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St. Simon

Colour Light Signalling for Model Railways (Out Now)

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Until the time of the transfer of Railtrack to Network Rail in 2002 although we were starting to go over to axle counters and LED signals we were still largely using 'traditional' equipment in terms of signals and point machines. You have to remember that in addition to lever frames over 100 years old there are areas like New Street having signals of types installed over 50 years ago and point machines designed in the 1960s and earlier.

 

Much of the current Principles stuff, say last 20 years, is already available on the net via RSSB. The biggest problem is finding the three relevant paragraphs for your particular case from hundreds of documents. There's also quite a lot of equipment information available from the Unipart catalogues and manufacturers' websites. 

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Much of the current Principles stuff, say last 20 years, is already available on the net via RSSB. The biggest problem is finding the three relevant paragraphs for your particular case from hundreds of documents. There's also quite a lot of equipment information available from the Unipart catalogues and manufacturers' websites. 

 

Which perhaps shows the way forward - in the sense that having it in one easily accessible book rather than modellers needing to wade through vast quantities of web pages

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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

 

I don't know about that - if you expand the boundaries too much then you risk the project turning into a monster, with the end result trying to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

 

I would suggest the key thing is to start small - and if its a success then move on to other time periods. In a sense this is similar to what Peter Harding* has done with numerous individual branch lines - each booklet restricts itself in scope, yet does the job intended by the author.

 

This approch could also answer Mike's (the Stationmaster) concerns about regional practices by breaking the topic down into more manageable chunks.

 

* http://titfield.co.uk/Book-shelves/Books-F5.htm

Edited by phil-b259

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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.

 

While regional variations are of course important - in recent years things have been far more standardised. Thus if Simon was to write his book along the lines of 'Modern signalling as designed & Installed from 1990' say then, what he various regions did before that date would not be strictly relevant. Yes if the modeller was attempting to model a Western region location in 1992 and the signalling dated from before 1990 then obviously the book might not be terribly helpful, however if they went and modelled a location on the Chiltern line (which was resignalled in the early 1990s) then the proposed book would be correct.

 

Also while the physical appearances / numbering etc may vary, I'm sure some of the fundamental basics such as aspect sequences, overlap distances, etc were common to all regions and its these fundamentals that tend to drive signal positioning etc.

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Hate to be the proverbial PITA, but I'll still be anyway. Something I've missed in the discussions so far:

 

Having an intimate knowledge of (current) signalling systems also gives insight how to manipulate it "to suit one's needs" :rolleyes:

 

Or more frankly: you'd tell teach criminals and terrorists how to maximise disrupting the railway system for the least amount of effort and greatest impact on society. And in case of terror, to maximise the amount of casualties. Unintended and unwanted consequence of course, so I'd suggest to focus not so much on the real railway, but implementation for modellers.

 

I'm not sure how much of a risk that really is. I can't imagine terrorists gaining anything truly useful from such a book, and even if they did, masterminding a plan to override the signalling systems seems immeasurably complex compared to more 'blunt force' approaches.

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Hate to be the proverbial PITA, but I'll still be anyway. Something I've missed in the discussions so far:

 

Having an intimate knowledge of (current) signalling systems also gives insight how to manipulate it "to suit one's needs" :rolleyes:

 

Or more frankly: you'd tell teach criminals and terrorists how to maximise disrupting the railway system for the least amount of effort and greatest impact on society. And in case of terror, to maximise the amount of casualties. Unintended and unwanted consequence of course, so I'd suggest to focus not so much on the real railway, but implementation for modellers.

 

And a single all-encompassing book might be too much to digest for many, a series of smaller magazine style publications focussing on a particular subject in relation to modelling allows you to spend more attention pages to the modelling part w/o compromising the relation with the real thing too much. And those who aren't interested in a particular subject can opt out of buying that specific publication.

 

To pay for it, I'd suggest to opt out of any obvious deal with Warners*, but see if you can get companies from the industry itself interested, maybe just only as proof-readers. Depending on their contribution a half- or full-page ad might be in order.

 

*and others in the model railway industry, to avoid any 'conflict of interest' situations. Your solicitor will be grateful! :yes:

 

HTH!

 

Hi,

 

Two key points here:

 

1) Whilst I would touch on what an interlocking will let you do and not do, there would be in no way any safety critical information that would help a criminal, I would not be putting any information into the public domain that is not already available in the public domain, plus I don't have an intimate knowledge of the modern interlockings to able to tell anyone how to do anything anyway, I'm a schemes designer and this book would be based around that. But I do understand the concern.

