Category Archives: News

All the latest news and developments from the Society

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


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!

Doors, Windows and Plastering

Thanks to some superb work by the GWS Civil Engineering (CE) Group, the building now has a complete set of windows in the three back windows of the building (one in the Swindon room and two in the Bristol room). These are original GWR windows from the former buildings at the front of Didcot station before the pickup area was built. The last remaining window, at the front of the building, is from Taunton Engine Shed.

Plastering has now taken place on two of the walls in the Swindon room, that’s the wall at the Uffington end of the panel, and the wall that’s face-to-face with the Uffington part of the panel. Tomorrow, and Thursday next week, the wall behind the panel will be plastered. The Uffington end wall has already received a first coat of paint.

The first of the final doors have been fitted to the building now, the small door at the side of the building now has a “new” wooden door (actually a recovered railway door). The doors for the signal building have been rescued from the p.w. buildings at Didcot and platform 9 at Reading.

Simulator PCBs Under Construction

Well done and thank you to our army of solderers who are building the PCBs for Swindon Panel’s simulator.

The administration of picking, packing, sending, receiving and dealing with the hundreds of PCBs involved has been a lot more difficult that I thought it would be – so I apologise that the process is going very slowly indeed and that I am the weakest link!

Boards are flowing out and back in thick and fast. All will be tested for electronic functionality shortly and then we’ll start to install them in the panel!

Fundraising — Swindon Panel Needs Funds

As you will have seen in the AGM reports and in the newsletter, the Society needs to raise some new funds.

There are several main areas of financial commitment for the Society:
* £25k building contribution (£20k already paid, remainder due in Summer 2017).
* £5k panel move costs (all paid).
* £7k simulator electronics cost (~£6k paid).
* ~£3k building internal decorating costs (not yet started).

From this very simple breakdown, you can see there is approximately £6,000 of major expenditure expected in the next 12 months, plus other costs such as insurance, tools, etc, so realistically we’ll be spending a minimum of £8,000 in the next 12 months. We recently made £1,500 of unplanned expenditure on security (CCTV and boarding-up), and left in the bank there is now £1,200.

We have been very lucky in the past that we haven’t had too much difficulty raising money. The several delays to the closure of the panel by Network Rail helped this. But now we are in the situation, for the first time, where we don’t have enough money in the bank to carry us through our expenditure commitments.

We have therefore set ourselves the necessary challenge of raising the required £6,800 over the next 8 months (which is the time by which it is required). Nearly a thousand pounds a month is a tall order, so we need your help!

There are many ways you can help, such as making a donation (either via that link, or cheque via post, or cash in person), sponsoring an item from our Amazon Wish List, becoming a member of the Society, upgrading your membership if you are a bronze member, signing up to Easy Fundraising, completing a Gift Aid declaration, purchasing one or more of our Swindon Panel souvenirs or newsletter binders, and helping to spread the word about the Society and its work via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and this website.

The panel is now in Didcot, fully in our possession, and it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ it’s preserved and brought back to life, it’s ‘when’!

The ‘when’ currently depends on fundraising, so if you’ve followed our progress with interest thus far, please consider helping the preservation in one of the many ways above. Thank you for your help – Swindon Panel needs you!

Exciting Weeks Ahead

Some of our plans for the next few weekends, which we hope you might wish to join in with!

Saturday 8 October

Work will be taking place on the front pathway to the building, including digging-out and levelling the ground from the front door of the building up to the main platform. No special skills are required, but a great deal of satisfaction is there to be gained from some therapeutic digging!

We will also be continuing our wiring and soldering inside the panel. Our current work involves altering the ‘looping’ between the switches and buttons in the panel in order to deliver 24 volts to one side of each switch and button, in order that operating the button or switch delivers electricity to the simulator input.
The civil engineering group will also be present and engaged in continuing work on the building, including door and window fitting.

Saturday 15 / Sunday 16 October

Painting work will be taking place inside the building to put a first coat over the newly-plastered walls. Soldering will also be continuing.

Plastering will be largely complete by this stage, and installation of shelving etc in the building will be taking place to move our main ‘stores’ into the panel room from elsewhere on the site.

Sunday 23 October

As well as completing any unfinished tasks from those above, we will be continuing with soldering work in the panel. By this stage we will be ready to start testing our 24v looping, so will be repeating a task we did a few weeks ago with lamps, which was to light them up one at a time for testing, which is to attach each switch in turn to a buzzer and then operate it to prove its electrical continuity.

