Category Archives: News

All the latest news and developments from the Society

Proposed Trustee Changes

There are a number of changes to Trustee positions that we hope you will support at the AGM on 26 June.

Firstly, Tom O’Flaherty, the Society’s Chairman and founder, has reluctantly decided to step down due to the commitments of work. We thank Tom for his effort and contribution to the project and the Society since the very beginning – without his initial ideas and foresight, none of us, nor Swindon Panel, would be in the position we are today.

The following is proposed:

Danny Scroggins (already a trustee) will move from the role of Secretary up to the role of Chairman.

Tim Miller (also already a trustee) will move up to the role of Vice Chairman.

James Nelhams will take up a new trustee role in the Society, with specific responsibility for the panel simulator hardware installation and panel alterations. James is already well-known to many in the Society and is a regular face at Didcot. James is a railwayman for his job as well, working in the Control Office at GWR Swindon.

The role of Secretary will be temporarily vacant.

Brian Davis will continue in the role of Treasurer (unchanged).

The Society Trustees carry out an important role in managing the Society to ensure it strives towards meeting its aims, it operates within its defined scope and authority, that finances are managed properly and that it ultimately offers the public educational benefit it was set up to deliver.

These changes to our committee will precipitate very little change in how we operate or ‘what we actually do’, it is really just changing the formal name badges to match what we’re all already doing.

We hope you will support these proposed changes to the Trustee positions on 26 June. If you wish to discuss anything with us in advance then please let us know.

Many thanks.

SPS AGM – 26 June

Thank you to everyone who came to visit us during the DRC Diesel Gala last weekend – we showed six interested groups of visitors into the panel, gained at least one new member, and raised £200 towards the costs of the restoration. Keep it up!

Swindon Panel AGM 26 June

A reminder to all our members and supporters that the AGM is on Sunday 26 June.

We have a surprise for you for AGM day…. you may have seen recently the first panel lamps were lit up in preservation – this is the first results of nearly two years of electronics work, a demo of which is being installed into the panel and a very small working section will hopefully be available for you to play with on AGM day!

10.30am – Centre opens

12noon – Switching on of small working demo section of panel.

1pm – AGM, to be held in the Panel Room for the first time.

As in previous years, the official business of the meeting will consist of a brief update from each of the key areas of the Society and the re-election of trustees [Update 17/6/16 - See below]. After the official part of the meeting there will be an informal question/answer/discussion session open to all members and supporters.

2pm(ish) – There will be a short presentation on the subject of the move of the panel and its installation into the building.

4pm(ish) – A BBQ will be available in the later afternoon.

All members and supports of the Society are welcome to attend the AGM.

DRC steam trains will also be in operation.


The first panel lamps lit in preservation. (Some of the Dominos are upside-down for some reason!) More photos.

Update – 17/6/16.

There are a number of changes to Trustee positions that we hope you will support at the AGM on 26 June.

Firstly, Tom O’Flaherty, the Society’s Chairman and founder, has reluctantly decided to step down due to the commitments of work. We thank Tom for his effort and contribution to the project and the Society since the very beginning – without his initial ideas and foresight, none of us, nor Swindon Panel, would be in the position we are today.

The following is proposed:

Danny Scroggins (already a trustee) will move from the role of Secretary up to the role of Chairman.

Tim Miller (also already a trustee) will move up to the role of Vice Chairman.

James Nelhams will take up a new trustee role in the Society, with specific responsibility for the panel simulator hardware installation and panel alterations. James is already well-known to many in the Society and is a regular face at Didcot. James is a railwayman for his job as well, working in the Control Office at GWR Swindon.

The role of Secretary will be temporarily vacant.

Brian Davis will continue in the role of Treasurer (unchanged).

The Society Trustees carry out an important role in managing the Society to ensure it strives towards meeting its aims, it operates within its defined scope and authority, that finances are managed properly and that it ultimately offers the public educational benefit it was set up to deliver.

These changes to our committee will precipitate very little change in how we operate or ‘what we actually do’, it is really just changing the formal name badges to match what we’re all already doing.

We hope you will support these proposed changes to the Trustee positions on 26 June. If you wish to discuss anything with us in advance then please let us know.

