Didcot Railway Centre will be celebrating the opening of our permanent new interactive visitor attraction – The Signalling Centre – on June 23 and 24.

The Signalling Centre tells the story of signalling from the days of Brunel, gives the hands-on opportunity to ring the bells and operate the block instruments for passing a train to an adjacent signal box as well as pulling levers and watching the semaphore signals respond – then discover what the latest signalling technology looked like in 1935!

Visitors will next be able to see how much the signalman’s job had changed by the 1960s by having a go at running the trains on Swindon Panel.

Ironically, Swindon panel itself is now connected to computers which simulate its original relay interlocking and of course the railway and trains which it used to control.

For this weekend only there is a special exhibition in the carriage shed and special access has been arranged to some of Didcot’s treasures that are not normally accessible to the public, including Frome Mineral Junction Signal Cabin and Radstock North Signal box and to see what the life of the railway signalman was like in the 1870s and 1930s respectively.

There will be guided tours of the signalling system on our branch line, incorporating some features unique to Brunel’s broad gauge railway.

There will be a range of stands from railway signalling technology companies (such as Network Rail and Siemens), signalling preservation organisations (from Romsey, St Albans and East Anglia Railway Museum) and also leading educational establishments with an interest in railway signalling.

Between them, these exhibitors will be showing a range of technology from the traditional to the modern; there are also two model railways aiming to encourage young people to take an interest in careers involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

For the serious signalling enthusiast there will be the opportunity to purchase specialist books from the Signalling Record Society amongst others and also a ‘swap meet’ of Signalling Notices which are issued to drivers to inform them when significant alterations to the signalling on the network are undertaken.

For the railway modeller, Absolute Aspects will be showing off some of their magnificent model signals and members of SIMSIG will be showing what a challenge it can be to signal trains to the timetable when not everything is going as smoothly as might be hoped!