Six Hertfordshire schoolchildren enjoyed a fun, hands-on railway safety lesson on a trip to Foxton signal box and level crossing this week [Monday 4 March].
The six children, who are Junior Travel Ambassadors for their school in Meldreth, travelled with their two teachers and Sarah Grove of the Meldreth, Shepreth & Foxton Community Rail Partnership (MSFCRP). Sarah had organised the trip with train operator Great Northern, who provided the free rail journey to and from Meldreth, and Network Rail, whose signalling staff showed them how the signals and crossing barriers work together to keep everybody safe when a train passes.
Inside the signal box, the crossing operator showed the visitors how the barriers are operated at both Foxton and, using CCTV, Shepreth. The children were fascinated by the technology, especially the screens that show where the trains are on the local network.
Under supervision, the children were allowed to operate the barriers for the passing trains. These included local stopping trains, fast trains to Cambridge and London, a Thameslink train all the way from Brighton, and a quarry train that reversed into the branch line towards the Barrington Quarry.
After asking many questions, and receiving a Network Rail goody bag, the visitors caught a train back to Meldreth, just in time for school dinner.
Teacher Andrew Jones said: “The visit to Foxton level crossing offered a unique and fantastic leadership and learning opportunity for our Junior Travel Ambassadors to extend their work on local transport safety issues into a whole new arena. They learned an enormous amount of important safety lessons about rail safety – which is tremendously important to us in Meldreth, where the railway line runs directly behind the school and can be easily accessed by anyone.
“Travelling to Foxton courtesy of Great Northern in their high-visibility jackets, the children felt like very important safety ambassadors for the school. We were given a fantastic welcome by Jody and Ben at the signal box and the children all had their diverse questions answered as well as assisting with the control of the barriers under the staff’s guidance. The children certainly recognised the importance of rail safety as a result of their visit and will be presenting the results of their experience to the rest of the school population in assembly next week. I do hope that this leads to further links between local schools and the local rail network.”
In their joint report on the visit, the children thanked the signal box staff for a great experience and said: “We think it was a really valuable trip because it helped us understand how dangerous it can be at the level crossing if you’re in a car or if you’re a pedestrian. We learned how we control the barriers, and how trains know when they can go or not go. It was clever how we could lock the magnetic gates to keep people safe when they cross.
“The people at Great Northern trains gave us a free travel pass so we could go by train to get there. It was great fun to travel on the train in our bright orange JTA jackets. When we got there, Jody the signaller put the barriers down just so we could cross the road. It felt pretty cool!”