Category Archives: Meetings

News about meetings or visits arranged by The Society.

That Was the Work Week that Was

Thank you to everyone who joined in with work week at Swindon Panel last week.

Some great progress was made by the Panel Society and the Great Western Society Civil Engineering (CE) Group.

Uffington Loops 1986 or 2016…..?

Uffington Loops were the only point of refuge between Highworth Junction and Steventon after the line between Challow and Wantage Road was de-quadrupled and Marston Crossing loops were closed in the 1960s.

The loops were removed in the early 1990s when Challow-Wantage was re-quadrupled in response to the increase in coal traffic between Avonmouth and Didcot Power Station.

Considerable effort was required to reinstate the loops in the preserved Swindon Panel as the surrounding tiles had been moved around considerably.

The red team installed the new panel top plates that had been delivered from Henry Williams to help up return the panel to its 1980s state. This also required the configuration of numerous mechanisms (the metal housing underneath the tile, below left) and bases (the electrical terminals in the panel, below right) built up from spares.

Several new components were made and configured for the simulator installation, such as this voltmeter and ammeter instrument for the simulator’s three power supplies.

The last of the wiring that linked the tag blocks to the relay room at Swindon has now been removed (hurrah!). There is some further tidying up to do, and then….. yes, for every wire we removed we have to solder a new one back on!

The glazing has started to be installed in the reclaimed cast windows. There are 12 panes required in each of the 4 main windows, plus a couple of smaller ones. Each has to be individually installed and puttied into place.

A considerable construction of ‘Dexion’-style slotted racking has been installed in the back of the panel. This is to support the extensive microelectronic simulator that will be installed in the back of the panel.

The panel simulator power supplies have started to be installed and wired in. Here is the main power area (‘bay 0′). There will be 8 other ‘bays’ of simulator equipment stretching the entire length of the panel.
In addition, the simulator room has started to be built. This is a small room in the Bristol Room where all our computer equipment will live, and the simulator operator will sit (when required).

Also, the GWS S&T Dept, who are the main leaders in the installation of signalling exhibits in the Bristol and Brunel Rooms have started to make great progress in starting to shape the display areas etc in this part of the building.

More photos from 2016 Work Week 1 are available in our Photo Gallery.

2016 Work Week 2….
Just around the corner!

Work Week Part 2 is Saturday 20 to Monday 30 August… and you can be involved!

Work week is a great time for a concerted effort of progress on the panel – it feels really great to be part of the team and see progress being made!

Tasks for Work Week 2 include:

- “The Prod Test” – attaching a prong to each of the tags in the back of the panel and confirming that the correct lamps on the front illuminate in the correct combination. This is important in order to identify any irregularities or inconsistencies in the panel wiring, and also to confirm our alterations have been successful, before they panel is connected to the delicate simulator electronics.

- Panel Domino Construction – Continuing with the task of reconfiguring and compiling new bases and mechanisms that the panel requires to work (second half of the week).

- DIN Rail Installation – The back of the panel is now fitted with racking ready to accept DIN rails. 7 bays of 5 DIN rails are required, which will then require clips attached for 10 PCBs to live on each one. Yes – 350 PCBs! Once the clips are in, it’s time to chase cables from the future position of each PCB to its appropriate tag block.

- Tag Looping Alterations – Some alterations are required to the orange ‘looping’ on the tag blocks. This is because our simulator will be wired slightly differently to how the real interlocking was (but will work in exactly the same way).

- Component packaging and/or soldering – The many thousands of components for the simulator require sorting and packaging up for sending out to the soldering army…… more about that later!

- Window glazing fitting and door frame carpentry – If you fancy something a bit more heavy-duty, the CE group will be continuing their work of installing the windows and doors on the building.

As you can see there is plenty to do, hopefully something for all tastes. The Railway Centre will also be open and is fascinating to look round.

So if you have a spare day or two, come and join us and help bring the completion of the preservation of your favourite panel a little bit closer!

