Our Heritage Open Day visit on Saturday was to the Woking Electrical Control Room.
As Southern Railway moved from steam to the electric third-rail system in the 1930’s its expanding electrification needed additional electricity sub stations. The electric power supply from these sub-stations was managed from control rooms, which could reconfigure the electric power in the event of a fault. Of the original five control room Woking is the only one retained in its original condition.
Southern Railway adopted an Art Deco styling to their electrification and station building. Woking has three railway building in the art deco style. It’s station, signal box, and the lesser known Electrical Control Room. Built in 1936, and opened in 1937, the control room continued in operation till 1997, when it was superceded by computer control.
The control room is Grade II listed for the building, control room panels, switches, and lighting. The concrete building has a flat roof with metal-framed casement windows.
Entering the building, past offices still in use, you enter a narrow corridor running around the edge of the building past panel of electro-mechanical switch gear. From the corridor you enter the impressive control room, just as it was when its use ceased in 1997, even the chairs remain.
Operated 24 hours a day, the three attractive copper and iron uplighters were designed to give a soft diffused light. We learned that the original light bulbs have been replaced with LED lights, close to the original lighting effect, though giving off a whiter light than that that I saw when first visiting the control room in 2007.
The inner walls of the control room are a representation, and name of each of the electric sub stations, with coloured lights to indicate the state of operation. The switches allow a controller to divert electric supply to in the event of a fault.
I expect you’ll be wanting to know about how the Jolly Farmer name lives on. Well, the name Jolly Farmer appears on the control panels for the sub station close to what was the Jolly Farmer pub, now American Golf shop. To prove that the Jolly Farmer name is still in use, I hacked through undergrowth to get near the railway line and take a photo of the sub station, which is still named Jolly Farmer.
Here are the photos [click to expand] of our visit, and the Jolly Farmer sub station.