Category Archives: News

All the latest news and developments from the Society

SPS & DRC Closed

Coronavirus: Swindon Panel Society & Didcot Railway Centre will continue to monitor and follow the advice provided by Public Health England to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff.

The Prime Minister’s statement on 16 March was very clear: everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres. In view of this, Didcot Railway Centre will be closed until at least Friday 3 April.

Swindon Panel will be closed until at least Sunday 5 April inclusive.

The MIC day on 28 March is postponed.

In addition, all Enthusiasts’ Weekend activities for Friday 3, Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 April are cancelled. We will contact those who had pre-booked to discuss options.

Our next planned open date is now Wednesday 8 April. We will continue to monitor the situation and advice from the Government and Public Health England and will review the position frequently. We will give further information regarding that open day and subsequent days when it is safe and responsible to do so.

We remind all our visitors of the importance of maintaining good hand and personal hygiene at all times. Please consult the PHE website for more information.

£125 raised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance

Swindon Panel Society members have successfully raised £125 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance… by eating chocolate!

SPS members raise money by donating the proceeds from the members’ tuck shop to the Ambulance, continuing the tradition of Swindon Panel tuck shops from when it was in ‘main line’ use.

2019’s total profit was £125, equivalent to approximately 500 chocolate bars, drinks and crisps! (Up from £100 in 2018)

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance – Helimed22 – flies at speeds of up to 178mph and can reach anywhere in Wiltshire in 11 minutes. It attended 1233 incidents in 2019, at a cost of £3.75m (£10,000 per day), which is all raised by fundrasising.
Well done to all our members, and please keep buying tuck shop goodies!

https://www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk/

Members’ Sessions

A new item for the 2020 SPS calendar is ‘Members’ Open Sessions’.

This will hopefully be of interest to both demonstrator members who want to stretch their legs, and also members who aren’t demonstrators who want to come and enjoy working the panel outside of the chaos of a public open day, or other members’ event when the panel is swamped!

The numbers attending such sessions will be limited to five/six per day ensure everyone gets a good go on both ends of the panel and the back desk if they want to.

Dates of theses sessions in 2020 are:
Saturday 8 February
Saturday 25 April
Saturday 20 June
Saturday 15 August
Saturday 24 October

We will make sure that there are sufficient members present who know how to work the panel and simulator to ensure everything runs smoothly and that attendees are able to enjoy the panel mode of operation they want from ‘calm’ to ‘calamity’!

Please let Danny Scroggins know if you wish to attend. Block bookings welcome!

SPS Additional Open Day on 22 December

An additional opening date has been added to Swindon Panel’s calendar – Sunday 22 December.

This is significant as Swindon Panel will have been open for every “Santa” Day at Didcot Railway Centre this year – a fantastic achievement for all SPS volunteers, including our demonstrators and all those who work behind the scenes. Well done!

So if you are coming to visit Santa at Didcot Railway Centre on 22 December, you won’t miss out on the (second) most exiting part of your visit – having a go at working Swindon Panel!

Members’ Weekend 2020

SPS Members’ Weekend – Saturday 12 / Sunday 13 September 2020.

All SPS members are invited to Members’ Weekend to see the latest progress and developments at Swindon Panel and Didcot Railway Centre. Whatever your level of signalling knowledge or experience, come and visit the panel you’ve all contributed to preserving and have a chat with some old friends and maybe make some new ones too!

The panel will be open continuously from 10am on Saturday 12 September to 4pm on Sunday 13 September. Once again we will be operating the panel overnight from Saturday into Sunday.

All members are welcome to book a slot. Even if you don’t know how to work the panel, there will be plenty of members around to help you! Everyone is keen to show new people how things work.

In 2020, all working slots will be rostered. This will help ensure that everyone feels they’ve had a fair timeslot for their exclusive operating of the panel:
Signalmen (x2)
Simulator (x2)
Back desk
Announcer(?)

Sat 1000-1430, 1430-1900, 1930-2330, 2330-0700.
Sun 0700-1000.

There won’t be a ‘free’ end of the panel, but as there are many more rostered positions there will be enough slots for everyone who wants to to have a go.

