SWINDON Panel Signal Box is to be moved to Didcot so it can be preserved for future generations.

The signal box closed in February after 48 years of controlling trains but, instead of being scrapped, the huge 30-foot-long control panel is to be lifted out from the building in one piece and moved to the popular Didcot Railway Centre.

Network Rail sold the panel for £1 to the Swindon Panel Society, whose members plan to wire it up to computer simulation to mimic real-life train movements, enabling visitors to the centre to try their hand at signalling trains.

The panel will be part of a wider attraction centred on signalling and train control in a new purpose-built building in the heart of the popular Railway Centre.

Swindon Panel Signal Box was opened in 1968 and took over an area controlled by thirty-two mechanical lever-frame signal boxes, representing the contemporary modernisation of the signalling system.

After months of work, Network Rail finally closed the signal box at Swindon at 1.10am on Saturday, February 20.

Trains are now signalled from the state-of-the-art Thames Valley Signalling Centre in Didcot, bringing to an end 150 years of railway signalling in Swindon.

Volunteers from the preservation group have already begun to prepare the panel for the big move, planned for early April.

A spokesman for the Swindon Panel Society said: “Over 3,000 individual 'Dominoes' pictogram tiles showing track and signal detail, each 4cm x 4cm, have been removed and safely stored.

"The Dominoes are of the Integra design, made by Henry Williams in Darlington, and are a familiar feature of the panels of the Western Region signalling schemes of the 1960s and '70s.

“In order to preserve the internal wiring of the panel (and its historical secrets) the Society has arranged to lift the panel out whole. At 30 feet long and 6 feet high, this will be a significant task.

“A steel frame will be built around the panel base, then rolled out of the control room, and lifted onto a road lorry by P&D Specialist Services, who have kindly agreed to sponsor the lifting and haulage.

“On arrival at Didcot the panel will be loaded into a railway wagon for transporting into the Railway Centre - as there is no road access into the centre. Finally, the panel will be lifted by steam crane into its new permanent home in preservation.”