Before the re-imagining of London Bridge station in the 2010’s, it was the subject of a huge re-signaling scheme in the mid 1970’s. The idea was to completely redesign the approach, especially across Borough Market Junction. This was a notorious bottleneck where trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, as well as approaching traffic from Kent and Sussex would almost always grind to a halt at peak times.
The solution was to create more throughput by using crossovers from Charing Cross and Cannon Street and using a new flyover at St Johns. Some terminal platforms were also connected to the Charing Cross lines in order to facilitate more throughput.
The entire area would be controlled via a massive new signal control room at London Bridge, which would mean the demise of at least 16 smaller signal boxes nearby.
Amazingly for such a large project, it was finished on time, at a cost of £21.5 million pounds in 1978. Below are some scans from a mini booklet produced by British Rail to commemorate the achievement.
I must thank Mr David Bonnett, who very kindly donated this leaflet and other materials to myself.
In September 2018, I visitied the Didcot Railway Centre, located adjacent to Didcot Parkway Railway Station. Access is via the railway station, just tell the barrier personnel if you are visiting the centre and they will let you through. A wristband will be provided by the museum enabling you to get out. However if you arrive by train, you can just walk down the stairs from the platform, turn right and the entrance is at the end of the passageway.
There is a very reasonably priced entrance fee (£6.50 per adult on a non running day, rising to £11 – £15 on running days (September 2018)), which has a family ticket option as well as the usual reductions for senior citizens. One thing of note that on non running days, admission is paid inside the museum.
The walk down to the first set of buildings takes you past an old coal stage, an impressive sight at track level. Then you arrive at a collection of buildings, comprising a shop, cafe and a G Gauge model railway. Next to the cafe is a museum, this contains many GWR artifacts, and although it seems small, quite a lot is packed in here. Here are a few photos on some of the items on display. Note that this is just a fraction of what is here, it is quite an impressive collection.
Next to here is the new signalling centre exhibit. Its main attraction is the Swindon Panel, and was still being worked on when I visited. It was still fascinating to see the exhibits in here, and nice to see preservation of a different kind for a change, not just with locomovtives and rolling stock.
Moving further up towards the Carriage display, views of the mainline to Oxford can be seen on the right. There is also a running track which is used on running days, with two stations at either end. A picnic area and play park is also here. The carriage display is very comprehensive, and includes a Traverser.
Various wagons and a signal box are at this location too, all very well cared for. Further up still is a section which has some broad gauge engines, an unusual sight.
I decided to end my day at the engine shed, which is opposide the cafe. I good array of Great Western steam locomotives are found in here, and I would imagine would be a great sight on a running day. A quick trip into the shop and then I left.
Overall I was very impressed and will try to get back here on a running day. I spent a good 2 and a half hours here, which included a very nice lunch in the cafe! I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an enthusiast who plans to stay a while at the main station, which I did (more on that in a later blog).
I have made a short video of the centre, uploaded to my YouTube channel, which you can view below :
Last week (10th May 2018) , the British Government in association with Network Rail announced that it would be investing in a digital railway, but what is that?
Basically, for well over a hundred years, railway signalling in the UK is a “block” based system. That is, a pre defined area of railway ‘blocks’ divide up the network, and no two trains can occupy the same block at the same time. In recent years, if a train moves past a red signal in to an occupied block, the onboard safety system (TPWS) will apply the emergency brake. This system albeit very safe, is very inefficient. A better way would be to allow the trains to report their position, speed etc. This would allow trains to run safely at closer distances, and would increase the capacity on the network.
The cost would be high, but as many of the signalling systems in the UK are nearing an upgrade, the spend would not necessarily be in addition to works which have been already identified by Network Rail.
To better explain this, the following video from Network Rail shows the current system of signalling, and how the new digital systems would improve the UK rail network.