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Posted (edited)

Any reminisces online about drivers experiences on driving GWR/BR auto trains ?

Difficulties, etc. I think the mechanical linkage stretched to 2 coaches.

It must have been a bit isolating for the fireman on the footplate when the loco was sandwiched between 4 coaches.

Any auto train driver computer simulators ?

Edited by Piston
Computer simulators
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The mechanical linkage had of neccessity to feature a degree of play in the joints between vehicles to allow for curvature of the track, and the cumulative effect of this was to make the control ineffective on more than two coaches, so the limit was 2 either side of the loco in a 'sandwich' formation.  The linkage was 'handed', so the trailers had to be coupled with the cabs at the ends away from the loco for auto working.  The trailer cabs had a regulator handle, a brake setter, a handbrake standard, ATC dial, and a pedal operated warning bell.  An electric buzzer communication between the trailer cab and the loco enabled a degree of communication between the driver and fireman.  It is the nature of auto working that even where one or two trailers are coupled on only one side of the loco, the driver is off the footplate of the loco he is nominally in charge of for half the time, and all the time if there is a sandwich formation. 

 

The firemen's auto links at the sheds were populated by 'passed firemen' who had passed the rules and regulations exam to qualify them as drivers.  Because of the extra duties and their unsupervised nature on auto work men of this grade and experience were preferred, but there was apparently no rule that they had to be of this grade and if an 'unpassed' man was all that was available, he would be given the job.  The fireman on an auto train which is being driven from a trailer cab has, in addition to his own duties, to manage the reverser and to blow the vacuum brake off if the driver had applied it with the setter, which meant that he had to be familiar with the use of these controls and experienced in their operation; in practice the vacuum brake was usually in it's entirety handled by the fireman on the loco so that a better controlled and smoother stop could be made.

 

One hears stories of auto trains being worked without the linkage being connected, but simply with the driver in the trailer cab as a lookout with a brake setter, and the fireman doing everything on the loco.  I am not in a position to confirm or deny that this would ever have happened in real life, but would comment that a lot of auto work took place in locations a long way from the attention of inspectors...

 

The mechanical linkage was in some ways the weak point of the system, as in addition to limiting formations to no more than 2 trailers each end of the loco, it was by all accounts stiff and difficult to connect, especially on curves.  That said, the other railways' steam, air, or vacuum operated push-pull systems did not perform much better in terms of being able to allow more vehicles to be coupled, and were prone to leakage.

 

The SNCF on the Nord route used 2-8-2 tanks on push-pull trains of 8 double decker suburban coaches out of Gare du Nord, but I believe the control systems for these were electrically operated.

 

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Certainly now on the SVR we have a special grade of drivers and fireman passed for auto working. As has been said the fireman is alone on the footplate half of the time. 

 

The play in the linkage means you have to hold the regulator open as otherwise it will close. 

 

The other thing worth noting is that on the coach the driver does not have much if any exhaust beat to help with judging speed and it is easy to find yourself going quicker than you want if not paying attention. 

 

The bell is not much use but helpful if the whistle chain decides to break. 

 

In terms of braking the brake is applied through the brake valve in the coach, and when you want it recreating the bell communication is used (or whistle if not working) . 

 

 

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Many years ago, in the mid-1970s, I heard a presentation from a former WR fireman at a meeting of the North London Group. He claimed that the linkage was often disconnected in the loco cab because the mechanical slop could result in unintentionally heavy-handed driving. It did, of course, require a good degree of concentration from the fireman, but observing the movements of the linkage in the cab was apparently sufficient to avoid any potential problems.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, The Johnster said:

One hears stories of auto trains being worked without the linkage being connected, but simply with the driver in the trailer cab as a lookout with a brake setter, and the fireman doing everything on the loco.  I am not in a position to confirm or deny that this would ever have happened in real life, but would comment that a lot of auto work took place in locations a long way from the attention of inspectors...

 

I read somewhere that on the LMS, which used a vacuum system of control, the gear was so unreliable and ineffective that the pipework was hardly ever connected, usually when an inspector was due to visit, and even then the fireman still did what was necessary, on his own behest.

