As part of the Missenden Railway Modellers summer retreat, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the Princes Risborough North Box, which is now in the custody of the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association.
The box had lain derelict for many years, since its closure in 1991. Somewhat peculiarly, it was a break in by vandals during this period that potentially saved the box as it identified how seriously affected by water penetration and rot it was. This lead to the preservation society being able to convince Network Rail to let them in to stabilise it and they feel that had this not have occurred, when the building’s distress subsequently became apparent to Network Rail they would have merely ripped it down.
The box is substantial and is apparently the largest remaining GWR signal box in the country. It originally controlled the north end of Princes Risborough station but its size was determined by the complicated junction at this end of the station with three branch lines splitting from the main-line to Bicester and beyond. The branches it served were Aylesbury (still part of the national network), Oxford (closed in 1963) and Watlington (closed in 1957 but now reopened to Chinner as part of the preserved railway). The Railway Clearing House map is below and just to prove the complexity the box diagram too!
As would be imagined, there is a fairly extensive array of levers although in the various rationalisations that occurred through the GWR and BR eras have reduced the extent of these significantly. The preservation association have, however, reinstated many of the missing levers even though they are not yet connected to anything.
At present, the preservation society only have a temporary connection into the Princes Risborough bay platform but the intention will be to make this a permanent link onto their line, signalled via the box. However, given that this will still only be one of the lines that the box formerly served, there will only be a limited amount of it in use. Apparently the plan therefore will be to separate off the bulk of the box to create an interactive museum where visitors can play the part of a signalman.
The treat for me (and many of the others on the visit) was to go into the frame room to take a look at the locking frame. Although I had seen this in model form before, I had never seen a full sized locking frame – even though this is only a shadow of its former self as it only covers that proportion of the box that was in use at 1991, it is still very complicated as you can see.
The Chiltern line is now really quite busy, far more so than when I used it to get to Solihull on business regularly. In addition to the procession of class 168 DMUs, there were class 68s on the trains for Birmingham and Wrexham plus a pair of trips each day with class 66s on spoil trains from the Thames Tideway sewer project.
And finally, this is what the box looked like in the days of steam. This photograph was taken in 1960 by Christopher Bomken when he was still in his shorts – it even won him 2 shillings and sixpence in a school photographic competition. Recognition at last Christopher it has made the interweb!
Having warbled on a bit about what I had been doing at Missenden, I thought it might be of interest to show what other people were doing.
First up was Alan Edgar, who had not one, nor even two locos on show but three. Worse than that, what I thought was the best one had been put to bed by the time I got my camera out! So instead of a GNR(I) S class with full inside working motion, I only got a picture of its slightly smaller brother a GNR(I) Q class (I do hope I got this right, I am no expert on the Irish Railways!) with working inside valve gear. Built to P4 standards but at the correct 5’3″ gauge for the Irish main lines and utterly exquisite it was too! I can’t wait to see it in the pale GNR(I) blue – it will be head turner when it is finished.
Next was John McAleey with his Dave Bradwell A1 chassis to go under a model of Tornado, undergoing the latter stages of a fairly drawn out gestation. Given that this is John’s third etched kit and is not, in his words, “a speedy one” – I’ll take my hat off to him for getting it so far and it is looking the part I am sure you will agree!
One of the pleasures of Missenden is that you meet people that you might not ordinarily encounter and to find out some of the amazing things that they are creating. I always think the 2mm guys are a bit bonkers as they seek to make models that are 1/4 of the volume of my stuff – which in this case means scratchbuilding everything in these next two views of a Midland Spinner with the exception of the gear wheel. Their creator, Gary Fletcher, is utilising etching, rapid prototyping, lost wax casting and good old fashioned scratchbuilding to get these.
Now if that is not bonkers enough for you, let me tell you he needs something like 30 of these (or its close sisters) as he has decided that as no one has tried to recreate an accurate model of a London mainline terminal before, he might as well have a crack. However, if creating an accurate model of St Pancras is not enough, to ensure that it is difficult enough for him, he is setting this shortly after the turn of the last century with lots and lots of fully lined coaches and locos.
And he has already made some progress on the station, all created as a rapid prototype which he has had printed. So, if they remake Harry Potter Gary, I’ll know where to send them!!
Incidently, to the left side of my blog here is a list of other blogs that I have found to be interesting. There are quite a lot there, some being more active than other but as I have just added Gary’s it is at the top – so go and take a delve?
Most years I attend the Missenden Railway Modellers Spring Weekend and have just returned from this year’s. The weekends have some 70 or so railway modellers congregating for a residental retreat to both learn some new skills, enjoy the company and get some quality modelling time in. The participants split between different groups depending what they wish to do; trackwork, weathering, painting/lining, DCC sound control, backscenes and, in my case, loco building.
In my case I started a new loco (of course…..), but not a Highland one. This is a North Eastern 2-4-0 “Tenant” produced by Arthur Kimber. I am building this for Tim & Julian for them to use on their layout, Benfieldside. Thus it is going to be in EM, but I am going to put in clearances sufficent to convert it on to P4 if this ever takes my fancy, and it will be in NER green – so it should look rather fine. Indeed, it should look a bit like this (:only hopefully at a higher resolution!):
Slightly annoyingly, the kit was conceived to be built to P4, so instead of converting OO/EM kits to P4, I am converting a P4 kit to EM!! However, at least it is all the same skills and cutting bits off to make them narrower, is easier than splicing them in! One small departure has been to use some Markits wheels to act as some test track dummies for the build. The idea is that they are capable of being taken on and off without damage, are not steel (so are not going to corrode) and also that they automatically quarter themselves. This is they in the largely completed chassis (which is a rolling chassis, even if I have not yet fitted a motor). Also of note is the valve gear (dummy, life is not long enogh to making working inside gear – and nor am I a good enough modeller!). At present the slide bars and pistons are not yet fitted.
Unlike Highland locos, the running plate and valancing has high swept up sections and really nice flowing curves. This took quite a lot of care to form and I found it necessary to clamp both the front and rear in place initially, after the shape had been bent. Once, however, one end was soldered in place, the second end need to be released so that the thermal expansion did not distort the running plate.
There are more of these sweeping curves to the cab, which also give rise to some tense moments as it is formed. So long as the folds are made at the right locations and around a former the curves formed quite well. When this is added to the running plate, it starts to look like a locomotive.
The boiler comes pre-rolled, with all of the cuts for the wheels and holes already formed. The smokebox is a seperate part that is secured onto the boiler by a bolt and nut. This is quite effective and may well be something that I mimic in the future. The boiler does not come with boiler bands, so I will have some fun putting these on. It also appears to be about 1/2mm too long, so some cutting and filing is going to occur.
This is what it looks like with the boiler plonked on it (as I said, it is a bit too long so is not sitting down properly – however, it does look good and very different from anything the Highland had!
Sorry if it looks a bit silly on its reduced size wheels! This will get correctednearer the end of the build.