These positions will also be rostered overnight (as far as possible), to ensure the night time is just as interesting and varied as the day time.

In the best panel box traditions, there will be a takeway meal on Saturday evening!

The Railway Centre is open from 10.30am, so all members are welcome to ‘drop in’ at any time from 10.30am each day (please show your SPS membership card at the box office), but only those rostered will be working the panel/simulator positions.

If you are interested in taking on a rostered session on the panel during this period please contact us (stating your date/time constraints/requests). Sleeping accommodation can be arranged for this event at DRC if required.

If you’re not yet a member, but are keen to take part, membership is only a click away!

See you there!

Enthusiasts’ Weekend 2020

Swindon Panel is delighted to be hosting an Enthusiasts’ Weekend on 3, 4, 5 April 2020!

Experience Sessions

On FRIDAY 3 and SUNDAY 5 APRIL 2020

On these dates we will be offering “experience” sessions in Swindon Panel. These are similar to “footplate experience” sessions on heritage railways, but on a signal panel instead! You’ll have exclusive use of your panel position, to operate however you want, with as much or as little help as you want!

These sessions will be hosted by experienced industry professionals who will be able to answer your questions and give you valuable insight into the workings of the railway signalling system. We believe this is the ONLY place where you can operate a big signal panel, realistically, but without the restrictions demanded if you were to operate a panel in ‘real life’ service.

More details…

Guided Talks

On SATURDAY 4 APRIL 2020

Swindon Panel will be open on this date, and in addition to our usual demonstrations, we will also be conducting guided talks of the panel area, aimed specifically at enthusiasts.

These will cover the background of the panel, why it was developed, how it works, and a little about how it was preserved. Each of the talks lasts for about 30 minutes, and they will take place at 1130, 1330 and 1530. After each talk, the panel will be available for a further 30 minutes for the talk attendees to ‘have a go’ before the room is opened to the public again.

More Details…

Swindon Panel AGM 2020

All SPS members are invited to the SPS AGM on Saturday 27 June, at Didcot Railway Centre, commencing at 1pm.

The panel will be open for members (and guests) from 10am until 4pm, so even if you’ve never visited before, you can come and see how it all works!

Please show your SPS membership card at the box office to obtain entry to Didcot Railway Centre.

The AGM is an “official” affair, but there will be an opportunity for informal questions and answers after the formal business. Non-members are welcome to attend in an observer capacity (but may not vote). Guests and non-members should advise in advance of their intention to attend.

There will also be the opportunity to look round the rest of the Railway Centre, engine sheds, other signalling exhibits, etc.

(There is no buffet at the AGM this year, but DRC’s refreshment rooms will be open and serving hot food.)

Swindon Panel 2020 Calendar

‘Demonstrating Days’

Swindon Panel will is open to public visitors on the first Saturday and the third Sunday of each month in 2020 as a minimum.

It is expected that lots of additional dates will be added as the year progresses based on volunteer availability and other special events.

On all these days the panel will be open for visitors to view and have a go at operating under the guidance of our volunteer demonstrators. Visitors of all ages are welcome to learn about how railway signalling was operated in the 1960s-2000s era, and everyone is encouraged to have a go, guided by our demonstrators.

The frequency of opening is determined by volunteers who give their time to demonstrate the panel to visitors. You can join in and become a demonstrator.

SPS Members are very welcome to visit the panel on Demonstration Days (please show your SPS membership card at the ticket office to gain entry), but please remember those demonstrators who are rostered are responsible for the panel and its presentation to the public on these days.

At other times the panel is visible, through a large glass wall, but not operating, on all days that Didcot Railway Centre is open.

Special Events

In addition to our normal Demonstration Days, the following special events are also planned:

Saturday 28 March
Panel Demonstrator’s Mutual Improvement Day
[Members only]

Friday 3, Saturday 4, Sunday 5 April
Enthusiasts’ Weekend
[Open to all]

Saturday 27 June
SPS AGM
[Members and guests only]

Saturday 11 July
PIC’s MIC Day
[Members only]

Saturday 12 – Sunday 13 September
Members’ Weekend (including overnight operation)
[Members and guests only]

More details of the above Special Events will be published in due course.