 

2) Even though this thread is on RMWeb, there is no connection with Warners (or in indeed with any other company, railway or publisher) over this other than asking Andy Y, Phil Parker and Ben Jones on their views as modellers and journalists. Any proof reading will be done by individuals acting under their own steam rather than a company, to avoid conflicts of interest.

 

I'll respond to the other comments on the thread later, it has been quite interesting to read.

 

Simon

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While regional variations are of course important - in recent years things have been far more standardised. Thus if Simon was to write his book along the lines of 'Modern signalling as designed & Installed from 1990' say then, what he various regions did before that date would not be strictly relevant. Yes if the modeller was attempting to model a Western region location in 1992 and the signalling dated from before 1990 then obviously the book might not be terribly helpful, however if they went and modelled a location on the Chiltern line (which was resignalled in the early 1990s) then the proposed book would be correct.

 

Also while the physical appearances / numbering etc may vary, I'm sure some of the fundamental basics such as aspect sequences, overlap distances, etc were common to all regions and its these fundamentals that tend to drive signal positioning etc.

 

That is what I said Phil - plus it started to change in the mid 1990s thus starting in 1990 means more potential variations to cover.  And some of the fundamentals (with exception of the basic aspect sequence)y were far from common even in the 1980s and so existed later although many have been changed by post 2000 schemes - don't forget that even repetitional double yellows survived until fairly recently and overlaps still are sometimes way different from the so called 'standard' in some places.  All easy enough to handle by entering caveats and quoting examples - albeit that means more work but if a job's worth doing its worth doing properly.

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.... albeit that means more work but if a job's worth doing its worth doing properly.

 

True - but I imagine Simon does not have infinite time available so some form of time cut of is likely to be necessary so as to keep the project manageable. Providing its made clear that the contents of the book only refer to a particular time period (consequentially modellers looking to design signalling installed before that date should look elsewhere for detailed guidance) then I don't see a problem.

 

The biggest question is to where to draw the line - maybe the creation  of Railtrack might be a better 'start' date to use as although there was some resignalling schemes that spanned the privatisation process the onset of privatisation forms a useful breakpoint.

 

As you allude too in your post, you don't want the book to become a "jack of all trades but a master of none" when it comes to something as complex as signalling and it strikes me that a relatively tightly defined book that is not too onerous to produce is the best way forward for Simon. In time of course the series could always be expanded on - either by Simon,  or indeed others such as your good self to cover other eras / regions which eventually would aadd up to be a truely comprehensive set of writings on MAS signalling schemes across the country.

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There is no way Simon can do everything known to man in a single volume. It needs to be focused, and I think focused on what is practical for the modeller in order to achieve the maximum realism in positioning and operation.

 

Key to the realism is that there is a wide variety of stuff out there, and not all of it gets replaced in a resignalling, so there is a lot of relevance in looking back at older stuff that gets retained and reused especially where a new scheme meets an older scheme. These are the little things that will be of interest to the modeller and make the book a riveting read and must have on the bookshelf so that people know how to add those special details that create the region and era.

 

If there is enough material to fill a book and it does not cover everything, as long as the structure of the book is sound it leaves a window for more books in the series. When researching these types of things (as one does - even in your specialist field there is always research required) you always end up with about three times as much material as you were looking for!

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Hi,

 

Thanks for all the feedback, having had a read through all of them, I think I can probably add a bit more meat to some suggestions:

 

  • I think with the commitments I already have and the knowledge I have, I would cover the history of colour light signalling, but maybe only a chapter and not as detail as specific regions or details
  • I was thinking of it being more based around the positioning of signals, and the type of indicators to be used rather than the way that specific railways would do it, so I might use either popular track plans for model railways or IRSE Exam Layouts and then signal them in a generic way. Then use photos of examples and some brief explanation of whats going on.
  • Also, as I'm running an IRSE Exam Study Session in the office, I have found that each of my sessions would make a good 'bone' of a chapter on which to add some meat.
  • I understand there are substantial differences between real world signalling and model railways, but I feel that is mostly down to compression of distances, which i can work around (and save me a whole chapter on signal spacing and headways!)
  • I would also include a little bit on control, track design and operations as they these are crucial parts of the system.

