Signalling Record Society - 50 Years
The Society Archives
The Society (SRS) has had archive material in its custody for a number of years. Most of the archive is in paper form but with increasing use of computers for record keeping, some of the archive material is now being made available in digital form. Other material consists of photographic collections.
Digital Archive Listings
History of the Archive
The first, and biggest, donation consisted mainly of several thousand signalling plans and signalling diagrams from the Southern Railway (SR) and its constituents, plus related material such as the instructions issued to signalmen at each box. Since that time numerous deposits of varying sizes have been made.
The Archive subsequently took charge of a direct deposit of former British Rail (BR) material that was not designated for preservation as public records. The deposit was sanctioned by the BR Record Officer - yes, this post still existed at the time. Of course, much of the contents of the archive originated from BR or its successors in one way or another, some of it being saved from the bin when it became out of date.
The majority of the deposits are still from members, some deceased and some seeking to rationalise their collections and place important historical material at the disposal of members in general. An important condition of acceptance is that the Society is at liberty to dispose of duplicates, or items deemed not relevant to signalling & operation, normally by sale to members or transfer to some more relevant body.
The bulk of the archive material falls into the categories of:
|1||Weekly engineering circulars and special signalling notices.|
|2||Appendices to working timetables and supplements thereto.|
|4||Signalling contractor’s publicity material, brochures & catalogues.|
|5||Technical handbooks & instruction manuals etc.|
|6||Signals & Telegraph (S&T) Department correspondence & papers.|
|7||S&T Department plans, diagrams, locking records etc. of signalling installations.|
The Archive largely complements the collections of the The National Archives (TNA) (previously called the Public Record Office (PRO)) and National Railway Museum (NRM), which do not have the resources to accumulate or catalogue all the minutiae of details of every signalling installation in the UK, let alone equipment supplied for export by British firms. The TNA, for example, has inherited some Classes of such detailed material, although it does not seem to have a policy of acquiring more. The question of a rational division of records between all the interested parties is one which is frequently discussed by the Archive Manager and other committee members, although at present it is not entirely clear how much can be done in this respect. The SRS hopes to engage in dialogue with the Railway Heritage Committee (Records Sub-Committee) with this object in mind, and also to make things as easy as possible for researchers and other users. A first step might be unified indexes to classes/types of records, inclusive of all known repositories, and some progress had been made to this end. Clearly the Tracking Railway Archives Project (TRAP) is relevant to this. TRAP was supported by the SRS with practical and financial help. TRAP was wound up as such on 30 March 2008 and became from the following day part of the Railway & Canal Historical Society. Up to date information about TRAP is available here.
By 1997 the greater part of the material was neatly boxed and shelved and listing has proceeded, slowly. A major distinction is made between (a) printed or library material (the first four categories above) and (b) archive material. It has been decided that the former will not be kept in collections according to donor, but consolidated into a single resource of each category. The remaining four categories present more problems of arrangement, identification and indexing, and these problems are currently being tackled. It is pleasing to note that the biggest collection, the SR one, was listed in detail by a dedicated member before it was even moved to the archive store.
Donations To The Archive
The Archive continues to grow substantially, both from members’ donations and from BR, Railtrack and Network Rail sources. The SRS is committed to working with the Railway Heritage Committee (RHC), PRO, NRM and other statutory bodies, as well as Network Rail, to identify and rescue out-of-date records. A number of members with very substantial collections are known to have left these to the SRS in their Will, and the society seeks to ensure that arrangements are in place for a problem-free transfer of the records when the time comes.
We have produced a guide for donors which can be downloaded and printed out or just viewed in your browser. The guide includes sections setting out our policies, what we do and don't collect, digitisation and conservation.
The archive is open for research from 10.00 to 16.30 on selected dates. These dates are shown on the Calendar page of this web site. On these dates researchers may gain access without giving prior notice - but prior advice to the Archivist would be appreciated.
The SRS Archive is otherwise open by prior arrangement only to members and other bona-fide researchers. For an appointment, or for further information, contact the Archivist.