See the Didcot Railway Centre website for full details of DRC events.

Simulator Technical Conference

Swindon Panel will be hosting a technical conference on Saturday 16 November 2019, starting at 10.30am, where we intend to explain all the details of our extensive simulator system.

PRE-BOOKING is required – please see below.

A detailed presentation will be given on the subject of the simulators that drive Swindon Panel, including:

– the interlocking simulators
– ‘outside world’ simulator
– train describer
– JMRI/Panel Pro
– interlocking XML generator
– HTML/PHP control tables interpreter
– PCB designs and operation
– TC64 units
– what went well and what went wrong
– future developments

Some brief details will be given of the wiring of the panel, but only sufficient for understanding of the simulator (otherwise this could take up a whole day on its own)!

No previous attendees’ knowledge will be presumed, apart from the basics of signalling and panel operation, and the basics of computer use, so hopefully the day will be of interest to everyone, but particularly those who are involved in other similar projects, either with clubs or privately.

If you haven’t already seen Swindon Panel in action, we recommend visiting on one of our public open days before attending the technical conference, but if you can’t don’t worry. http://www.swindonpanel.org.uk/activities-2019/

There will be plenty of opportunity to see the hardware and software in action, and to ask as many questions you like of those responsible for creating the system.

No information will be withheld, we will be very happy to share all intellectual property, plans and designs that belong to SPS.

The event is free to attend for SPS members. Please pre-book as below and show your SPS membership card at the DRC booking office to gain access.

Non-members are also welcome, donations towards the continued upkeep and development of Swindon Panel (registered charity) welcome. Please pre-book as below and you will be able to access DRC by your name being on a list at the entrance gate.

PRE-BOOKING IS REQUIRED. Attendee spaces are limited. Please contact us via email or Facebook message with your name, if you are attending from another club/organisation, and how many people will be in your group, to book your spaces.

See you there!

SPS Visit to Gloucester Panel

SPS Visit to Gloucester Panel

Swindon Panel Society is delighted to announce a visit to Gloucester Panel, thanks to its friends at Network Rail (who will be visiting Swindon Panel in return!)

Gloucester Panel opened a few weeks after Swindon Panel in May 1968. It is a WR Integra turn-push panel exactly like Swindon and controlled from Barnt Green in the north (fringe to Saltley, now West Midlands Signalling Centre (WMSC)), to Sapperton on the Kemble line (fringe to Swindon, now TVSC), Berkeley Road on the Charfield line (fringe to Bristol PSB, now TVSC) and Awre on the Lydney Line (fringe to Newport PSB, now South Wales Control Centre).

The north section of the panel, from Ashchurch northwards, was decommissioned from Gloucester Panel and resignalled to the WMSC in 2016.

SPS’s visit will take place on Saturday 2 November. There will be two visits, allowing two groups with eight members in each, 11.30-12.30 and 13.00-14.00.

The panel is a short walk from Gloucester station. As always with signal box visits, it is dependent on there being no incidents going on at the time, and the visit could be curtailed or cancelled at any time. If you have visited signal boxes before you’ll be aware of the etiquette that we are guests in the signallers’ serious workplace, and we have to respect that in how we behave. That being said, at the majority of signal box visits we have been on the signallers have been very lively and engaging!

Photographs are permitted, respecting that some signallers may not wish to be in them.

The operating room is on the first floor and there is no lift, so anyone who might have difficulty with stairs is asked to contact us first so that we can make sure appropriate help can be arranged.

Places are limited to sixteen, and as interest is expected to be high, to try to ensure fairness the following arrangements apply: SPS members are welcome to express interest in attending this visit. If more that 16 members have expressed interest in the visit then names will be drawn from a hat. Places will be confirmed on Monday 23 September.

Register your interest by contacting Tom Lane either by email or via HOPS. All expressions of interest will be acknowledged.

There is no cost to attend this visit, but please feel free to bring some sweets/biscuits for the signallers on duty.

If there are any questions please let us know.