Many thanks.

Public Visits to Swindon Panel this Bank Holiday Monday

[Public visits now extended to include Sunday 29 May.]

This weekend is Diesel Gala and Real Ale Festival weekend at Didcot Railway Centre, and SPS are joining in the fun!

On Sunday 29 and Monday 30 May we will have our info tent set up at Didcot spreading the word about Swindon Panel and the work we’re doing, as well as promoting sales of our many souvenirs to ensure we raise enough money to pay for it all!

On Sunday 29 and Monday 30 May we will also be making public tours of the panel in its new building. Now that the internal scaffolding has been removed from the new building a great new space has been opened up and suddenly the internal proportions of the space are much more easily appreciable.

Tours will take place at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on Sunday 29 and Monday 30 May. Numbers on each tour will be limited, so please register with the SPS info stand on the day when you first arrive to avoid disappointment.

You’ll be able to learn:
- the history of the panel and how it was brought to Didcot
- how it will be brought back to life and how it operates
- how it will form part of an exciting new exhibition at the Railway Centre

Everyone is welcome on the tours – members and public – so if you haven’t seen the panel in its new home yet, or if you have but you would like to see how far it has progressed since we put all the Dominos back in, please join us!

Of course, we always welcome extra helpers on Swindon Panel Days like these, so if you’re coming for the tour, why not lend a hand on the stand for half a day as well? It’s very easy-going and a great atmosphere. Please let us know if you can help.

Network Rail Volunteer Leave Opportunity

Network Rail employees: Five days paid volunteer leave every year, what are you doing with yours?

Network Rail employees, did you know…

NR encourages its employees of all grades to take 5 days’ paid ‘volunteer leave’ per year to support UK-registered charities.

The company believes social performance is an integral part of its commitment to sustainability, particularly in two key themes of ‘Caring for Communities’ and ‘Improving the Passenger Experience’. Respecting Britain’s Railway Heritage falls within these themes, and therefore working with Swindon Panel Society (registered charity number 1159646) qualifies. Some SPS members have already enjoyed the benefits of this opportunity.

What could be better than being paid to enjoy your hobby!

Of particular interest may be the two week-long periods in August when we hope to tackle a significant amount of the wiring of the panel to the simulator.

To arrange your volunteer leave to volunteer with SPS:

* If you use E-Business you will need to request your leave via Leave of Absence on the E-Business Suite. Select Volunteering –Charitable or Volunteering – Community Engagement from the absence type.

* If you do not use the E-Business Suite you’ll need to complete a volunteering leave form, available on Connect. You will need your line manager’s agreement to be released from duty.

* If you complete a paper timesheet you will also need to add this as volunteering leave.

Please to the Volunteering leave policy (available on Connect), before requesting your leave.

If you need any help with volunteering ideas please email the ‘Charitablegiving’ mailbox in the Outlook address book.

AND….

Even if you don’t work for Network Rail, your company might have similar volunteering schemes.

Panel Tiles Back in Place

Thank you to all our supporters who came along on Saturday 30 April to celebrate the arrival of the panel into its new home.

The “Swindon Room” was packed to bursting with volunteers eagerly replacing tiles. It was great to see our long-standing supporters and some new faces too.

Several milestones were passed:
- the panel now has (almost) all its tiles again and looks good to show to people
- the panel was seen by its first ever members of the general public – visitors to Didcot Railway Centre who happened to be walking past and took an interest. Their interest was a very good sign of things to come.
- reaction of children visiting the panel – they appeared hooked and parents had trouble tearing them away
- sales of Danny’s first book as an author!
- the “back desk” and the panel re-united in the same room.
- the sun shone in Didcot for what feels like the first time this year!

This video was shot by SPS member Ian Lynagh of the work to replace the 3015 tiles into the panel. For supposedly “square” tiles, they do seem to like to only fit certain ways round! Maybe they have rectangularised over the lat 50 years…!

The latter part of the video shows the shamozzles with which those who have worked around these panels will be only too familiar……..

Another video, showing the lifting and moving of the panel is under construction and will be available soon… “Swindon Panel The Mov(i)e”!

See you again on our next working day at Didcot Railway Centre – Saturday 14th May.

