made!

Training will be provided to volunteers to make sure that you are comfortable with how the panel works and how to explain the very basics to people, and there will always be several volunteers on duty at the same time, allowing the “work” to be shared and also to allow for breaks etc. (And just because it’s common sense that to look after staff and customers it’s necessary to have more than one member of staff…)

Experience in explaining Swindon Panel to people thus far has enabled us to identify the favourite questions that visitors like to ask (How old is it? When did it close? How many people worked it? Isn’t it all done by computer?) so we are confident it will be easy to equip you with the answers to these favourite questions.

Don’t worry – it won’t be necessary to learn thousands of rules and regulations to volunteer for working the panel – it is not the plan to have major disasters playing out for the public! We will make sure you are aware of the principles of how things work about anything that the public might ask (such as “if a train breaks down, will the one behind crash into it?” and “What happens when there’s leaves on the line?”). The one question we might not be able to answer is “Why is my train always late?”, although I think we might all have our own views on that!

If you have background railway or signalling knowledge you will be most welcome, but even if you don’t have the first clue where to start, don’t let that stop you! What better way is there to learn than in a completely safe, completely fun panel with no time or safety pressure?

Please let us know via any of the usual means if you would be interested in learning more about working the panel. When doing so, please let us know if you have any existing relevant background knowledge as this will enable us to plan, and to make sure you get the help you need, but not the help you don’t!

We look forward to seeing you all in the new year, we have many working days and special events on in the new year, and if you’re still considering your new year’s resolution – Helping for a day at Swindon Panel is an easy one!

Newsletter 15 an Unusually Long Time in Section

Newsletter 15s were posted to silver and gold members on Thursday 15 December, but unfortunately these seem to be subject to confusion and delay as some members have reported that they have taken a long time to arrive or still haven’t arrived.

I’m sorry for this delay, presumably caused by the volume of Christmas post in the system, hopefully all the newsletters will be delivered soon.

If your newsletter still hasn’t arrived by Wednesday 28 December please let us know.

Danny S.

Big Lottery Fund Grant to Swindon Panel

Volunteers are essential to Swindon Panel. Without you we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have. In recognition of the importance of its volunteers, we are delighted to announce that the Society has been granted £6,000 by the Big Lottery Fund to help us to develop volunteering!

This will help provide resources to help us to find new volunteers and also make it easier for people to participate. It will also be used to provide skills development for our existing volunteers. Looking ahead, we will soon be guiding visitors round our unique exhibit and need to ensure the maximum educational and enjoyment value – the grant will be useful in developing our presentation skills here too.

Look out for more news on this exciting development in the near future!

Very many thanks to Tim who has lead this process from the very beginning and everyone who has helped along the way!

There remains a lot of work to be done on the physical aspects of the building and the search for funding for this continues…

2017 Calendar Published

[NOTE some further special events have been added to our 2017 calendar since this article was published. View the Activities Calendar for 2017 for the latest details.]

Our Activities Calendar for 2017 has now been published.

We have continued with our pattern of working every other weekend on the panel restoration, additional dates will be added if the volunteer manpower permits.

There are already some ‘dates for your diary’…

Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 January we will be attending the Kidlington Model Railway Show, Exeter Hall, Kidlington.

Saturday 18 February we will be attending the Kenavon Model Railway Show in Reading.

We would be delighted to receive any offers of help with manning the Swindon Panel trade stand at these shows. No special skills are required, it’s all about giving out leaflets, talking to passers-by, and sharing the news of our work. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone! It’s a great opportunity to help Swindon Panel and also visit the rest of the show yourself. Please let us know if you are free on any of those days and available to help out.

Saturday 11 March we are delighted to be hosting a second ‘Swindon Panel & Friends’ Reunion & Dinner, a repeat of our successful gathering event in April 2015. More details….

Saturday 3 June will be our AGM – always a popular opportunity for everyone to catch up and review the year of progress.

There are some other activities we hope to add in soon too – such as a trip to Romsey Signal Box, a very successful signal box preservation project with similar aims to ours which we hope we will be visiting in the spring, and the popular “Work Week” in August.

We hope to see you at Didcot in 2017!

2017 Events

We are starting to plan our 2017 event calendar, and there are already some ‘dates for your diary’ on it!

Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 January we will be attending the Kidlington Model Railway Show, Exeter Hall, Kidlington.

Saturday 18 February we will be attending the Kenavon Model Railway Show in Reading.

We would be delighted to receive any offers of help with manning the Swindon Panel trade stand at these shows. No special skills are required, it’s all about giving out leaflets, talking to passers-by, and sharing the news of our work. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone! It’s a great opportunity to help Swindon Panel and also visit the rest of the show yourself. Please let us know if you are free on any of those days and available to help out.

Saturday 11 March we are delighted to be hosting a second ‘Swindon Panel & Friends’ Reunion & Dinner, a repeat of our successful gathering event in April 2015. More details…

Panel Method of Operation Books Reprinted

We are delighted have re-printed two small books that were issued by Western Region to signalmen and others at the time of the Swindon MAS scheme in 1968 explaining in great detail the operation of the new panel.

Most WR panels had their own customised version of this book produced, some of them running to several hundred pages. They were based on the Western Region general book, but localised with information about the panel they were applicable to.

As far as SPS has been able to establish no custom book was made for Swindon, but instead the standard Western Region book issued, plus a Swindon Appendix that contained the local information. Both of these have been re-printed by SPS.

The books show the method of operation and signalling details of the panel at the time that it opened in March 1968.

A sample page from the Western Region book. (Larger version)

SPS is grateful to Network Rail for allowing the re-printing of these books.

The Western Region book is 44 pages long and the Swindon Appendix is 16 pages. The books are produced in matching style and are available separately (£8 and £3 respectively) or at a discount if purchased together (£10).

(The covers of these books are pale blue, which doesn’t show very well in these photos.)

The books are available to buy online now, via HOPS.

100% of the price you pay will be used in the preservation of Swindon Panel at Didcot Railway Centre by Swindon Panel Society, registered charity 1159646. UK postage is free (sponsored by HOPS). HOPS does not make any of the money from the sale of these products.

A sample page from the Swindon Appendix (Larger version)

Swindon Panel souvenirs help restore Swindon Panel!

First Coat of Paint on the Walls

Another milestone passed today in the building! Plaster on some of the walls was dry enough that we could put the first coat of paint on.

The paint had to be watered down as it was being applied to bare plaster but it already makes the place look brighter. Thanks to Stephen and John for helping. The Bristol Group were also working today on the wooden signal post.

More activities including painting walls taking place tomorrow (16th), and a week tomorrow (23rd), plus the continuation of soldering and wiring in the back of the panel. Join us!

Swindon Panel Souvenirs

SWINDON PANEL FUNDRAISING TIP NO 143

One way in which Swindon Panel is raising much needed funds is through the sale of Swindon Panel souvenirs. Are there any gaps in your collection of Swindon Panel memorabilia…?

Swindon Panel Mugs

Some blue ones still available and lots of new green ones.

£5 each. UK P&P free.

Swindon Panel enamel totem fridge magnet.

A must for any self-respecting fridge.

£3.50. UK P&P free.

Swindon Panel Move Book

The story of the preservation of the panel and its move to Didcot.

Limited print run

£10. UK P&P free.


We have a small number of these badges left which we released earlier in the year to celebrate Swindon Panel’s 48th birthday and its transition into preservation.
Swindon Panel celebratory pin badge set.

£2 each or a complete set of 6 for £10. UK P&P free (only full sets available by post).

Swindon Panel needs you!