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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8

1977 Signalling Exhibition - T J Stevens

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C Hanscomb - Robin Wickenden, Trevor Chalmers and David Simcox

Just over a year ago some Signal and Telegraph Department members were discussing the development of QRS in general, and of signalling in particular. We realised that the site had great scope for development as a working railway museum, and considered ways in which we could contribute to this. The idea of signalling demonstrations had always been popular, and we were already demonstrating some items of our operational equipment at Station and South signal boxes during Open Days; however, safety considerations dictated that signalmen should not be interrupted, neither should the public be allowed to touch any equipment. In any case, the signalling system was life-expired and was to be dismantled at the close of the 1976 season. We decided therefore to stage a Signalling Exhibition where a wide range of equipment would be on working display, together with relics, diagrams and photographs; public participation in the demonstrations would be encouraged. Work began on restoration of signal arms, finials, block instruments, indicators and much more. It was heartening to know that much of the equipment lying idle in the S & T stores would be restored and displayed.

A marquee was hired for the 1977 August Bank Holiday weekend ; setting up was complete by the Saturday evening and the exhibition was open to the public on Sunday and Monday. The development of railway signalling from early days to the present was shown by means of relics, photographs and diagrams, plus a variety of working demonstrations. For example, visitors were fascinated by a pair of working clockwork Train Describers, elegant with their polished wood and brass work; a steward was at hand to explain the working of the instruments and let visitors "have a go".

The centrepiece of the exhibition was a demonstration of the Block Telegraph system of train signalling, introduced over one hundred years ago and still used on many lines of British Railways. Visitors were asked to imagine that they were in an imaginary signal box called "Beaton", observing the trains being signalled on the Block instruments and bells. Added realism was obtained by a tape recorder playing steam sounds (in stereo of course!) so that trains could be "seen" approaching and passing the signal box. The adjacent signal boxes were represented by a hidden operator who worked the indicators and bells of these boxes and the tape recorder. (In theory the operator was hidden, but in practice he had to sit behind an inadequate screen, much to his dismay when visitors heads appeared over the top and discovered the secret of the operation!)

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C Hanscomb - The Display of Block Instruments

Moving on, visitors saw a demonstration of single-line electric token instruments, with one instrument on display and the other (assumed to be at the other end of the single line) behind the scenes with the operator. The demonstration showed that only one token could be out of the instruments at one time. If either signalman tried to remove another he could not do so until the first had been replaced. This was followed by a working model of a Track Circuit, using Gauge "0" track and wagon and a relay, indicator and colour-light signal to explain the principles. This demonstration was popular with the children, who were allowed to move the wagon along the track and observe the actions of the relay, indicator and signal. Finally, modern signalling was demonstrated by a small section of panel of the type used in power signal boxes. Visitors were able to set up routes by operating the switches and buttons and observe the passage of trains represented by moving lights on the panel diagram. All round the marquee were photographs and diagrams illustrating the many facets of signalling, and several full-size signal box diagrams.

During the two days we had about 2500 visitors, which was very encouraging. The many and varied questions showed that people were interested and were keen to learn more. I would like to thank all those members who helped with the exhibition and also Farran Productions for the loan of equipment. It is fair to say that the exhibition was a success, and we are now planning for 1978. I hope this success will encourage other departments to stage displays and demonstrations so that Quainton will become known as the best working railway museum in the country.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1977 and so does not reflect events in the 38+ 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.

1977 Signalling Exhibition - T J Stevens - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8

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