Dave Cohen – Swindon S&T

It is with great sadness that we report on the passing away of another member of Swindon Panel staff, Dave Cohen.

Dave previously worked in Gloucester S&T and moved to Swindon Panel S&T in 1976. He stayed at Swindon until the early 1990s, after which he went on to work for Racal (railway telephone providers) laying fibre-optic cables along side the track. During his time at Swindon he would have been heavily involved in the maintenance of the panel and the signalling equipment on the Swindon district.

Dave’s son Richard sometimes visited his father at work, and has many fond memories of being taken into Swindon Panel. He describes “Going upstairs to watch the lights moving along the panel and then peering out the window to watch the train pass through the station, or downstairs peering in wonder at the huge room of relays and circuitry or the rest room with the mixed smell of oil, tea and sandwiches.”

Unfortunately Dave passed away last week. Richard is trying to seek his father’s workmates who might still be either working or retired locally to advise them that Dave’s funeral will be held on 5 May at 12 noon at Swindon’s Kingsdown Crematorium, followed by a wake at Wootton Bassett Rugby Club at Ballards Ash.

If anyone wishes to contact Richard please let us know and we will put you through.

Our deepest sympathy is with Dave’s family at this very difficult time.

Colin Baldwin’s Funeral

As we celebrate the arrival of Swindon Panel in Didcot, we also remember the contributions made to the life of the panel by the signalmen and women who operated and maintained it. One such person is Colin Baldwin, who unfortunately passed away recently.

Those who knew him may be interested to know the following:

Colin Anthony Baldwin died peacefully at home on 24th March 2016 aged 80 years. The much loved husband of Sybil, dad to Kay, Mark & Ian, a loving father in law and grampy. Colin was a retired railway signalman, horse racing and football enthusiast, who will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Funeral service to be held at St Margaret’s Parish Church, Stratton St Margaret, Swindon on Tuesday 12th April 2016 at 2:30pm. Please wear bright colours. Family flowers only however donations in Colin’s memory for the Prospect Hospice may be sent c/o G & L Evans Family Funeral Services, 4 Covingham Square, Swindon, Wiltshire. SN3 5AA Tel: 01793 526999

Home and Dry(ish)

The panel has now been moved into its new building and its new permanent home.

The roof of the building was finished earlier this week – just in time!

The panel was lifted in by the Great Western Society’s steam crane.

Thank you very much to everyone who has helped over the last week, the last month at Swindon and the last several years of the project – we’re home and dry… ish! The building doesn’t have any doors or windows yet so there is still a little way to go!

We will be at Didcot tomorrow (Friday 8 April), Saturday (9th) and Sunday (10th) – come and join in if you want to be part of the action!

We also hope to see you on Saturday 30th April for our ‘Welcome to Didcot’!

History in the Making!

The Panel Preservation Movement is Born!

This morning there were no large-scale preserved panels. This evening there is one.

Thanks to an excellent turnout of SPS and GWS volunteers and P&D Specialist Services at Swindon Panel today, the culmination of two years’ careful planning and preparation since the project was first formed over three years ago, the panel was successfully extracted from the building at last!

The team assembled at Swindon Panel at 6am to start the roll-out of the panel. The panel had been raised up to the appropriate height and position on previous weekends, and the runway out onto the roof had been prepared on Friday.

Lots of checks took place on the frame and panel to ensure it was ready for departure. The wooden boarding that had temporarily replaced the end window and door was removed and steel channel rails laid out of the control room onto the roof. In small steps the panel was pushed out onto the roof by SPS volunteers.

By 8am the panel was positioned outside on the roof, and was ready for collection.

Meanwhile an enormous lorry and hi-ab had arrived outside the building (much to the concern of the driver, given the access available!).

Shortly after 8am, right on time, the lifting harnesses were applied to the frame and, after more checks, the hi-ab took the strain and whole panel was inched off the roof. Once confident, the panel was lifted over the barriers that were around the edge of the roof and down onto the trailer. It was a momentous occasion for all those present and everyone in the Society following on Facebook, Twitter, etc, that the day we had waited so long for had finally arrived!

The panel lorry departed at about 9am, on schedule, for Didcot, followed by an entourage of SPS members’ vehicles taking photographs! It arrived at Didcot shortly after 10am.