Network Rail employees…. remember, you can get paid by NR for volunteering with Swindon Panel! Read more….

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.

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.

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.

Welcome to Didcot Day – 30 April

30 APRIL 2016 at Didcot Railway Centre.

Come and welcome the panel, and let the Society welcome you, to Didcot!

Be among the first to see the panel as we take off the covers in its new home, and among the first to ceremonially kick-off the restoration with the re-insertion of the panel lamps and Dominoes.

The “Welcome to Didcot” Day is being held within the Great Western Society May steam gala, with many steam locomotives and signalling in operation on the Branch Line: All the more reason to come and visit Didcot that day!

We will be there from 10am onwards. In the afternoon there will be a photo-presentation on the panel move, plus a guest speaker from the Great Western Society, followed by fish and chips in the panel!

We look forward to seeing you there.

(Note this is all pending that the panel moves to Didcot as planned on 2nd April!)

Panel Recovery Work Starts

A fantastic day was had at Swindon Panel today on the first of many dates preparing the panel for its move. The Domino tiles were successfully removed from the panel, wrapped, labelled and stored.

The photos below showing the last six tiles to be removed, from the top of Dauntsey bank. We were also pleased to be given the signal box name plate by Network Rail, which we weren’t expecting!

Thank you very much to everyone who came along and helped!

Flooring the Competition

The floor in the Swindon Panel room is now being laid!

The first third of the floor was laid on Tuesday 2 February and the next thirds will be laid on 16 February and 1 March (both Tuesdays).

The current floor is the concrete foundation slab, on top of which is now several layers of membrane and insulation, which will all being concreted in on these three Tuesdays. This will make the final floor level onto which carpet tiles will be laid.

If you are able to help on these Tuesdays (16 Feb and 1 March), please get in touch with Richard Antliff at DRC (via us if you wish).


Take Your Turn! – Panel Recovery Dates

Take up the Challenge – Take your Turn!

It’s one month to the decommissioning of Swindon Panel, and we are delighted to be able to publish our programme of dates for the recovery of Swindon Panel. At the start of this work Swindon Panel will be in full Network Rail use, signalling trains at 125mph, and by the end it will be owned by us at Didcot Railway Centre! We intend to be in full force at weekends after the panel closure on 20 February to the hopeful move date on 2/3 April.

This really is the time for everyone with any involvement or interest in the preservation of Swindon Panel to put their hands to the pumps and help out. We will never have a job of this magnitude or significance again. If you only intend to get practically involved with the project once this year, this is the time.

We invite all members and supporters to accept the Swindon Panel ‘Take Your Turn’ Challenge! Your challenge (which we hope you will accept!) is for every single member to help by ‘taking your turn’ on at least one turn of this programme of dates.

No particular special skills are required (but if you have them we’ll be happy to use them!), just a willingness to get stuck in with the work. Full instruction will be given and no-one will be expected to work alone or doing any work they’re not comfortable with. The work is changeable by its nature, and a lot will depend on progress, but we will certainly have work to do on all the dates.

More details and dates of the programme:

CE Group Dinner – 28 November

The GWS’s Civil Engineering group hold a grand dinner every year, and as SPS has been working so closely with the CE group for the last 18 months an invitation has kindly been extended to SPS members.

The dinner is at The George Inn, Dorchester-on-Thames (near Wallingford), on Saturday 28 November. We will meet at The George at 7pm for a 7.30 dinner. The CE group are arranging some road transport from Didcot Station at 6.30pm. The George normally has at least four good beers: recently seen or sampled 6X, London Pride, Butcombe, Brakspear amongst others.

The cost for a 2-course meal, inc coffee etc, is £20. The cost for a 3-course meal, inc coffee etc, is £25. (Does not include drinks)

We are privileged to be invited to the CE group’s annual dinner – and are really pleased that SPS is cementing its links with the wider Railway Centre.

Please contact us via any of the usual methods if you would like to join in the dinner. There is a menu, which we will send you, from which selections need to be made by 22/11/15.

