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Morning everyone, hope you and your families are keeping safe in these times of uncertainty and concern.

 

A couple of questions which I hope the Western aficionados might answer (as I can't seem to find them myself) - relating to the GWR practice of equipping their locomotives with a warning and a signal whistle of dissimilar tones. 

 (i)  Under what specific circumstances were the individual whistles generally to be used? Perhaps to request a guards' brake application; signal to "Bobby" etc.

(ii)  Did any GWR rule or regulation pertaining to the use of the loco whistles continue under BR (Western Region)?

 

Thanks for any confirmation.

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No.2 is easy to answer - 'yes' although I think much reduced from c.1960 but a lot of that was due to line closures and the 'standard' codes had changed although I'm not sure exactly when that happened (I suspect it was probably 1960 but can't be sure of that..  

 

Coming back to your first question there were basically two sets of codes - a 'standard' set used across the Company/BR Region  - there were 25 of those in use at May 1960.  The 1975 codes were little changed (but referred to the horn instead of whistle of course) and comparison with non WR information indicates that they applied nationally.  Quite how long back national standardisation went I don't know but it was probably quite a while and they didn't exist on the WR in 1950 when the former GWR codes were still in use (there were 14 basic codes plus a series of combination codes made up from the basic codes).  Some of these were what might best be termed 'geographical' codes, i.e they were sounded at a particular place to indicate where the engine was and/or where the Driver wanted to go next but some were message codes (e.g to indicate that there was a fire at the lineside, or ready to start to an assistant engine at the rear of the train).  Plus there were various codes in the Rule Book mostly connected with observation or acknowledgement of signals, including hand signals (such as a Guard's 'ready to start' signal.

 

Additionally there were purely geographical codes (known on the GWR as 'Special Whistle Codes for use at a given location basically saying either I'm at so & so and/or want to go to so & so.  'So & so' being a particular line or siding - hence there would be codes at junctions.  These codes would be used differently at different places and in the early '50s there was page after page of them in the relevant Sectional Appendix for some parts of the WR.  For example the Cardiff Valleys Appendix has almost 14 pages of these codes with c.50 - 60 codes on most of those pages:rolleyes:

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7 minutes ago, Right Away said:

Thanks for all the info Mike.

Yes, absolutely!

 

Now that we have DCC Sound and locos with operable whistles, this is another small aspect of working practice that we could "get right".  Are they publicly documented anywhere? I don't think I've ever encountered a list in any of the books I've read.

 

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1 hour ago, Harlequin said:

Yes, absolutely!

 

Now that we have DCC Sound and locos with operable whistles, this is another small aspect of working practice that we could "get right".  Are they publicly documented anywhere? I don't think I've ever encountered a list in any of the books I've read.

 

I don't think so Phil but all you need is the relevant Sectional Appendix for the era and area you are modelling and you're there.  1960 Appendixes for what you have in mind aren't too difficult to run to earth but earlier ones seem to be rarities - I don't have any for your favoured locations.

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Posted (edited)

I have joined the SRS so I now have access to various sectional appendices. (I am extracting and transcribing small sections of huge documents below for the common use so I hope that's OK.)

 

Looking at the May 1920 appendix for Section 3 (Reading, Chippenham, Westbury, Taunton and Weymouth) there is no common standard and each station or junction has it's own codes which are all listed individually. For instance, these are the "Engine Whistles" for Patney and Chirton:

Main				1
Branch to Main and vice versa	2
Main to Bay and vice versa	3 long
Branch to Bay and vice versa	3 and 1 crow
Dead End to Loop		1 crow

There's no pre-amble explaining the numbers so I assume that the unqualified 1, 2 and 3 mean short blasts. (At Newbury one move requires 7 short blasts!)

 

Conversely, the July 1923 appendix for Exeter District section has a "Standard Whistle Code", which applies across the whole area. In this appendix unqualified numbers seem to refer to long blasts:

Main Line				1
Relief Lines				2
To and From Platform Loops		2
Branch lines				3
Goods lines				4
Bay Lines				2 short
To Engine Sheds				4 short
Yards, to and from			1 crow
Crossover Road, Main Line		1 crow, 1 whistle
Crossover Road, Relief Line		1 crow, 2 whistles
In Siding clear of Running lines	3 short sharp whistles

For Crossing operations, Whistles should be used made up of a combination of the Whistle for the road upon which the Driver is standing and the road to which he wishes to be transferred, as for example:-
  Main Line to Relief Line		1 pause 2
  Relief Line to Main line		2 pause 1

There's also a small list of supplemental codes for specific stations in this appendix.

 

But, what is a "crow"? Is that perhaps where two tones come into use???

 

Edit: A Google search reveals that this topic has been discussed many times before, often with Mike’s input of course. A “crow” is probably a “cock crow” - i.e. cock-a-doodle-doo. And it seems the codes evolved and converged over time. But the purpose of two whistle tones is still unclear.

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I stumbled across a hint about the two whistle tones in this photo of the cab of Odney Manor:

398786451_7828OdneyManorCab.png.762eb08cd07be6447ca095a784a6333f.png

 

In the top right you can see the two labels, “Whistle” and “Brake Whistle”...

 

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Going from memory, a 'crow' is one long, two short, two short (a bit Morse Code ish). I believe one use was at Bromsgrove (probably other places as well) for a banking engine to tell the train engine it was at the rear of the train and ready to go, the train engine would reply with the same code (when he had the signal of course) and off they went. Not Great Western but Hey Ho.

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3 hours ago, Harlequin said:

I stumbled across a hint about the two whistle tones in this photo of the cab of Odney Manor:

398786451_7828OdneyManorCab.png.762eb08cd07be6447ca095a784a6333f.png

 

In the top right you can see the two labels, “Whistle” and “Brake Whistle”...

 

The use of two whistles is a relic of the days before passenger trains were required to have a continuous automatic brake, when train braking was in the hands of multiple brakemen spread down the length of the train. The second whistle tone allowed them to distinguish when braking was required from when the loco crew were using "their" whistle for warning and signalling purposes. Many railways used double whistles, but only the Great Western clung onto them long after their need had disappeared.

 

Jim

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8 hours ago, Poor Old Bruce said:

Going from memory, a 'crow' is one long, two short, two short (a bit Morse Code ish). I believe one use was at Bromsgrove (probably other places as well) for a banking engine to tell the train engine it was at the rear of the train and ready to go, the train engine would reply with the same code (when he had the signal of course) and off they went. Not Great Western but Hey Ho.

I always wondered what a 'crow' was but makes sense from your description - nearly 'cock-a-doodle-do'!

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Posted (edited)

More info about the two whistles from P.W.B. Semmens' book, "The heyday of GWR Train Services".

 

He describes slip coach operation in some detail. The operation of the slip gear was quite a complicated process, which I won't got into in detail here, but it involved both the slip guard and the engine driver.

 

So imagine the situation where the slip guard has detached his portion and achieved a "sufficiently large" gap between it and the main train ahead. Both would be travelling forwards in relatively close proximity, but imagine then that the driver of the main train had to apply his brakes for some reason. In that case the driver "had to alert the slip guard immediately by sounding the deeper-toned brake whistle with which all GWR locomotives were additionally fitted".

 

 

Edited by Harlequin
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