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St. Simon

Colour Light Signalling for Model Railways (Cover Image Page 6)

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This post has been approved by Andy Y

 

Hi,

 

Since landing my role as a trainee signalling designer, and very soon an assistant signalling designer, I have noticed the distinct lack of accurate information of modern railway signalling principles. After all, most of the signalling books available at the moment are written using Semaphore Signalling Principles applied to colour light signals using the same outdated BR Junction signalling diagram, and I don't feel that they are entirely fit for purpose for contemporary layouts. 

 

So, with this is mind, i have become increasingly enthusiastic about writing a new book on applying the principles of modern signalling (I limit my knowledge to about 1990's onwards) to model railways. 

 

It has also been brought on by lots of people asking me for advice on Signalling for modern layouts, and I thought that it would simply be easier to point them in the direction of a good book.

 

Thus, my question is, is there a market for such a book and would there be anything specific that you want to see in such a book? Other than the odd magazine article, I'm new to this kind of thing!

 

Oh, and whilst it would be me that would be gathering the words and a lot of the pictures, I would be getting advice and guidance from other modelers in the signalling industry so I don't get egg on my face!

 

Simon

Edited by St. Simon
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I think it will fill a hole in the market and be jolly handy to point people to.

 

Might be nice to make it a comprehensive guide to all UK colour light signalling since 1920s as applied to the model and not just the last thirty years. It will probably be worth including a section (might end up being half the book) on practical implementation using what is available.

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I'd buy it, just get someone else to proof read it ;)

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I'd buy it, just get someone else to proof read it ;)

 

Yes, point taken, it is something I'm always picked up on in my scheme plans! I've now fixed it (hopefully!)

 

Simon

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I think it would be interesting, provided that it isn't too "dumbed down".

 

Ideally, I think it would be "modern UK signalling explained, with illustrations of use to the the modeller", so that it covers several audiences: modellers; general railway enthusiasts; and, those who work in the industry, but aren't signalling engineers. I'm assuming that you work on NR schemes, but it would be good if you could get a colleague who works on LU to contribute material about both LU fixed-block and LU moving-block systems. The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland have pretty interesting installations, too.

 

Kevin

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Yes, point taken, it is something I'm always picked up on in my scheme plans! I've now fixed it (hopefully!)

I was kidding really, but no apostrophe needed in decades either- 1990s.

 

To counter Suzie's point I'd be more interested if it were the last 30 years. I have no interest whatsoever in earlier periods, and would be less likely to buy something broader. Sounds like that plays to your strengths anyway.

 

You'll never please everyone though, if you consider it a poorly filled niche then I'm sure you wouldn't be alone. I agree that you don't want to dumb it down, at a very high level it isn't a difficult concept, which means the devil is in the detail.

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A very good idea and I would be interested in buying, would it contain stuff about AWS, TPWS etc placements?

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I think its a good idea, but, I do think that it will need to be as Suzie says a history (and implementation of) colour light signalling since the 1920's (including the LOR automatic and the underground signalling to). The big problem with these systems is that getting information will be tricky, but as they are significant in the development of the modern schemes it needs to be in there. Nock has good coverage (in general terms) on the West coast scheme in his book 'Britains New Railway'.

 

I have two examples of colour light heads in the garden, and so can provide photos of the heads, and for the Searchlight I can provide photos of the mechanisms too. A friend down the road can provide photos of some other early styles of heads (pigs ears, LMS Victoria mini head, Gps etc).

 

It needs to be photo rich, and cover real situations and show how signals are provided. (for example how some areas although fully colour light, are actually still signalled in AB terms). Also things like how mechanical frames are converted to become electro-mechanical, with pictures of the circuit controllers connected to the lever tails.

 

If you can get out and about on the resignalling schemes and get photos of the posts that the recovered signals are sat on, as there is a huge verity of them as well as the spts (A whole section on SPTs would be a good inclusion too!).

 

It has the potential to be a proper heavy-weight tomb if properly researched, and a worth while addition to the bookshelf, with a sort of look that Dow's history of the track has.

 

Andy G

Edited by uax6
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if it was to be a history of colour-light signalling, it will need to go back earlier than the 1920s, because parts of the underground dispensed with arms on signals as soon as it became apparent that they are invisible in the dark. I'd have to check exactly when, but I have a feeling that the C&SLR was "armless" in the 1890s, and I have a textbook from c1905, which includes the basic circuitry for an automated colour-light system by Spagnoletti (ex telegraph engineer of the GWR, who later established his own firm).