See you there!

It will soon be Santa time at DRC

Yes it will soon be time for holly, mistletoe, mulled wine and the arrival of hundreds of visitors at Didcot to visit Father Christmas!

Love them or hate them, there are two main attractions without which the wheels of the whole heritage railway sector would struggle to keep turning – Thomas and Santa. Most heritage railways rely heavily on the revenue from these events to keep running for the rest of the year. Didcot Railway Centre makes best use of both attractions by hosting ‘Thomas visits Santa’ days in December where families visit the Centre and all of its attractions, including a train journey on the branch line to meet Father Christmas in the broad gauge transfer shed.

Last year members of Swindon Panel Society gave help to DRC with the manning of these days, and we intend to do the same this year!

Helping out in 2014
SPS members working together with GWS members, children’s entertainers and the Fat Controller in 2014.

While not directly related to Swindon Panel, the commercial success of the Thomas visits Santa days have a direct effect on the progress of the new building in which Swindon Panel will live, and on the success of Railway Centre as a whole, which has a direct bearing on the success of Swindon Panel as an exhibit within it. Our taking part also strengthens our relationship with the Centre and the investment it has made in SPS.

The dates of the Thomas visits Santa days are: Sat 5, Sun 6, Sat 12, Sun 13, Sat 19, Sun 20, Tue 22, Wed 23 December.

Our tasks mainly include ‘shepherding’ passengers into the right places for their meeting with Santa, helping them on and off the trains and above all being happy, friendly, chatty and giving them fun, enjoyable and memorable day. There are no special skills required, and a full explanation of the tasks required is given by the very friendly co-ordinating team at the beginning of the day.

It is also great fun and a rare treat to see steam locos working in the frost and, if we’re lucky, snowy conditions!

Please give consideration to helping out on one of the days above if you can. They are a great help to the Centre and therefore to Swindon Panel Society. Please contact us to volunteer – it is good fun!

And if you’re really well behaved, you might even get to meet Santa yourself!

SPS Visit to RHDR

Our second annual outing took place in September—to the very splendid RHDR in Kent.

We were treated to the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the first two locomotives — Green Goddess and Northern Chief —which were delivered to New Romney before the railway was even built in 1925.

We enjoyed private use of the bar car all day. Our host, Sian, was lovely and made us all feel very at-home, including giving us all the news, history and gossip about the line!

The bar had has two seating areas either side of a central bar that has a wide range of drinks and snacks available.
We made two round trips on the line, stopping off at Dungeness at lunch time for a locally-caught fish and chip dinner. We were one of the last customers of the RHDR’s restaurant at Dungeness for the time being as it has now been stripped out and is being enlarged and rebuilt. It is excellent that a restaurant out in the middle of nowhere on a shingle peninsular is commercially sound enough to warrant such a significant investment—a testament to the popularity of the RHDR!

On the way back we alighted at New Romney for a look round the museum and various loco works and attractions that were open for the event. As the bar car was hired by us for the day the whole carriage was taken off the train, with us still inside it, and shunted to a siding next to the restaurant via the loco sidings and over the turntable! (We were propelled over the turntable… maybe they weren’t confident it was lined up!)

The OO gauge layout in the Toy & Model museum is excellent. It is extensive and fully automated, with trains of various geographical origins pulling some extraordinary trains. Also featured of course is the famous OO gauge ‘Romney Rat’ – a toy rat hollowed out and with an electric engine inside and runs around the layout like a train! The museum also has a good collection of other exhibits relating to the RHDR and other railways.

In the afternoon we travelled back to Hythe again in our bar car, to position ourselves for one of the event’s star trains. A non-stop to Dungeness (13 miles), where the train combined with another train, for a non-stop run back to Hythe calling at New Romney only, with FOUR engines on the front!

On arrival at Hythe, and after the spectacle of the engines turning on the large turntable there, the return trip to New Romney was spectacular in a way that very few railways other than the RHDR can manage—a parallel run along the double train section, with the train on the ’up’ line and three locomotives on the ’down’ line running along side. This is a really special treat for any steam railway fan—where else can you have a decent sustained view of a driver working his engine or a Walshearts valve gear whirling around at speed?

