Category Archives: News

All the latest news and developments from the Society

In The News…

Swindon Panel has been in the news several times over the last week, reporting on its contribution to helping Network Rail refresh ex-signallers in case of a shortage.

As well as the official press release on the DRC website we have also been in or on:

Heritage Railway Magazine

BBC Radio Oxford

Rail Advent

The Railway Hub

Experience Oxfordshire

Thank you and well done to everyone who has been involved in facilitating this work, and all the effort that has gone on over the last 7 years to bring Swindon Panel to such a professional level of restoration that it is useful in this way!

Swindon Panel in Main Line use again!

Swindon Panel Society and Didcot Railway Centre are proud to be helping Network Rail during this Coronavirus period. 

NR, who used to own the panel before it was preserved at Didcot, are making use of the preserved Swindon Panel in their preparations for train service delivery in the event of a shortage of signalling staff over the coming weeks and months.

Staff who have been in signaller roles in their past are being refreshed and assessed on their skills and competence to manage railway operating scenarios such as regulating trains, infrastructure failures, signals passed at danger, failed trains, etc.

All of these scenarios can all be created using the very high-accuracy simulator equipment fitted to Swindon Panel which makes all the controls and indications work in exactly the same way as they did when it main line operation.

(NR is also appealing for retired and even heritage railway signalmen to help.) 

Swindon Panel was in main line use from 1968 until 2016, when it was taken out of use, bought by volunteers and restored to full working order, enjoyed by visitors of all ages to Didcot Railway Centre.

It is a great testament to the restoration work done by SPS volunteers that the panel is now being used by main line signallers again! SPS is happy to do its bit for the country and human kind to help keep vital rail traffic moving in this national emergency. Well done everyone!

SPS Offered to Main Line for Emergency Training

We are happy to have offered the use of Swindon Panel to Network Rail as an additional training simulator resource.

This is for training and refreshing retired and heritage staff who have kindly responded to the current requests for help in manning main line signal boxes around the country.

SPS is happy to do its bit for the country and human kind to help keep vital rail traffic moving in this national emergency.

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

POSTPONED due to Coronavirus. We will re-schedule this at a future date.

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.

This meeting will now be held ‘online’. Details have been circulated to members.

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.)