At Didcot Railway Centre we are having a bit of a signalling theme at the moment.

Our new exhibition, The Signalling Centre, is proving very popular with visitors: we hope this is because it is an interesting exhibition but we suspect that some of the interest is because it is air-conditioned!

One of our volunteers, Richard, has been pondering on signalling too and a visit he paid to a signal box in Banbury before it was demolished last year.

Banbury North Signal Box was surrounded by railway tracks so it couldn’t be repaired and preserved.

For the visit, Richard arrived at the meeting point at Banbury station – by train, of course.

The group were decked out with orange high-visibility safety vests, then led along a path from the end of one platform, between temporary fencing to protect them from the active railway lines.

The leader waited until no trains were passing, so as not to worry the drivers with a crocodile of about 20 high-vis visitors.

Inside the box was a frame of about 96 levers, all with plates showing which other levers have to be pulled before that particular one can move.

Like the signal box Richard described in a previous column, the interlocking is fitted vertically, so the frame room is taller than usual and the outside staircase up to the working floor higher than the average.

The group enjoyed an interesting talk from two former signalmen, then were invited to try some of the levers for ourselves.

Of course they had all been uncoupled from the points and signals, so took very little effort to pull.

In our new Signalling Centre there are two signals that move – one outside the building and one inside.

Visitors can pull levers and see the both signals move.

As part of the display we have also included a duster: signalmen (at Didcot we use the GWR terms and of course in those days, signalmen were men) always used a duster to handle the polished tops of the levers because the levers are made of steel and can rust from the sweat on their hands.

On one wall we have installed the panel from the signal box at Bristol East. Our signal and telegraph engineers have created a simulation that allows visitor to signal trains into the platforms by pressing buttons on the front of the display and following the red lights that show the location of the train.

There is also a screen that shows our own signal boxes working.

The Signalling Centre is a great addition to the attractions we have at Didcot and is open every day the centre is open.