If you are able to help on any of the next few weekends you would be most welcome (If you are able to let us know in advance if you’re coming it helps us plan, but pre-booking isn’t compulsory!)


Are you a member of Swindon Panel Society yet? If not, there has never been a better time to join!

If you are a bronze member, perhaps you might like to consider upgrading to Silver!

The panel is now in Didcot, fully in our possession, and it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ it’s preserved and brought back to life, it’s ‘when’!

The ‘when’ currently depends on fundraising, so if you’ve followed our progress with interest thus far, please consider joining the Society. There are two levels of membership, starting from just £5. You’ll receive a membership card, email updates, you can visit, and play with, the panel as much as you like when we are open (or even when we’re not as a silver member!). Silver members also receive our popular news magazine with many interesting reports and stories about the preservation work.

Swindon Panel needs you!!

Panel moved – thank you

Thank you to the volunteers in attendance at our additional Swindon Panel Day last weekend – the panel was successfully moved across the room in order to make more work space and room for plastering behind the panel.

The panel will stay in its new position for the next several months while the wiring in the back of the panel is installed.

Look at all this lovely space behind the panel we now have!

Newsletter Binders

Swindon Panel Newsletter issue 14 is currently in the post (and email copies will be coming out to Bronze members shortly). We are now delighted to have available brand new high-quality binders for your Swindon Panel newsletters!

Very similar to those available for The Signalling Record from the SRS, and numerous other clubs and Societies, these dark red binders have a sprung cord system inside that allows up to 12 SPS A5 newsletter magazines to be held in each binder. They will be embossed “SWINDON PANEL SOCIETY” on the spine (not “The Fairground Mercury” – that’s just the sample!) The binders look very professional on bookshelves and are a great way to preserve your collection of Swindon Panel newsletter magazines.

The binders are available for £10 each.
Please email us to place your order.

If you have any ‘gaps’ in your collection of SPS newsletters we may be able to fill them from our spares in return for a donation to SPS’s funds. Please let us know if you would like any back issues and we will establish what we have available. Some of our earlier newsletters were issued in A4 size. If there is sufficient interest we may produce reformatted versions of these in A5 booklet size to make the collection consistent and fit nicely into these binders.

Work Week 2

Thank you to everyone who joined in with Work Week 2 at Swindon Panel.

Testing and Recording

A great deal of testing took place of the panel wiring and alterations during the week. This involves feeding the tags at the back of the panel and confirming the correct combinations of lamps, switches, buttons and buzzers respond on the front of the panel. There were, of course, three temporary fringes in the closure of the panel (at Loco Yard, Rushey Platt and Brinkworth), so it has been necessary to undo the effects of these.

Electronics Fitting

We made great progress on the fitting of electronics in the panel in readiness for the simulator. These jobs are generally small and fiddly, rather than physically demanding, such as dealing with the PCB components or DIN rails in the panel, but in our case they are often required hundreds of times for all the fittings required, so take a while!

Cable Manufacture

A large number of plug-ended cables are required in the panel, and our young workforce was put to good use in testing and installing these.

Finally, on the last day, all of our tools and equipment were packed away to leave the room empty of everything except the panel in readiness for plastering of the walls to take place which should now be under-way!

When half the room has been plastered, the panel will be moved forward to the other side of the room to allow the rear wall to be plastered, and also to give better access for work in the rear of the panel.

Soldering Update


Thank you for helping with Swindon Panel soldering!

The components have started to be sent out now, so you will shortly receive one board, plus components. I am sending everyone one board first (despite protests!) This is for two reasons – firstly to make sure that the instructions are correctly interpreted, as a minor ambiguity on the part of the instructions could otherwise lead to numerous wasted boards, and also just in case anyone’s skills…. might better suit them to helping in other ways(!)

(I’m sorry it’s taken a while to get these out, the job has been more time-consuming than I first thought).

Please make sure you see the tutorial videos on YouTube – just search for ‘Swindon Panel PCB Tutorial’ on Youtube and you’ll see them. There are three – one for each type of the different types of board.




For identification, the input boards are blue, the output boards are small and red (approx. 3”x4”), the flashing boards are large and red (approx. 4” x 5”).