 

One challenge in a book that covers history will always be where to set the start point, or in this case what constitutes "modern" signalling, because things didn't suddenly hop from 'manual fixed block and semaphore' to 'track circuit block and colour light', there were intermediate steps, like automatic three-position semaphore (LSWR), which is pretty much the same as early three-aspect colour-light, and indeed some very early automatic two-position systems (CSLR, Liverpool Overhead etc).

 

It might be easier to take a date-line from the formation of BR in 1948, but include an introductory chapter that surveys, but doesn't go into "modellers detail" on earlier systems ......... although that would neglect some kit that survived well into the BR era, especially on the SR.

 

Kevin

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I think its a good idea, but, I do think that it will need to be as Suzie says a history (and implementation of) colour light signalling since the 1920's (including the LOR automatic and the underground signalling to). The big problem with these systems is that getting information will be tricky, but as they are significant in the development of the modern schemes it needs to be in there. Nock has good coverage (in general terms) on the West coast scheme in his book 'Britains New Railway'.

Well it doesn't need to be anything, that's just what you want ;)

 

Therein illustrates the issue OP - I'd be interested in exactly what you've proposed; post 1990 operations which I can apply to modelling, others want a detailed history and a "weighty tome for the bookshelf", my recommendation would be to pick one of those and go with it, if your expertise isn't 1930s signalling don't write about it.

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Turning it into a history is a huge undertaking, I'd think limiting it to modern era and then expanding it as a series to cover other aspects if that's popular would be better. The problem with a full history is you will increase the price for a lot of stuff most modern modellers aren't interested in.

I agree diagrams and photos are the way to go rather than heavy on text. I'd suggest a few case studies on different size stations and TCB, AB, Token and RETB basics.

Good luck :)

Edited by PaulRhB
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Or, perhaps, instead of a book, a web presence. This eases development, facilitates input from several heads, and makes corrections/additions easier. A thread if you don't mind other people contributing directly. Or a blog if you'd rather keep control - this still allows people to contact you with ideas/corrections, but you edit all the content - obviates the problem of know-alls who know #### all.  RMWeb provides a vehicle for both approaches.

Edited by Mike Buckner
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From the convesations above there three ways forward:

 

1 Pamphlet form, plop your signals here and the very basics, much like the peco shows you how things from times past.

2 Coffee table magazine style book, which is light reading, doesn't give anything more than a cursory glance to anything heavyweight. It won't explain anything in great detail.

3 Tomb style. A well researched volume that gives good insight into the development of the colour light signalling system, and other automatic systems (including the electro-gas systems in use pre ww1) with technical terms that would be missing in the other two publications. Illustrations of most different types of signal, and other hardware that is used.

 

The price differentials will be something like 5.99, 23.99 and then 60 for the various types...

 

Its a difficult call, you can't be all things to all men, but I think something between 2 and 3 would be a good compromise. Maybe what would be the way to do it would be to choose various resignalling schemes that have happened since 1900, and show the delevelopment through these. I would look at things like the under ground, the LOR, the electro-gas NER schemes, the 1930's improvements for high speed running (distants changed to searchlights at greater braking distances), the Liverpool street and Great Eastern resignalling, the Brighton line resignalling, the westcoast resignalling, the east coast improvements for electrification, Modular signalling, GWR resignalling.

 

I'm sure others will add bits in that I have missed (I'm not hot on the southern stuff, but their 4 aspect schemes will need looking at) and that way it would neatly define terms. A proper deep look at each section would tell the story, and give examples....

 

Andy G

Edited by uax6

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From the convesations above there three ways forward:

 

1

Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again. ;)
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You do seem to be missing the forth example Andy, which is what Simon said he'd actually write:

 

- a detailed look at post-1990 signalling.

 

Not sure why looking at a certain period in history precludes any level of detail, I'd have thought it was more appropriate to have more detail on a shorter period in history, than your all or nothing suggestion. Not sure why you're dictating a pricing structure, or indeed ignoring what he actually proposed!

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There is a difference between describing signalling practice on the big railway and how to implement realistic signalling on a model which has (normally) huge space constraints - something which you (Simon) will need to consider if you do go down the authoring route.

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The problem is that most of the resignallings that happened post 1990 were actually only done in the last 10 years or so, as Railtrack effectively stopped all resignallings as they cost their shareholders money....

 

Even if your model is set today, the vast majority of the signalling will be pre 1990, and infact a lot of it will be pre 1970... The GE section had LNER marked searchlights until the WARM project that NR instigated in the early naughties....

 

The age of most things would surprise the average modeller, the signalbox I sit in has its original frame (1890's) connected to 1980's two and three aspect colour lights, but looks 'modern' (apart from the faded paint on the signals).

