Living Museum of the Great Western Railway

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The Signalling Centre

Operating Swindon Panel

You can find out how the basic signalling apparatus of the early railways, evolved into the mechanical signalboxes, such as Radstock North Box and Frome Mineral Junction Cabin, on our Branch Line, and then into electrically operated systems, powerboxes and ultimately computer controlled signalling centres. The Signalling Centre offers hands-on opportunities to try some of this equipment out for yourself. 

During your visit you can:

  • See some of the very basic apparatus in use when the GWR opened in 1835 and find out more about the broad gauge era signalling equipment elsewhere at Didcot Railway Centre
  • Experience the job of the signalman in an 1875 mechanical signalbox. Pull the levers and watch the semaphore signals respond. Operate the block instruments to pass a train to an adjacent signalbox
  • Look at the equipment from the GWR modernisation of 1935 at Bristol Temple Meads. Watch the trains move across the original signalbox diagram - and control a few of the trains yourself if you wish!
  • See how today's signaller views the railway through a computer screen

On certain selected days, there's also a chance to get hands on and control trains on a virtual Great Western main line using the restored ‘Swindon Panel’. The equipment was installed in the 1960s to replace the steam age signalling in use until then and has been saved and restored by members of the Swindon Panel Society.  They will be pleased to show you how to control the trains on a 40-mile stretch of the Great Western main line and let you have a go! (on other days the panel can be viewed as a 'museum exhibit' in a 'glass case'!)

Forthcoming Swindon Panel operating days are:

  • Saturday 15 June
  • Saturday 22 June
  • Saturday 6 July
  • Sunday 14 July
  • Saturday 20 July

The Signalling Centre - Mechanical Signalling

As well as the Signalling Centre, there are two restored signalboxes, from Frome Mineral Junction and Radstock North, at the Centre. These help control the trains on the Branch Line and are occasionally open for visitors.

A Timeline of the Major Signalling Exhibits at Didcot Railway Centre


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