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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 98 - October 2007

The QRS S&T Reunion - Tim Stevens

This article is rather late due to crossed wires - better late than never:

October 8th 2006 was a key date in BRC's calendar, being the re-launch of Beattie Well tank 30585. Sir William and Lady McAlpine were special guests. By coincidence, a reunion of the QRS S&T (Signal & Telegraph) Department had been planned for the same day.

The S&T Department was formed in 1969 by Mike Hanscomb, Steve Clark and Tim Stevens. Other stalwarts over the years included David Simcox, Steve Growcott, Robin Wickenden, Trevor Chalmers, Charles Ellson, Simon Field and Tim Davis. Apologies if I've left anyone out; put it down to a hazy memory brought on by advancing years!

The reunion was attended by Steve Growcott, Tim Stevens, David Simcox and Mike Hanscomb. Mike, assisted by his brother Chris, had brought along a small lever frame to demonstrate the principles of interlocking, together with an assortment of signalling instruments and bells.

The lever frame is historically significant. As far as we know, there are only three of this type in existence. They were made before the First World War, most likely by apprentices in the GWR Signal Works, Caversham Road, Reading, and controlled points and signals on a Gauge 0 model railway made by Bassett-Lowke. The frame is about one fifth scale, down to the fine brass lever lead plates.

David Simcox brought along a large circuit diagram showing how all the electrical equipment was connected together for the signalling system which we had installed in the Down Yard in the early 1970s. There were two signalling locations, Quainton Station (qn) and Quainton South (QS), and the signalmen communicated with each other by block bell and instruments. We recalled many aspects (pun intended!) of the old system, one of the most bizarre being the fact that, as we were short of electrical cable at the time, we came up with a highly unconventional way of conveying electric current.

We had installed a 3-aspect colour-light Outer Home signal at Waddesdon End, to enable a passenger train to be held there if shunting were being carried out at QS. The BR boundary fence consisted, most conveniently, of five galvanised steel wires stapled to wooden posts. To these we connected our signalling cables. The change from Red to Yellow on the Outer Home was controlled by a mechanical wire which connected lever no. 1 on the QS ground frame to a contact box on a post next to the signal. The change from Yellow to Green was controlled by the semaphore Inner Home signal being pulled "off' by lever no. 2 on the QS frame. This energised an electrical circuit which sent a current along the BR fence to a relay at the signal The lamp proving and signal post telephone circuits also benefited from the proximity of the fence!

This was just one example of our ingenuity in building an electro-mechanical signalling system with odds and ends of second-hand equipment! Fortunately the whole system worked well and was particularly popular with visitors because they could watch the operation of the two ground frames with their associated block instruments and bells (see note below). At times, it was not possible to see QS signalmen of short stature because of the number of visitors crowding round the QS signalling location!

The system depended for its electrical operation on a number of relays. These were installed on removable shelves as an anti-vandal measure. David's diagram reminded us that these shelves, which were brought out of store only when required, were connected to the system by plugs and sockets. Mike and Chris's Mum (later to acquire the nickname "The Steaming Granny") had been persuaded to assist in wiring these relay shelves, and this was done on the kitchen table in Amersham! Many other similar details came to mind during the reunion day. Unhappily the whole signalling system was dismantled in 1976, due to circumstances too complex to relate here.

We were sorry not to see more old friends at the reunion. Steve Clark and Robin Wickenden were unable to attend due to other commitments, and we couldn't track down Trevor Chalmers (who incidentally was S&T Department Chairman for several years).

Note: Signalmen in mechanical signal boxes on Network Rail still communicate using single-stroke bells, being fast and unambiguous, unlike speech communication. lt is surprising to realise that bell communication was invented about 35 years before the telephone and is still in use 165 years later!

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 2007 and so does not reflect events in the 7+ 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.

The QRS S&T Reunion - Tim Stevens - Quainton News No. 98 - October 2007

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 01 November 2017