Then, if it is popular, I or someone can go on to produce more books on the deeper details

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Hi Simon

 

As a modeller I often find technical information about the real thing can be overwhelming and difficult to transfer this information in to a working model railway. I think we all understand the principals of four aspect signalling but how many of us have the room for four signals so we can witness the full effect of them all changing is sequence. Yet every time I come across colour light signalling there is reams about four aspect signalling. I hope with your knowledge of both the big railway and our little ones you can word things is such a way that I and others can understand it and apply it to a model.

 

Suggestion, write about the stuff you work on and know. If a success them dip in to the achieve, pick your older colleagues brains and do something more historical.

 

Best of luck.

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Another thought would be to have a look at some of the signalling threads on RMWeb in a little detail.

 

My observation is that the same questions arise again-and-again from modellers, and that particular issues generate confusion time-after-time. If a book could answer those FAQs, it would clearly be doing a service.

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Hi,

 

Thanks for all the feedback, having had a read through all of them, I think I can probably add a bit more meat to some suggestions:

 

  • I think with the commitments I already have and the knowledge I have, I would cover the history of colour light signalling, but maybe only a chapter and not as detail as specific regions or details
  • I was thinking of it being more based around the positioning of signals, and the type of indicators to be used rather than the way that specific railways would do it, so I might use either popular track plans for model railways or IRSE Exam Layouts and then signal them in a generic way. Then use photos of examples and some brief explanation of whats going on.
  • Also, as I'm running an IRSE Exam Study Session in the office, I have found that each of my sessions would make a good 'bone' of a chapter on which to add some meat.
  • I understand there are substantial differences between real world signalling and model railways, but I feel that is mostly down to compression of distances, which i can work around (and save me a whole chapter on signal spacing and headways!)
  • I would also include a little bit on control, track design and operations as they these are crucial parts of the system.

Then, if it is popular, I or someone can go on to produce more books on the deeper details

 

One of the key things in adapting signalling for model railways is dealing with the matter of selective compression - worth a chapter of its own in many respects as an essential stepping stone from understanding the real world to turning it into something suited to the model world (and potentially often a valid reason for not including many signals in the contemporary colour light signalling era :) ).   My own view with anything related to signalling is that modellers are more likely to have a better go at if they understand the real world rather than 'teaching' them a cut down version which might mislead when the look at a real railway - but that's my view.

 

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One of the key things in adapting signalling for model railways is dealing with the matter of selective compression - worth a chapter of its own in many respects as an essential stepping stone from understanding the real world to turning it into something suited to the model world (and potentially often a valid reason for not including many signals in the contemporary colour light signalling era :) ).   My own view with anything related to signalling is that modellers are more likely to have a better go at if they understand the real world rather than 'teaching' them a cut down version which might mislead when the look at a real railway - but that's my view.

 

Hi Mike

 

That is where a good narrative of the real thing using correct terms but explained in a language us modellers understand as to why in situation A you need signal type X with theses dingily danglely bits on it plonked right here.  

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 My own view with anything related to signalling is that modellers are more likely to have a better go at if they understand the real world rather than 'teaching' them a cut down version which might mislead when the look at a real railway - but that's my view.

 

 

Hi,

 

Yes, I would agree with you on that point, I think a good way of doing it is combine the two, so signal a model railway track plan, and then explain why / how it would be done in the real world.

 

Simon

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I'd do the other way around - "this is how it's done in the real world, here's how you could make it work on a model". Some people won't have the same restrictions as others, so I wouldn't lead with the modelling compromise.

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Hi,

 

Yes, I would agree with you on that point, I think a good way of doing it is combine the two, so signal a model railway track plan, and then explain why / how it would be done in the real world.

 

Simon

 

It is far simpler to do it the other way round Simon as you start with a known situation and known 'rules' (Signalling Principles/Drawing Office Standards/RSSB items etc) which make explanation far simpler.  You then consider selective comression etc before relating it to the model situation.

 

That approach does have one risk because unless you can write the prototype stuff in what Clive aptly describes as ' a good narrative' there's a risk the modellers will ignore it an plunge straight on to Chapter 5 or wherever the modelling bit comes in and then get it wrong because they know less than half a story.