Thank you to everyone who everyone who came on the trip, we hope you enjoyed yourselves. Suggestions for next year are very welcome (especially if you have ‘connections’ at a centre that can be used!)

August Bank Holiday at DRC

The next stand days are the August Bank Holiday weekends at Didcot Railway Centre.

The priority day is Saturday 29th, but if sufficient volunteers are forthcoming we will open on Sunday 30th too!

Please let us know if you can help and we’ll make sure your name is ‘on the door’ – great fun and no special skills required!

Steam trains will be running all weekend and Branch Line signalling in operation. The Black Python Bar will also be open.

AGM & BBQ Enjoyed by All

Thank you to everyone who attended the AGM this weekend.

Over 25 members attended the meeting, followed by a tour of the building under construction, a talk on the inner works of one of our demonstration colour light signals. We were all then treated to a most excellent BBQ.

Thank you to everyone who attended and everyone who took part. We hope you enjoyed seeing the progress we have been making.

A collection of photos from the day is available in our photo gallery.

Here are copies of the documentation from the day:

AGM Report
Finance Spreadsheet
Membership Spreadsheet
Charity Commission Return

New Swindon Panel Day – 21 June

An extra Swindon Panel Day has been added, on 21st June, at Didcot Railway Centre, in order to hold a further session of brick-cutting for the building.

We initially cut a good amount, but didn’t want to waste bricks by cutting too many. As the walls are shooting up it is now apparent how many more will be required and therefore we will be cutting them on Sunday 21 June.

The GWS Civil Engineering Group will also be present on Saturday 20 June, and you will be very welcome to come and join in this not-too-strenuous yet still rewarding task on either day (Saturday or Sunday).


SPS Autumn to Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

Swindon Panel Society is delighted to announce its autumn trip which, this year, is to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway!

More details…

The visit will take place on Saturday 26 September, during the RHDR’s Heritage Weekend, and also the 90th birthday of the RHDR’s first two locomotives, Green Goddess and Northern Chief, which were delivered to Captain Howey at New Romney in 1925 before the RHDR even opened.

The 15″ gauge engines run for 13 miles across Romney Marsh, including 8 miles of double track between Hythe and New Romney, where passing trains have a passing speed of 50mph, a scale 150mph!

Sign up now!

AGM 2015

The Swindon Panel Society AGM will be held at 12 noon on Saturday 27 June at Didcot Railway Centre followed by a tour round the building site and then a BBQ in the grounds of the Centre.

This will be an ideal opportunity to have a good look round the site and see all the good work done, as well as catch up with friends and have a good chat about the progress and future of the group.

There will be a formal AGM, then an informal discussion / question session with the trustees.

We will then have a tour around the building site, followed by a BBQ in the later afternoon.

Formal notice will be sent to members separately.

Panel Visit

44 society members visits Swindon Panel on Saturday 9 May and were shown around the operating room by Danny and the relay room by Tony Cotterell.

Thank you to everyone who came, we hope everyone who attended enjoyed themselves and learned a bit more about the panel.

Some photos of the day have been uploaded to our photo site:

If you have photos of the day then please do send them on to us and we would love to add them to the site!

Successful Railcar Weekend at DRC

THANK YOU to everyone who came along and visited and supported the display stand at Didcot Railway Centre this weekend!

We were especially impressed by our young visitors who were particularly interested in Newbury Emergency Panel and loved operating the route-setting switches! It’s a sign of things to come when young visitors will be operating switches on Swindon Panel and seeing the results in the indications.

Well done to everyone who helped run the stand, including today (Sunday), which we weren’t originally expecting to open!
If you weren’t able to visit us this weekend, don’t forget we’ll be back during the bank holiday galas in May.

More photos of the weekend available at:

Have you got more photos? If so, we’d love to see them!