The panel was then loaded into a waiting wagon in the DB Fuel Point yard by P&D for onward transit by rail. Some other items, such as blocks and steelwork was also loaded into the same wagon.

66176 arrived at about 11.40 to collect the very short train and at 12 noon it moved from the West Yard to the Main Yard, and then about 15 minutes later shunted forward at Didcot East to set-back into the Railway Centre.

The panel then spent a lovely afternoon in the sunshine that it would have seen so little of in its life before, sitting alongside the Demonstration Line platform. Later that afternoon it was shunted into the locomotive shed for under-cover storage until later this week.

Meanwhile, at Swindon, the team worked hard to restore the building to better-than-original condition. All manner of debris of the closure, decommissioning and our removal of the panel was removed, picked up, hoovered, replaced, squared up and secured: The window steel frames, uPVC fittings and glass panels were all replaced, door frame welded back into position, the handrails on the roof replaced, the floor in the control room made safe and holes covered with wood. The control room really is cleaner a lot than we found it!

At Didcot, work continued in the afternoon in preparing the building for the acceptance of the panel on Thursday. The many tools and items of equipment that we had used over the last several weekends were also brought back into the Railway Centre and returned to their correct places.

It was a fantastic day at Swindon and Didcot. We hope you enjoyed being part of it, whether that’s because you were there or because you followed progress through the day on Facebook or Twitter.

If you took photos today, please do send them in. The photos are extremely useful for ‘selling’ the Society to prospective supporters.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped the Panel Society reach this stage – what a fantastic achievement for all of us! WELL DONE!

Not finished yet!

However…….. we must remember that the job hasn’t finished yet!

Not least because we need to now get the panel into its new building and settled in.

The interior of the new building is a long way off completion, and then requires to be fitted with an education and interesting set of displays and equipment.

The panel also needs wiring up (which will be a huge task) so that it can work as realistically as the real thing.

Come and join us at Didcot in completing the preservation of Swindon Panel – it will be great fun!

We will be at Didcot tomorrow (Sunday 3 April) and then from Thursday (7 April) to Sunday (10 April) inclusive, during which time we will install the panel in the new building.

Photo and Video Competition

We will be very pleased to receive photographs of the panel on its journey today – being lifted off the panel roof, being transported by road, being lifted onto the train, then being moved by train into the Railway Centre (including through Didcot Parkway station!)

More details

Welcome To Didcot – Saturday 30 April

Let us welcome you, and give you the opportunity to welcome the panel, to Didcot!

This will be the first time the covers are taken off the panel, and everyone can take part in starting to re-insert the Domino tiles!

More details

Nearly Time…

The time of the Great Lift of Swindon Panel has nearly arrived.

You can read about the times planned for Saturday in this recent news update.

Don’t forget our Photo/Video Competition of the panel move.

You will hopefully be able to hear us on BBC Wiltshire at about 7.30am on Saturday too.

If you are planning to join us at any point over the weekend, please make sure you’ve read the notes in the email that was distributed on Thursday evening. If you have any problems please let us know.

Thank you to everyone for all the tremendous help over the last several weekends. It’s been great fun, and now we’re getting our panel at last!

Danny S.

Swindon Signalman Colin Baldwin

It is with great sadness that we have to report the passing away of former Swindon Panel signalman Colin Baldwin.

Many members and supporters of this group will have known or worked with Colin up until his retirement from Swindon Panel in 1995. Colin enjoyed a joint leaving do with his friend and colleague Glyn Thomas who retired at the same time.

Colin and his wife Sybil were kind enough to invite SPS to visit them at their house about six months ago to talk about the panel and Colin’s memories of it after they saw us on Points West. They were also kind enough to allow us to scan their collection of photos, now available in our photo gallery.

Our deepest sympathy is with Colin’s family at this very difficult time.

Swindon Panel Ready to Go!

An absolutely astonishing effort by the thirteen SPS members in attendance today at Swindon PSB has seen the paneldrawn up to the signal (the door) ready to depart the sidings and embark on its journey to its new home and its new life.

