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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 102 - October 2009

Forty Years Ago (August Bank Holiday and October 11th and 12th 1969) - Anthea Hanscomb


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Photo:
Anon - A rather grainy, but historically significant, picture of Quainton Road taken in 1969, the period of which Anthea writes


I joined the London Railway Preservation Society in July 1969, for one year only, (so I thought) just to help my elder son Mike set up a signalling system. This was necessary because while the LRPS was trying to raise money to buy the Up Yard the contractors were asked to demolish the signal box in the Down Yard. Unfortunately the money raised was only enough to buy the land in the Down Yard and by that time the signal box had gone.

Our secretary, Roy Miller, asked Mike, who had been made chairman of the newly formed Signal and Telegraph Sub-committee, what signals he could have ready for the August bank Holiday, and our first lot of Open days. After several very busy weekends, S&T had erected a starting signal at the end of the Brill platform for the Up direction and a shunting disc in the Down direction to protect the pedestrian crossing. This had been made safer by the installation of a lifting barrier which was electrically locked with the platform signal and could only be cleared when the barrier was down. The shunting disc, on the other hand, was a rather Heath Robinson affair and was cleared by pulling a length of wire and hooking it over a nail which had been driven into the side of a permanent way hut, which in those days stood by the crossing. There was no ground frame for working the signals but somebody had obtained a Westinghouse Electric Signal motor which was fixed to the signal post and powered by Mike's car battery, until some could be bought.

By the August bank Holiday, everything was installed and tested and it all worked! By now all the family were members and on the Sunday and Monday we joined Mike, Tim Stevens and Steve Clarke for two days signalling. Though I am pretty certain that Chris was on car park duty, in those early days we charged for the car park and the train ride. The public poured in. The queue for train tickets went all the way round the Brill building, with Peggy and Jim Stevens selling tickets as fast as they could.

The site was packed to the brim and we ran out of food by 4pm on the Monday. We had about nine thousand visitors over the three days and the weekend was such a success in raising money for purchasing the track that it was decided to hold two more open days on October 11th and 12th with a barbeque and a fairground organ. The S&T sub-committee had acquired more equipment and had altered the system in time for the event. Now we had block instruments and block bells working between the crossing and a new location, called south, which was by the point to the short siding. This greatly improved the method of signalling because phone messages can be misunderstood, whereas bell codes cannot.


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Photo:
Alan Gosling - Juno on passenger duty on 18th July 1970


Unfortunately the weekend was not the success we had hoped for. It was our first attempt at operating after dark and to our dismay as darkness fell on the Sunday evening we had the added hazard of FOG! All the lamps for the signals were lit and Mike put three lamps at the buffer stops at the Aylesbury end of the sidings, one on the buffer beam and the other two on each side of the track, so that both driver and fireman would see them in plenty of time. The signalman at South lit his lamp, checked his instruments and was ready for the first train to run after dark. He could hear the organ in the distance, a weird ethereal sound muffled by the fog. Walking to the trackside he looked towards the station - nothing! It had suddenly been blotted out and to make matters worse it was getting thicker by the minute. It was the senior signalman on duty at South and Mike rang him up to check that all was well. "Dad", he said, "this is our first passenger movement by night. I hope the point is set for the long siding and clipped?" Peter could hear Juno whistle and begin to puff her way slowly out of the station. Resisting the temptation to display a red aspect with his hand lamp, or tap out "Obstruction Danger" on the block bell, so that Mike would stop the train at the crossing, he took a look at his block instruments and noticed he had, quite correctly, pegged "Line Clear" which meant he had changed the point and clipped it. With confidence he told Mike that all was well and held up a green light for Juno.


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Photo:
Andrew Bratton - Both of our founding locos Juno and Sir Thomas at Easter 1971


He hoped he would see the pouch with the Single Line Staff in it and not get the lot dropped on his head in the fog and darkness. He retrieved the pouch all right but had his boots filled with warm water at the same time. The fireman was just shutting off the injector and water was gushing all over the place from the overflow pipe. That was the night Peter learnt about injectors and, if I remember correctly, the fairground organ, due to an oversight by its owner (he was longer at the pub than he meant to be) had dropped a fusible plug and its steam was added to the fog! It may not have been the success we had expected but we were able to pay for the track by Christmas.


Notes:
The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 2009 and so does not reflect events in the 5+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Reference:
Forty Years Ago (August Bank Holiday and October 11th and 12th 1969) - Anthea Hanscomb - Quainton News No. 102 - October 2009


Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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