Edited by Nick Holliday
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2 hours ago, Trevellan said:

Many years ago, in the mid-1970s, I heard a presentation from a former WR fireman at a meeting of the North London Group. He claimed that the linkage was often disconnected in the loco cab because the mechanical slop could result in unintentionally heavy-handed driving. It did, of course, require a good degree of concentration from the fireman, but observing the movements of the linkage in the cab was apparently sufficient to avoid any potential problems.

Plenty of former Enginemen will tell you that one.  anywhere away from officialdom and it might possibly have happened.

 

As far as specially trained Firemen are concerned that was definitely not universal practice on the WR - one of my former supervisors carried out his very first firing turn - after being appointed to the grade - on a push-pull train (the Marlow Donkey).  And I know it happened at another (G)WR shed where a former neighbour had fired for many years and almost anybody in the grade was put on push-pull trains.

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The bell, ‘not much use’, is provided because  the loco can be up to 2 trailers away from the front of the train, and if it’s bunker end is coupled to the trailer being driven, the whistle shield deflects most of the sound backwards.  Even if it is propelling chimney first, with a pair of 70’ trailers the whistle may be 160’ behind the front of the train, and a suburban main line auto train might easily be running at a goodish speed; I’ve heard tales of the Chalford pacing Midland expresses at 70+.  At that sort of speed, and against that amount of noise, a bell was probably not very effective…
 

I’d forgotten about the whistle chain, though, as did many crew when uncoupling the trailer from the loco, to be reminded with a brief ‘peep’ from the whistle as the chain snapped when they drew away.  Spare chains links were usually carried to effect immediate repairs. 

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Posted (edited)

These replies are very interesting hearing how auto trains were driven.

It seems an extra burden was placed on the fireman.

Heritage lines are re-learning the driving skills of the past.

 

Edited by Piston
Heritage addition.
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Posted (edited)

Auto trains were obviously useful having been used for so long - but was not having to run the loco round a major advantage at a quiet terminus with long gaps between trains ..

Or was this a benefit on busy suburban lines.

Are there any photos of a auto fitted loco cab showing the linkages ?

Thanks.

Edited by Piston
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From a crew perspective any saving in running round is always appreciated. It means the fireman does not have to do as much coupling / uncoupling and means the crew get a better break. 

 

When you say cab showing linkage are you meaning the GW system as the SR system was air and the LMS vacuum. If its the GW the linkage is not visible in the driving cab really , but is in the connections and of course on the loco cab where the two operating rods come up through the floor. 

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3 hours ago, Blandford1969 said:

When you say cab showing linkage are you meaning the GW system as the SR system was air and the LMS vacuum. If its the GW the linkage is not visible in the driving cab really , but is in the connections and of course on the loco cab where the two operating rods come up through the floor. 

I meant the GW system but the SR & LMS are interesting as well.

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6 hours ago, Piston said:

Auto trains were obviously useful having been used for so long - but was not having to run the loco round a major advantage at a quiet terminus with long gaps between trains ..

Or was this a benefit on busy suburban lines.

Are there any photos of a auto fitted loco cab showing the linkages ?

Thanks.

I would say that the quick turnaround offered by auto or push-pull working (and by railcars and multiple units of course) was probably more important on busy urban commuter services.  On the GW, these were the majority of auto worked services, although we tend to associate GW auto trains with bucolic rural branches.  These certainly existed, but more intense commuter type services operated in the London, Bristol, South Wales, and Plymouth areas.  Auto work in South Wales was extended considerably in 1953, along with the introduction of a regular interval timetable in the Cardiff Valleys.  Very quick turnarounds could be achieved, the 1960 WTT for Newport Division for example showing 2 minute turnarounds at Clarence Road in Cardiff's Docklands, a place that saw very intense traffic during the rush hours; barely enough time for the driver to change ends and the guard to change the tail lamp.  Not only was the time needed for setting back, uncoupling, running around, coupling back up, and setting back into the platform saved, but there was no need to carry out anothe brake continuity test once the locos was coupled on at the beginning of the day's work.

 

On rural work, the ability to dispense with the running around movement meant that branches could be worked 'one engine in steam', saving the need for a signalman at the terminus, reducing the costs of branch services.

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3 hours ago, The Johnster said:

  Very quick turnarounds could be achieved, the 1960 WTT for Newport Division for example showing 2 minute turnarounds at Clarence Road in Cardiff's Docklands ...

I think you'll find that it's in the Cardiff District Branch Lines book.