 

Andy G

Edited by uax6

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The problem is that most of the resignallings that happened post 1990 were actually only done in the last 10 years or so, as Railtrack effectively stopped all resignallings as they cost their shareholders money....

 

Even if your model is set today, the vast majority of the signalling will be pre 1990, and infact a lot of it will be pre 1970... The GE section had LNER marked searchlights until the WARM project that NR instigated in the early naughties....

That's slightly different though. You can still write about post-90s practice (not to be confused with things that were replaced post-90s). Still doesn't mean writing a detailed history of the evolution of signalling practices. Simon's obviously looking to write about what he's trained on at work, which is current.

 

Agree with Beast's point though about model versus true prototype. Few of us have space for more than one block, so there's a huge amount of 'off stage' set up to consider, plus shortening of distances back from junctions etc.

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The Friends of the NRM started to publish a series of comprehensive books on the 'History and Development of Railway Signalling in the British Isles'. The first volume, 'Broad Survey' by Stanley Hall (ISBN 1 872 826 12 1), was published in 2000. The second volume, containing essays on Absolute Block and Single Line working, followed in 2001. Unfortunately the leading author then died and so the series progressed no further.

 

Volume two would probably not be of much interest Simon - but it might be worth you looking at the structure adopted by Hall in volume one.

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Agree with Beast's point though about model versus true prototype. Few of us have space for more than one block, so there's a huge amount of 'off stage' set up to consider, plus shortening of distances back from junctions etc.

 

True, BUT the one big failing far too many modellers fail to recognise when devising the signalling arrangements for a model, it is essential to consider the wider, un-modeled world, particularly with multiple aspect signalling.

 

True, due to a lack of space some distances may have to be compressed - but the same goes for the real railway. For example while the 'standard' overlap beyond a signal may be 200 yards, through the use of things like approch control, restricted Overlap routes and route locking, its perfectly possible to have pointwork in close proximity to the signal - the reason why its not the norm is the operational restrictions the aforementioned signalling strategies cause can be disruptive / cost more to implement. Similarly while an AWS magnet may well usually be sited 200 yards before the signal to which it applies, if the line speed drops, the magnets position can be altered accordingly.

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As has been noted railway signalling is a vast subject and people need to be mindful of losing sight of Simon's primary objective. As a (trainee) signalling scheme designer, he merely wishes to help modellers get things right when they are looking to design the signalling on a post 1990 era layout using MAS / TCB principles. As someone who has to maintain mid 1980s (and later) era signalling kit I totally understand this desire, as however wonderful a layout is, signalling errors on models are things that grate with me and a guide to recent practices would I'm sure be useful.

 

The thing is the actual MAS / TCB principles haven't changed that much for quite a while now. Yes there have been additions to the system every few years like TPWS, SPAD signals, the reintroduction of splitting distants, etc. but for the most part the basics haven't changed that much.

 

Thus while the history of colour light signalling and now redundant / removed early schemes is all very interesting, including them does dilute the core message of what Simon is trying to do and such topics are probably better left to others with more time (remember Simon still has the day job of signal design work for NR to do) and resources.

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But by looking at a more recent period, missing out the earlier stuff, you are actually making it harder to sell your book.....

 

 

Andy G

Edited by uax6

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Not a bad idea Simon but if you start in, say, 1990, you are looking through an era of considerable change (in what is out on the ground, not just in terms of control systems) and there was a  lot of 1960s colour light signalling still in place then which was even more diverse due to differences in Regional practices.  Signal numbering alone, and different styles of number/ID plates is probably a couple of thousand words and a dozen or more photos on its own - and that's without even scratching contemporary practice!

 

When I wrote the subject up (for a book) in the mid 1990s we were on the cusp of yet more considerable changes (again relating to appearance and indeed function as observed from the driving cab) so you need to think very hard about where to start - Kevin ('Nearholmer') makes some excellent points in that respect.  Don't forget that until new work undertaken from, roughly, the mid 1990s onwards it was still easy to recognise from a couple of photos not only which Region had installed colour light signals (including GPLs) but in which decade, or even shorter period, they had been installed.  Pre-nationalisation stuff was even easier to identify by company or even 'area' with a company.

 

Overall this is something I reckon you need to think through very carefully before starting any writing at all - construct you chapter headings and summaries of their contents but keep the era thing very firmly in mind.

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But by looking at a more recent period, missing out the earlier stuff, you are actually making it harder to sell your book.....

 

 

Andy G

...to you. But easier to sell to me, because I don't want something on "signalling through the ages". 

 

True, BUT the one big failing far too many modellers fail to recognise when devising the signalling arrangements for a model, it is essential to consider the wider, un-modeled world, particularly with multiple aspect signalling.

 

Which is exactly what I said...?

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