Ffestiniog Railway Signal Box

Incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1832, Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway company in the world. It has just been voted the top tourist attraction in North Wales and is recognised through the world as a leader in restoring and running a heritage railway.

The Project

In 2013, work began on widening an existing platform to allow 14-carriage Welsh Highland Railway trains to stand at the extension. The extensive changes to the tracks required the reconfiguring the signalling and point controls.

The project called for the building of a Signal Box and Relay Room to suit the tight dimensions of the site and the requirements of Signalling and Operating Departments. It was necessary that the structure would be in keeping with the heritage of the railway.

After some research on the Internet, Alan Norton, Volunteer Project Manager, found that Western Red Cedar was more durable than other species of timber and would produce the best finish for the building. Since the platform edge would be within three metres of the front wall of the Signal Box, the public would be standing very close to the building. This called for a very high-quality finish with aspirational qualities and excellent longevity. “The site is very exposed, being less than five metres from the sea at high tides. It was apparent that with some maintenance, Western Red Cedar would last a long time even in these conditions.”

Alan found Silva Timber on the Internet. “After browsing the website, an initial phone call gave me the impression of a reliable company that will be easy to work with.”

Choice of Materials

“We were very mindful of budget and Silva Timber was very amenable to us looking for ways to work within a budget – including collecting the timber ourselves. Our initial spec was to have a painted finish on the cladding” said Alan. Silva Timber suggested using Finger-Jointed Western Red Cedar cladding.

Made from reassembled pieces of Clear Vertical Grain grade boards, Finger-Jointed Western Red Cedar offers all the physical properties of a standard board at significantly lower cost. Finger-Jointed boards are especially suited to an opaque coating, which makes Owatrol Solid Colour Stain, in particular, an ideal companion.“This combination was a cost-effective option and ultimately sealed the decision for us.”

Western Red Cedar and Owatrol Solid Colour Stain

“We were pleasantly surprised to discover the ease of handling Western Red Cedar”, says Alan. Volunteers fixed the cladding. They ranged from skilled DIY-ers, to 14-16 year olds on college work experience. The same volunteers applied the solid colour stain to the timber.

With over 50 different colour stains available from Owatrol, the right tone was found to meet the project requirements. This wide range of tones will match any branding/design requirements. It also comes with a 15-year warranty against cracking, peeling and flaking when used on timber cladding.

“Both Western Red Cedar cladding and Owatrol Solid Colour Stain were very easy to work with, even considering that some of the teenage volunteers had no previous experience working in this environment.”

Volunteering at the Project

This project has enabled the railway to properly connect with the local 16+ college. “This was the first time these students worked on site. It was a major success, not only saving expenditure thanks to volunteers but also giving the students an opportunity to gain satisfaction from producing something that is in public view and will be seen for many years to come”, continues Alan. The ease of handling of Western Red Cedar was indeed a bonus for a group of volunteers learning from their first building experience.

Alan concluded, “The whole experience with Silva Timber was very good. I would be very happy to use Silva Timber again, and would recommend the company to others.”

For further information on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways, contact Andrew Thomas on 01766 516072 athomas@ffwhr.com.
Hi-res photography available at www.festrail.co.uk/press.
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About the Author

Alison Evans

Product Marketing Manager