 

Maybe a bit on the cute, or even 'silly', side but these were my Chapter headings in my draft (N.B. Most were never typed up and exist only as notes)

 

Chapter 6 'All Lit Up'

6A 'All Lit Up'  An introduction to c.l signalling and development from 1920 to 1994

6B  'Feathers, Theatres, and Dodgers' c.l signalling at divergences & subs.  c.1923 to 1994

6C  Modelling Colour Light signalling

6D  Control panels - Prototype & model

6E  Control Panel circuitry (now eons out of date)

 

Chaprter 7 covered single line signalling - all types, all eras.

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I like those chapter headings.. I think they break it down nicely.

 

Andy G

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Hi,

 

I understand that it might be better to explain the real world and then apply it to a model, but the problem I see with it is that if I say "it's done like this", I would then have to go, "but depending on circumstances, you would do it like this or this or this or this or this etc.", so it would be easier for me personally to apply to the model and then explain why later, because I can say " for this situation, I do it like this" and then the reader can adjust it for a similar situation, it limits the range of possibilities I think. Some of the problem with peoples signalling is that they choose any of the solutions rather than picking from the one or two solutions that would be applicable for their situation.

 

Simon

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An option might be to work things up from simple to complex, by example, highlighting the principles that apply to each example. That way, you could avoid hitting the amateur with a wodge of principles all in one go, then explaining cases, which I think would be very hard to digest.

 

Maybe start with infinite length of double track, no turnouts. Basic TCB, and the concept of overlaps.

 

Add a level crossing.

 

Then introduce a lay-by loop on one road, giving diverging signals, trapping etc.

 

Then add a couple of trailing crossovers.

 

Etc etc.

 

You'll need to illustrate how to signal Minories, because 'everyone' builds that!

 

If you PM me, I'll tell you about a draft that I'm working on, very slowly, which tackles a different set of topics, but is structured on the "build-up" basis.

 

KEvin

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Simon,

 

As a potential reader from what I think is potentially your target audience, I’ll describe what I’d expect.

 

I’ll describe myself as an ‘average’ modeller, which means that I want to do better than glue a few incorrect non-working plastic signals in the wrong place and pretend that it represents the real thing.  However, I’m also not particularly interested in the history of signalling and all the details necessary to pass the IRSE exams.  I wouldn’t spend £50 on a tome that covers everything that the RMWeb membership might want to know, but I’d be happy to spend say £17.99 or £19.99 on learning the basics.  My signalling doesn’t have to actually be correct in every detail, but needs to be a working, plausible representation that appears to be operationally correct.

 

My layout will represent a terminus in the post privatisation era (circa 2007), but the colour light signals would most likely have been installed in the 1970s to Scottish Regional practise when the line was truncated, the goods yard was closed and the station throat rationalised.  As such, despite modelling the post privatisation era, a book that focuses entirely on the post 1990 / 1994 period is perhaps arguably of little interest to me.

 

However, being an ‘average’ modeller, I will use whatever products are on the market and if that means using Eastern Regional signals from the 1980s, then so be it – I’m not going to scratch build a colour light signal to get the correct regional / period differences.  I want to buy something ready-made, drill a hole in the baseboard, insert the signal, wire it up interlocked with the point-work and nothing more.

 

What I’d like a book to cover is sufficient detail to allow me to select the correct type of signals from one of the suppliers of model railway signals and guide me with regards where to place them.  Therefore, for example, I’d like to know the criteria used to decide whether I should use two, three or four aspect signals.  I’d also like to know how far signals should be placed in rear of the junction that they control or protect and the circumstances under which this can be reduced (presumably this varies with line speed).  In another thread you’ve confirmed that normal controlled signals would be reset when the departing train passes over the replacement gap, five metres in advance of the signal.  That’s the sort of information that I’d find useful in a book.

 

Although not on the visible part of my layout, I think I have ascertained that an approaching train destined for the goods / engineers loop would either have to stop on the mainline at what I think would be termed the Home Signal and then be signalled into the loop using a Position Light Signal or alternatively may be signalled into the loop using a main aspect on the Home Signal (amber + feather) provided there is a Fixed Red at the end of the loop, with a Position Light Signal below.  Signalling to the loop using a Position Light Signal would restrict the capacity of the single track approach (because the train has to be brought to a stop), so I’m going to go with the latter assumption and install a Fixed Red at the end of the loop (which is in the visible part of the layout), although I’ve still to find a supplier for what I think is the ‘correct’ type of signal. Again, that’s just an example of the sort of scenario that I would like to be explained.