A couple of points that have come up over the last few weeks:

- Ventilation – please ensure you solder in a well-ventilated environment. The solder fumes aren’t very good for you.
- Flux cleaning – Several people have asked about this. If you have the tools and skills to do this and wish to then please feel free. If not then no problem. Please let us know if you do do this.
- The tip cleaning sponge is mentioned in the video, but never seen in use…….. (sorry!)
- A tip, particularly for the terminal blocks and similar larger items, is to hold them in place with a blob of blue-tack so they are held square and don’t fall out when you turn the board over.
- The serial numbers have not been supplied, so please ignore this requirement.

Thanks to everyone for these comments.

If you have any problems or you find you have made an error that you’re not confident to correct, please return the board to us in whatever state it is in. We have one or two “professional” solderers in the Society who can do “difficult” repairs.

Transistors supplied for flashing and output boards are in anti-static bags. There is no enormous risk to these, but if you could avoid touching them while wearing a nylon tracksuit on a carpet floor while holding a vandagraph generator in your other that…. That would be appreciated! These boards can go into the anti-static bag provided to be sent back.

All PCBs can then go into the padded envelope they are sent in to be sent back.

Please send the boards back to :

Swindon Panel Society, Didcot Railway Centre, Station Road, Didcot. OX11 7HJ.

Please include a note (or mark on the envelope) your name so that we know who it’s from!

Thank you very much indeed for your help – please let us know if you have any queries.


Danny S.

First Stage of Bristol PSB Farewell

Farewell this weekend, as we start to say good bye to one of Swindon Panel’s neighbours – the first part of the Stoke Panel in Bristol PSB has been decommissioned and is being recontrolled to TVSC.

The lines moved are those that were commissioned under stage 7B of the Bristol MAS scheme on 22 February 1971: Winterbourne to Patchway, Filton Jn and Hallen Marsh. It replaced the boxes at Filton Junction, Filton West, Stoke Gifford East, Stoke Gifford West, Patchway and Cattybrook.

The map of Stage 7B of the Bristol MAS scheme in 1971. Click for a larger version.

Bristol Stoke will still control, for the time being, the Charfield lines to the fringe with Gloucester and the Badminton lines fringed by TVSC on both sides (in the east where it used to fringe with Swindon PSB.) This area would have been decommissioned some time ago, but was delayed by the delays to the closure of Swindon PSB.

The photos above show two parts of Bristol Stoke Panel in 2007.

When the Bristol MAS scheme was started in 1970 BR proudly launched a large public awareness campaign called “Starting Something Big at Bristol”, with large banners at the front of Temple Meads station. Bristol was the largest panel box Western Region had ever installed, they were proud of it, and wanted everyone to know.

The campaign distributed information to the public about the scheme and how it would improve the management of rail traffic, and managed their expectations about the necessary service alterations that would take place during the process. Open meetings were held for the railwaymen and women of the time to attend and raise questions etc about the scheme. As with all large-scale industrial changes such as this there was some considerable upheaval for the staff concerned, not unlike the present-day scheme. One of the then-signalmen, Peter Randall, wrote an excellent contemporaneous book about the resignalling and the social and operational impact that shared the name “Starting Something Big at Bristol”.

The current resignalling, slightly less proudly called “BASRE” (Bristol Area Signalling Renewals and Enhancements), is driven by three main factors: life-expiry of the 1971 equipment, the requirement for AC-immune signalling in readiness for electrification, and the re-four-tracking of Filton Bank to deliver capacity enhancements. The scheme, which includes Bristol Temple Meads and everything north and east thereof, will require over 700 signalling equivalent units (SEUs). A large number of WR MAS gantries and cantilevers will be replaced, connections to a new IEP depot at Stoke Gifford will be commissioned, and the St Andrew’s Crosses at Temple Meads with mid-platform signals, and of course all the WR E10k electro-mechanical relay interlockings will be replaced with solid-state interlockings, relocked and recontrolled to TVSC under the ’85% compliance approach’ which means existing signal positions remain largely unchanged.

If you have memories of working in Bristol Panel or on the Bristol area, or photos from the panel, especially in its early days, please do share them with us in the comments below.

Good luck to everyone involved in the decommissioning, the commissioning, and the well done to everyone who has worked in Bristol Panel, upstairs, downstairs, or outside, over the last 45 years.

The photo below shows Swindon Panel’s fringe to Bristol Stoke.