Monday 12 September 2022

Housekeeping at Aviemore (Speyside) Signal box

 Housekeeping at Aviemore (Speyside) Signal box

By Graham Maxtone

I had started as a volunteer in 2019 and managed one summer season working all the signal boxes before the pandemic struck and blew a massive hole in our regular timetabled operations and my ability to support the railway in a meaningful manner.

Slowly but surely as life again returned to something closer to normal it was apparent that the S&T had not been idle. Aside from the new signalling work at Boat of Garten North and commissioning of the Electric Key Token system between Boat South and Aviemore some very important tasks had been carried out at Aviemore. The most important was the work on the mechanical interlocking under the frame which at last made the ‘box complaint and safe after many years of hidden dangers just waiting to trap the unwary signalman. Then there was the provision of a ‘Calling On’ arm under the Down Main Home signal. Future plans are an exit disc from the engine shed to the head shunt plus an electrical release for Aviemore station North Ground Frame thereby doing away with the shunt key. Colin, Ray and the Ellon gang had started a much needed external refurb (including new stairs) and repaint of the signal box. That very welcome project is still ongoing at the time of writing as the timber work requires a lot of attention before any painting can start. Once complete all three Strathspey signal boxes will have been done. The very talented Dave Grantham renewed two window frames (one sliding and both including glazing) on the south facing elevation to a very high standard. What with all the sterling S&T work Rob and Ben were undertaking around our Railway coupled with the Ellon Gangs professional building repair work I felt it was about time I put some effort into making the interior of Aviemore cabin a bit more presentable.

Figure 1 The Lever Frame before restoration work

Figure 2 The Train Register desk, Key Token Machine cabinet & lockers

The levers

There were two key elements that required attention the first being the actual colours of each lever. Some were painted as operational but were spare and some were spare and actually operational plus the pulls were so faded they could hardly be read. So with emery paper, masking tape and the appropriate pots of the correct colours (thanks Willie Dodds) all the levers were completely repainted. Black paint was removed from the handles and catches of the 14 working levers and hammerite silver painted onto the handles and catches of the sevenspares. Then the lever badges were all renewed. Plates and badges were either incorrect or missing altogether. The new badges were made in a similar fashion to those already in situ. They were typed up at home (cottage industry style) on Microsoft Word and then encapsulated. After trimming them to the correct size and drilling a small hole in each corner they were put into my suitcase ready for the next trip over to Spey Lodge. With the aid of mini cable ties they were finallysecured to each lever. The working lever handles were burnished to give a reasonable shine to then, but there is much more to do here as many are marked and pitted. A proper deep shine will only be achieved over time and with regular cleaning – just as the old Signalmen used to do.

Figure 3 The renumbered and repainted lever frame.

The frame

The McKenzie & Holland frame had possibly not been painted since it had been installed many years ago sounfortunately picking the hottest day of the summer, Irvine Roy and I sanded it down and gave it two fresh coats of hammerite smooth black. The quadrant runners of the working levers were burnished and those on the spares painted black. The floor at the rear of the frame was painted matt black. If you’ve ever worked in a greenhouse you’ll understand what it was like. The signal wire adjuster for No 1 Up home was also rubbed down and painted black. The two varieties of lever collar were hung on new hooks provided behind the block bench.

Figure 4 The frame painted and burnished quadrant runners

The Block Instruments

The Electric Key Token machines was polished up and the block indicator labelled ‘Boat South’ at Boat South the indicator there was of course labelled ‘Aviemore’. The bell on the block bench which was a former L&NW dog kennel bell & tapper was cleaned up (an accumulation of inconsiderate bird crap) and repainted.

Figure 5 The repainted Block Bell for Baot South

The furniture

There was a miss match of furniture accumulated over the years : train register desk, block instrument cabinet and lockers for the radios/S&T/Pilotman etc. Again thanks to Willie Dodds a very appropriate tin of gloss green was procured and they were all painted to match with gloss black tops where appropriate. The train register desk was treated differently with four coats of Ronseal Woodstain as was the block bench above the levers. Coat hooks have now been provided at the door and to the left of the TR desk. Three better and more comfortable chairs have been sourced. We still await the more historically correct  very comfortable armchair though, but we’re on the hunt… reasonable donations are welcome.

Figure 5 The desk, cupboard & lockers as they were

Figure 6 After repainting

The windows

Irvine Roy obtained some appropriate cleaning fluid and went round all the windows both internally and externally. Very unfortunately some panes are actually perspex and thus had already been easily scratched which over time will reduce visibility from the operating floor – not ideal at all. It is hoped than Colin, Ray and the Team will replace those with proper glass to make a great job even better.

The Notices

Better use was made of the glass notice case on the south facing wall. A tidy up of the information sheets on the west wall with due consideration to the fact that many of the notices are actually contained within the four new coloured folders located in the TR desk.

Still to do

The floor has to be repainted. Ideally it really should be linoleum but given the common user nature of the signal box a repaint is more sensible. Robert Walters has secured a pot of red floor paint identical to that used in the Boat of Garten ‘boxes. What is being considered is a non-slip industrial black rubber matting that will cover the more used area of the floor– at least the length of the frame and back to the train register desk.

A kick board is needed in front of the frame. The only location that currently has one is Boat of Garten North.

The future

When the dust has settled and the current scheme of works completed then it will be down to keeping Aviemore (Speyside) clean and tidy and we all have a responsibility here. A simple regime of housekeeping and sweeping of the floor regularly will keep the place looking professional. Not at all easy for the Footplate crews who are essentially in and out with more pressing matters to attend to but certainly so of the Operating folk.

Sunday 11 September 2022

 External renovation of the Speyside Signal Box at Aviemore over 2nd to 5th September.

By Colin Frost

While we awaited the erection of the scaffold on Friday a small team of Mike, Neil, Roddy, Ray and I dug three holes under the veranda for the placement of extra timber supports, mixed concrete and filled the holes. The three beams were cut to length in the shed by Willie and the metal boots attached.  

The following day these 
supports were placed under the veranda, secured into position, primeand the first undercoat applied.

Now able to finally use
 the scaffold to gain access to the window level on the south side we commenced assessing and ripping out the rotten timber, of which there was plenty, we also removed nesting material and other debris that had accumulated between the inner and outer walls over time.  

Using timber that I had stored in the Lodge we commenced replacing the wall cladding, before travelling to the Boat to collect the final 3 stored planks and the remainder of the half-round strips that had been specially cut for the renovation of the North box last year.

Back at Aviemore we cut to size and installed further new pieces of wall cladding on the south wall, applied filler to some small gaps and primed

There is still more to be replaced before attempting to paint the corrugated iron roof weather permitting - next time.

(see enclosed photos)

Thanks to Mike Tough, Neil MacQueen, Roddy McPhee, Ray Kenyon and Colin Frost.