The archive location is at Unit 6A, Princes Drive, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2FD. Location Map here - click on the map marker for satnav detail. The premises are shared with the London & North Western Society.
Public wi-fi access is available - BTWiFi-with-FON - which is an 'unsecure' connection. Visitors who use BT as their Internet Service Provider should be able to use this free of charge if they have already set up their device to use the service; users of other ISPs may be able to do so for a fee. Any charges for this are made by BT and neither this Society nor the LNWRS has any control over this.
There are no shops close to the archive, the nearest one is at the further end of Common Lane. Visitors should bring any food or drink they may require with them. Kettles are available to heat water for hot drinks and drinking mugs are available.
Parking (free of charge) for cars is normally available, more readily so on weekends when most premises on the estate are closed.
Getting there by public transport
Nearest railway stations served by long distance trains are Coventry and Leamington Spa. Visit National Rail Enquiries for train times from your nearest station.
A frequent bus service X17 passes both Coventry (path & bus stop) and Leamington Spa stations - every 15 minutes during the day, Monday to Saturday. Ask the driver to stop at Woodland Road (bus stop & path), Kenilworth to let you off. For a current bus timetable look here then enter X17 in the search box and select the appropriate service from the list of X17s offered.
Traveline can be consulted for other transport modes.
Kenilworth station reopened on 30 April 2018 and is served on weekdays by an hourly shuttle service running between Coventry and Leamington Spa. No service on Sundays. However, it is not currently served by the X17 or any other bus service and, unless you are a determined long distance hiker, not within walking distance of the archive either. There are a number of taxi operators in Kenilworth and these can be found by entering 'taxi services kenilworth' into your browser's search facility.
We have produced a printable brochure which can be downloaded and printed out or just viewed in your browser.
Archive Catalogue & Floor Plan
A list of the archive boxes can be viewed here. Detail indexes to many of the boxes are available as well. Both the main index page and the various detail indexes can be printed out.
There is a floor plan of the archive available and copies may also be seen at the archive itself.
Paper indexes to some sections of the Archive are available. Each index gives a clear indication of the material held in the various collections so far catalogued. Current pricing and ordering details are set out on the Sales page.
|5||Batts' Eastern Region Correspondence & Plans|
In 2010 the Society received a donation of digital copies of some weekly operating notices and signalling notices. These formed the nucleus of a Digital Archive and the Society has embarked on gradualy digitising material held in the paper archive. Priority is being given to Weekly and Periodical Operating Notices as many of these were printed on poor quality paper which is now deteriorating. Other categories of material to receive early attention are Signalling Notices, especially where these are on poor quality paper, and General and Sectional Appendices.
Wherever possible the digital copy will be the complete document. This is especially important with the Weekly Notices as information about changes of signal frame or locking is often only published in section B. There was no section C announcement because no change was visible to train crews! Weekly and Periodical Notices will be combined so far as possible into 'year sets'. This is intended to assist members searching the files when the precise date of an event is unknown.
Parts of the Digital Archive are available for download immediately free of charge where the donor has specified this as a condition of the donation. Other parts are only available for download by members or on CD/DVD as a Research Note. The archive pages make it clear what is available by these means. The CD/DVDs may be purchased by non-members as well as by members.
As the quantity of material available increases much of the Digital Archive will only be made available on CD or DVD as Research Notes. These CDs will be supplied at a modest cost and please bear in mind that the profit from sale of these CDs is ploughed back into supporting and expanding the Archive to the benefit of all.
Files are either in Adobe Acrobat (PDF), Joint Picture Expert Groups (JPG), or Tagged Image File (TIF) format, all of which are recognised international standards. A free reader for the PDF files can be downloaded from here. JPG and TIF files can be read using one of the many readily available graphics programs and both Apple and Windows operating systems include such readers.
The archive files are often large - please bear in mind that they will take some time to download, especially if you are not using broadband. Because of problems with older browsers or out of date plug-ins, the download facility instructs browsers to save the file rather than open them in the browser.
Contributions to the Digital Archive are always welcome. Click here to read the guide to making digital copies.
