Volunteering.
There is a pressing need to recruit more Signalmen to replace the older members of the workforce, and also to cover the new Signal Box at Ashburton Junction (Totnes), which is nearing completion. On busy days when this Box, and the other two at Buckfastleigh and Bishops Bridge (Staverton) are open, we will need three Signalmen on duty. As the number of trains increases year on year, the existing workforce becomes more stretched, and it is essential that we find some more bodies to pull levers!

We are looking for men and women of 18+ years who are physically fit, and who would like to do something interesting and rewarding in their spare time. The role of Signalman/Woman is an important and responsible one, and you are very much at the heart of a Heritage Steam Railway, working with original G.W.R./B.R. Western Region signalling equipment…..and with a view of operations from the Box window which is second to none!

Training consists of practical experience, working the Box under the supervision of an experienced Signalmen, and also some classroom learning….depending on individual abilities and any previous Railway experience.

Perhaps the following words from one of our youngest Signalmen will help explain what the job can bring in terms of interest and satisfaction……

I’ve always had a keen interest in railways, starting from a young age it was Thomas and days out with my grandmother to what was then my local railway the Kent and East Sussex Railway. From those seeds I became fanatical about railways, starting with a wooden train set until one year my father bought me a Hornby set. For many years through secondary school this was all I had. I moved to Devon in 2009, my grandmother bought me membership to the SDRA for Christmas that year. I started to spend a lot more of my free time around the railway, seeing what everything was about and how it worked. With this I regained my interest in modelling and started to build my own layout. At first I had no particular interest in signalling, that was until I wanted to install some on my model. I came down to the railway to look at some of the signals. It was at this point I sat down and watched the signalman at work. I went away with more questions than I started with and wanted to know more about it. A few weeks later I went to speak with Dennis Johnson about volunteering, I said to him I was interested in signalling and he put me in contact with Richard Davies. Richard told me he was running a training course starting that January, what better way to find out how it all works!
Starting with little more than a basic knowledge of why signals were there, to stop trains colliding. I turned up for the first training session with Richard and several other trainees who were all very friendly and welcoming. Over the next 4 months we met Richard every fortnight and he taught us all the theory, how it works and the rules and regulations behind signalling. We finished our course with a written exam which after our sessions with Richard was not too much of a challenge. We had started the practical training before the written exam and now continued in the ‘box with fully trained signalmen, here we met the rest of the signalling team who are always welcoming, friendly, very knowledgeable and readily prepared to share thier knowledge.
I had my ‘box exam for Buckfastleigh in August 2010 and was passed out to work the box on my own, a bit daunting at first but I soon got into the swing of it. Since then I have come to know even more people on the railway and become a part of the SDR family. I enjoy my signalling shifts, the quiet single train running days are nice and relaxing with plenty of time for tea. Gala days are always interesting with plenty of lever pulling and moves to get you thinking, at the end of the shift going home feeling very satisfied with the days work. I have now started my training for Bishop's Bridge Signal box (Staverton) and will shortly be passed out to work that 'box on my own, which I am looking forward to. I am also now part of Staverton Preservation Group and when I am not in a signal box can often be found working the ticket office or platform there. There are many roles on the railway and you don't have to commit yourself to just one, if you are at all interested in signalling or the railway please come down and have a look around, introduce yourself and you never know where it could lead you!

Alan Johnson,
Signalman,
Member No. 10939


If you would like to join us and help keep this very beautiful GWR Branch Line running for future generations to enjoy, please contact Richard Davies (Responsible for Training) on 01752 880090, or Nathan Sanders (Roster Clerk) on 01752 669567.

There is also a need for Volunteers in the Signal and Telegraph Department. The Signalling on the S.D.R. is essentially of Great Western character, and the traditional semaphore signals need constant maintenance, as do the existing Signal-Boxes, with another one at the Totnes end of the line due to come into operation within the next two years. This Box (to be known as Ashburton Junction) still requires much work to be done, especially outside on the ground where new track work has to be installed, and point work connected to the Box. New Signals have to be erected and much electrical work also needs to be done in connection with all of this…..so anyone who possesses, or who would like to learn, any of the associated skills, would be most welcome. The S & T Dept is lucky to have two Network Rail technicians who work on a voluntary basis, and a third who formerly worked for British Railways, so there is much skill and experience to be passed on to anyone who would like give up some free time to learn. If you are interested please contact Nick Perring on 01803 392150, Trevor Hodgson on 01626 363077 or Ray Penny on 01803 520272 or 07747782808
Volunteering is the heart of our railway, almost all of the staff that run the railway are unpaid volunteers, from all walks of life, who help out for their own enjoyment and pleasure.

If you are interested in joining our team please click the link below.
Volunteering on the South Devon Railway.