 

I’m still trying to ascertain whether a run round move from one of my platforms would be controlled using a Position Light Signal below the Starter Signal at the end of the platform or whether I could give a full amber aspect on the Starter Signal to proceed to what I think would be termed an Advanced Starter (which would be at red) and then use Position Light Signals to complete the run round.  Again, that’s just an example of the type of information that I’m looking for.

 

I don’t know whether it’s within your intended scope, but some details on things like Facing Point Locks, Point Motors versus Rail Clamp Point Locks and other associated infrastructure may be useful along with details on representing cabling, trunking, signal cabinets and how various pieces of signalling and control infrastructure are connected and where they are positioned.  TPWS and AWS ramps etc fall within this category.

 

These are just a few of my thoughts – good luck with whatever you decide to write.

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Hi,

 

I understand that it might be better to explain the real world and then apply it to a model, but the problem I see with it is that if I say "it's done like this", I would then have to go, "but depending on circumstances, you would do it like this or this or this or this or this etc.", so it would be easier for me personally to apply to the model and then explain why later, because I can say " for this situation, I do it like this" and then the reader can adjust it for a similar situation, it limits the range of possibilities I think. Some of the problem with peoples signalling is that they choose any of the solutions rather than picking from the one or two solutions that would be applicable for their situation.

 

Simon

 

Ah - but you shouldn't tackle it quite like that because 'done like this' was pretty conditional (on region/era etc) in the first place so it was more a  matter of A did it like this while B did it like that.  Thus starting with principles makesa lot of sense as you get the right things in to someone's head before they ask the question of how to do what and then they can answer it themselves or look at a Regional variation if they want t adopt one.

 

That seems to be exactly what David ('Dungrange') has done in establishing how a freight train would be signalled into a loop - he clearly understands the basics and now all he might, or might not, want to ask is how the ScR did it in schemes put in at the time he has chosen for his signalling.  And some of the questions he is asking relate as much to operational principles as they do to signalling equipment - such as the engine which has runround  (basically main aspect to run into an empty signal section - with a clear overlap at the next signal).  Again it comes back to understanding the basics before hanging the signals on to suit the basics.   Not so good if you don't understand what signal section or overlap is - dead simple once you do.

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So would it make more sense then to have an overview/introduction to the principles, and then to divide up the following chapters into an overview of what you are going to discuss, and then instead of having just one subsection explaining how it was done, you have 5, each on explaining the same situation, but from each regions point of view?

 

This I feel would be easier for the modeller to follow, as he would just have to turn to the pages dealing with the example worked from say the Eastern's point of view....

 

Andy G

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Presumably the IRSE Has faced this question, at a higher level, and arrived at the best way to impart knowledge.

 

Do they:

 

- teach a set of principles first, devoid of examples, then give examples; or,

 

- build-up the knowledge of principles, through a series of increasingly complex worked examples?

 

What works for individuals must depend a bit on individual learning styles, I guess, but there must be a way that works best for a greater proportion of people.

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Presumably the IRSE Has faced this question, at a higher level, and arrived at the best way to impart knowledge.

 

Do they:

 

- teach a set of principles first, devoid of examples, then give examples; or,

 

- build-up the knowledge of principles, through a series of increasingly complex worked examples?

 

What works for individuals must depend a bit on individual learning styles, I guess, but there must be a way that works best for a greater proportion of people.

 

The IRSE teach 'principles' as the author's of their booklets and their syllabus see them.  In some respects I can think of past examples where that can be a bit misleading as 'their principle' might be whatever while finding an example to match it is a very different ballgame.  Equally in some cases 'principles' have been omitted - a couple of good examples could be found in the 1956 edition titled 'Principles  of the Layout of Signals'  where the principle of the Outer (or 'acceptance') Home Signal is very poorly explained, the function of a Starting Signal is somewhat peculiarly explained, and the signalling of converging junctions is amazingly idealistic.

 

The problems really stems in part, I think, from a failure in the volume to relate any principles to the function of signals within the block system let alone in different block systems and the constraints or requirements that introduces plus some of the terminology used is incorrect.  In my view the use of information such as this has to be very carefully tempered about the way in which it fits into the operational railway and the constraints and requirements imposed by the principle of space separation between successive trains.  Just describing signals doesn't tell you how they are used to make the railway work by permitting or prohibiting various actions.

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