The panel has been raised a further 12 inches from last weekend, up to its required height to leave the building, and a blockwork runway has been built underneath the frame. The jacking bolts that have worked so hard over the last few weeks raising the panel up have been retracted allowing the frame roller wheels to be lowered down into steel channel on top of the blocks. This concludes the preparations in the control room for Swindon Panel’s extraction from the building!

As a test the panel was moved about 4 feet along its runway towards the Bristol-end doors of the building and it was found that the panel does move with relative ease.

Before:

After:

THANK YOU, on behalf of everyone involved with and supporting Swindon Panel, and from me personally, to everyone who has contributed in all and any ways to the progress of our project thus far; getting to this stage is an immense achievement! It has not been without its hurdles, but a significant number of people helping in exactly the right way at exactly the right time has got us over those hurdles. The breadth of skills in our supporter-base is immense and everyone’s willingness to contribute has been very impressive indeed.

So the panel is ready to leave the control room, but there is still a lot of work to do to get it to Didcot.

Commencing at 0600 on Saturday 2 April the panel will start to be rolled-out onto the roof. Help is needed with this! As the rear of the panel clears the runway at the back, so the blocks are require to be moved around to the front to support the further forward movement. The panel is 30 feet long and requires to move about 40 feet and there is about 15 feet of runway blocks in hand.

The road lorry will arrive at about 0700 and lift at about 0800. If all goes to plan the road journey will commence at about 0930. (Don’t forget our Photo Competition regarding its journey!)

Then, from 1000 our main working days starts in the making-good of the building: The doors and windows have to be replaced and all our waste and debris tidied away to leave the building in a good condition for hand-back to Network Rail.

So there is plenty to do, and if you can help on Saturday 2 April then please get in touch – many hands make light work and we can promise you’ll feel very rewarded at the end of the day when you see how much progress can be made!

The panel will be taken to Didcot’s West Yard (Deutsche Bahn locomotive fuelling point) for transshipment to a railway wagon, on which it will move into the Railway Centre, via Didcot Parkway station. It is expected that the panel will move into its new building in Didcot at the end of the week, possibly the Thursday or Friday.

Great work everyone – keep it up!


Re-enacting a famous scene!

Do you have a flat-bed type van ….?

Or something similar?

If so, and it is capable of carrying some weight, would you consider conveying some items from Swindon to Didcot for us please?

There are two main groups of things to be conveyed, one is a lot of Thermalite blocks that we are using for the runway for the panel to leave the building, and the other is the metal door plates from the panel (about 5′ x 2′ each).

The panel doors could also fit in a large car.

It will save some considerable work if these can be moved to Didcot on Saturday 2 April and loaded onto the same train as the panel, to remove the need to carry them through the station subway (as was the original plan).

As always, please let us know if you can help. Many thanks.

Don’t Forget Didcot!

We really have found ourselves understaffed at Didcot recently, unfortunately.

We also have several jobs at Didcot that need our attention -

- Undercoat-painting of wooden doors for new panel building

- Continuing work on the rail wagons to be used for bringing the panel into the Centre. Mainly scraping and painting.

- Plus an opportunity to man a sales stand for Swindon Panel during the Tornado Easter Gala at Didcot Railway Centre over the bank holiday weekend. If you would like to help out, but the work at Swindon isn’t your thing, here is a great way to raise some awareness and sales for the Society! The sales items are things such as our mugs, coasters, badges and magnets. Please let us know if you can help.

Please let us know if you can help with any of these and we will make arrangements at DRC.

Many thanks!

Move Day – 2 April – Early Turn “overtime” available!

The move of the panel is planned to take place at about 8am on Saturday 2 April.

This is before the advertised working party commences, but I am now seeking an additional ‘early turn’ on that day, to start at 6am, in the panel, whose task it will be to wheel the panel out onto the roof ready for its lift. All railwaymen and women love a bit of overtime, so here’s your chance!

If you are an early riser and could help with this early start (whether you’re already booked to be with us for the main part of the day or not), please let us know. Bacon rolls will be provided by Danny! Many thanks.

After the panel has departed, and for those arriving for the ‘standard’ working day, the task will be putting the building jigsaw back together again for handing-back to Network Rail, and saying a final goodbye to the building that has been Swindon Panel’s home for the last 48 years.