Guide Notes for Scanning Material
Material published by British Rail and its predecessors likely to be included in this archive was rarely in colour or shades of grey. Network Rail has introduced colour more recently now that their weekly and periodical notices are produced as Word documents and distributed in PDF form.
Members scanning material for donation to the Digital Archive are asked to follow these guide lines as far as possible within any limitations imposed by the scanner or PDF making software they use:
- Check whether the document is already listed on this web site as being available in digital format. Only sections C and D of some weekly notices is available - we would welcome complete copies of these.
- Please use Adobe Acrobat to create the PDF files if you possibly can as compatibility problems can arise if alternatives are used. If you don't have Acrobat available please let the webmaster know what software was used so that the files can be checked for compatibility before they are distributed. The scanned files should be Acrobat version 1.4 or earlier as this also reduces the risk of incompatibility.
- Please scan the entire document you have available. Complete copies can be used to enhance the extent of information available.
- If the original document is black print on a white (or plain coloured) background, set the scanner to operate in 'black print on a white background' mode. This will allow the resultant file size to be kept as small as possible both for storage purposes and to avoid excessive download times when the file is called up by researchers.
- Pages which contain images that rely on graduated levels of grey to be understood may be scanned in 'greyscale'. This produces larger size files so please confine scanning in 'greyscale' to those pages that actually need it.
- Pages which contain coloured sections may be scanned in 'colour'. This produces larger size files so please confine scanning in 'colour' to those pages that actually need it.
- Set the scanner resolution to 300dpi (dots per inch). Only increase this figure if it is necessary to overcome faint print on the original document or to avoid loss of fine detail. If the resolution is increased please confine usage to those pages which actually need it.
- Set the threshold to a figure low enough to minimise pick up of dirt, discolouration, crease marks etc and make the resultant copy as 'clean' as possible. On a flatbed scanner covering the white platen (under the lid) with black paper or card can often eliminate the 'print through' when scanning thin papers. Some experimentation may be needed in order to get the best result for each docment to be scanned whilst avoiding loss of information that is wanted.
- Similarly try different contrast settings if necessary.
- Set the scanner to 'deskew' (straighten) the scanned images.
- Set the scanner to avoid creating oversized borders round the scanned pages. Otherwise please trim off the excess of white (or black) borders by cropping the page size appropriately.
- Set the noise filter to eliminate spurious noise or dots.
- Set the image filter to remove halftones from black and white pages. If half tones are needed then use a 'greyscale' setting.
- If available, use the OCR (optical character recognition) setting to make the document searchable.
- If you combine multiple documents into a single file, index the start position of each document - Acrobat will do this autmatically.
- Send the scanned document(s) to the Society - details of how to do this are shown below.
Following these guidelines so far as possible will enable the archive to present information in the best possible quality.
Sending Your Scanned Documents To The Society
The size of scanned files can be quite large - and can cause problems when sent by email. Please use the most appropriate method chosen from one of the following:
- Small documents less than 1Mb in size may be sent to the webmaster by email. Members will find the email address in The Signalling Record, otherwise please contact the webmaster first for the email address to use.
- If the file is larger than 1Mb a number of options are available to enable you to send the files to the Webmaster:
- Use one of the free file transfer systems such as Dropbox or WeTransfer.
- Upload the file to you own web site and send the Webmaster a link for downloading the file.
- Copy the file to a CD or DVD and send it to the Webmaster by post.
Signalling Records Held at the National Railway Museum (NRM)
Amongst the material held at the NRM is the “Croydon Collection” of material deposited with them during the privatisation processes of the mid 1990s by the S & T Signal Projects Group of British Railways, Southern Region. It comprises a range of drawings encompassing signal box diagrams, locking charts, wiring arrangements, architectural drawings and so on. Whilst the collection is not fully catalogued, John Creed produced a “Finding Aid” to help searchers locating documents in the collection.
The NRM accession number for the collection is NRM 1996-7909 and consists of 187 cardboard filing boxes.
Viewing of the documents requires a visit to the Search Engine at the NRM and advanced ordering is necessary giving them at least one week's notice. Current terms and conditions, requirements regarding identification and opening hours will be found here on the NRM's web site.