Panel Move Day – Calling All Photograhpers

The panel will move from Swindon to Didcot on Saturday 2 April on a road lorry, leaving Swindon at approximately 9am. When it arrives there it will be placed onto a railway wagon for transit into the Railway Centre later that day.

We will be very pleased to receive photographs of the panel on its journey – being lifted off the panel roof, being transported by road, being lifted onto the train, then being moved by train into the Railway Centre (including through Didcot Parkway station!)

Photos that you have taken can be sent to us via any of the usual methods (or by reply to this email). The best photograph we receive by midnight on Sunday will receive a Swindon Panel goody-bag!

Needless to say, no Flying Scotsman antics trying to get the best shot!

Latest Panel Progress and Where You Can Help!

Progress update on Monday 21 March 2016.

Thank you to everyone who has helped at Swindon Panel this last weekend. Fantastic progress was made and we’re pleased to say that the last of the major hurdles have now been cleared.

The two large frame beams were brought into the operating room and now complete the lifting frame at the front and back of the panel. With this being complete jacking screws were fitted to allow the whole frame, with panel on top, to be raised up about an inch and a half, which was sufficient to allow wheels to be fitted to the bottom of the frame. The panel was then moved back, against the back wall, (in the space on the right of the picture above), to align it with the doors.

The end door and window – another hurdle – were successfully removed by the team on Sunday (featuring father and son Chris and Andrew, pictured above), making a gap wide enough for the panel to escape the building on 2 April.

The handrails on the, rather substantial, walkway on the flat roof outside the building were removed by the team on Saturday (featuring father and son Jeremy and Danny).

Never let it be said that Swindon Panel won’t be a great day out for all the family!

These simple-sound tasks took a lot of materials, a lot of manpower, and a lot of working together. As with most things in railway preservation, they take longer than they would seem to, require more tools than they would seem to, and uncover all sorts of problems along the way!

But we are getting there – our dream is finally coming true! The panel has now been raised above 9″ (23cm) off the ground, and next weekend will be raised a further 12-14″. The “runway”(!) will then be built underneath it to give it a level journey out onto the roof (over all the obstacles such as the door threshold and flat-roof walkway).

There is still A LOT of work to be done to get the panel that last little bit raised up and the runway built out onto the roof in readiness for the move which is planned for 2 April. All hands very welcome in helping with this on SATURDAY 26 MARCH, this weekend. If you can help, even if for only part of the day, please do. Swindon Panel needs you!

We are meeting only on Saturday this coming weekend (Sunday is Easter Sunday), at 10am at the panel.

The following Saturday is….. move day.

Swindon Panel
is in the air!

Thank you very much to everyone who has helped at Swindon Panel over the last weekend. After much planning, preparations and a bit of a paperwork battle with Network Rail, Swindon Panel has now moved its first few inches towards preservation. Swindon Panel is now in the air!

Excellent progress was made and we are well on the way to moving the panel. All the steelwork has been delivered, and the panel has been lifted up and the first parts of the lifting frame inserted underneath. These will hold the weight of the panel when it is lifted by the frame. The clamp bars have also been inserted above the metalwork inside the panel to hold the panel down to the frame. The sections will all be bolted together longitudinally next weekend to make the grid base formation when some further steelwork is lifted up from ground level into the control room.

A lot of work was also carried out inside the panel to remove breakable items and unnecessary heavy items in readiness for the move, and tidying up and tying up cables inside the panel to stop them falling out on the way. Inside the panel is very full of thousands of wires, all going in different directions, and none of which were installed with moving the panel in mind!


Some of our small-part steelwork.

It is a very exciting time, now that our plans are finally coming to fruition, and we are very excited about the next couple of weekends leading towards the (planned) move date on 2nd April.


Some of the Swindon Panel members in the panel on Saturday enjoy a cup of tea from a Southern Region mug!

Special thanks from all those members present on Sunday go to James Nelhams who cooked us a full Sunday lunch in the panel kitchen!


Sunday Lunch in the Panel! Very civilised.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out, this weekend and previously to help us get to this stage. A huge number of people have done us a huge number of favours, we are very grateful indeed and promise to be putting everyone’s effort to very good use!