 

Chris

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6 hours ago, The Johnster said:

On rural work, the ability to dispense with the running around movement meant that branches could be worked 'one engine in steam', saving the need for a signalman at the terminus, reducing the costs of branch services.

 

I don't see that not running round can have been an essential criterion for one engine in steam operation. After all, there were no auto-fitted goods trains.

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4 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

I don't see that not running round can have been an essential criterion for one engine in steam operation. After all, there were no auto-fitted goods trains.

Absolutely correct - 'One Engine In Steam'  was a Regulation for working a single line with a minimum signalling equipment and had little or nothing to do with track layouts and definitely had no impact - one way or the other - on the presence or otherwise if a run round facility at a terminus.  And of course there was no need for a Signalman at a terminus on a 'One Engine In Steam' line whether it had a run round loop or not and to suggest there was such a need is to regrettably display a lack of understanding of OES working.  

 

Off hand I can immediately think of only one Western OES branch terminus where there was no run round loop and auto-trains had to be used but it is the only one that comes to mind..  So the WR doesn't seem to have been very much into cost saving by using OES as way of avoiding the cost of a run round by using OES operation and it is stuff and nonsense to suggest that because a line could - at slightly greater signalling cost - just as readily have been worked by NSKT and still not have a had a run-round at the end.  Simple message - don't confuse single line signalling Regulations with the provision or other waise of some very basic tack layout facilities.

 

Auto trains did of course work as Mixed Trains on some branches (e.g. Wallingford and Marlow).  

 

Wallingford was worked OES as far back  as I can trace (1891) although it was converted in the 1960s to that WR speciality 'Table C 2 Working' (not much different from OES in many respects) and even then there remained a run-round facility at the end of the branch - which I saw being used when I went down the branch on a freight train in 1967.

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Here are some pictures I took of GWR 1450 and Collet diag. A28 autocoach #178 on the Dean Forest Railway - the pair have been on the Severn Valley Railway since 2014.

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_03.jpg.a8d5eb6a8dd570400481d53b2a0fd1e2.jpg

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_02.jpg.71ef6e46f1060b8350367750af75ecb9.jpg

 

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_01.jpg.6824b901a85b4ba6d8db88d6b412c687.jpg

 

 

GWR_Autocoach_178b.jpg.ac929658ee5ba9b9a1c9e70339d144e3.jpg

 

1450_d__regulator_linkage_.jpg.ecdd03d3a40b67bc8ee881140922d439.jpg

 

1450_Autocoach_e.jpg.28241a4d652da0cbc65597a3313e5f03.jpg

 

GWR_autocoach_notice.jpg.97c7091ef393bc7a7c259f8ca8f29402.jpg

 

Steven B.

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17 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

I don't see that not running round can have been an essential criterion for one engine in steam operation. After all, there were no auto-fitted goods trains.

Waiting to see somebody put one up in Prototype for Everything  :P

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On 04/05/2021 at 02:42, The Johnster said:

The mechanical linkage had of neccessity to feature a degree of play in the joints between vehicles to allow for curvature of the track, and the cumulative effect of this was to make the control ineffective on more than two coaches, so the limit was 2 either side of the loco in a 'sandwich' formation.

Notwithstanding that, I have a suspicion that the principle of not propelling more than two vehicles was a commonly accepted Rule on all of the railways until the decision to use push-pull operation for the Southern's electrified Bournemouth and Weymouth services in 1967. That was groundbreaking in terms of both the numbers of vehicles involved (eight carriages) and speeds (90 mph), and remained the sole example of such operation for a long time. The Scottish Region didn't adopt propelling until the early 1980s, and the East & West Coast driving Trailers didn't appear until the very late 80s.

 

 

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I promise with only one coach there is quite a lot of play in the linkage and you need to push the regulator to at least notch 3 to get even a small amount of movement on the regulator in the cab.  More than 2 would have probably pushed that beyond its limit. 

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Posted (edited)

The Southern had a number of 10-compartment ex-SECR all thirds (seconds from 1956) which were fitted with through air control pipes for pull-and-push working and which could be, and were, used to strengthen two-car pull-and-push units to three cars. There were also a number of U-vans which were similarly equipped and could be inserted between the loco and passenger unit on pull-and-push workings, such workings (typically those with heavy pram traffic) normally being diagrammed in the Carriage Working books.

 

The Southern air-control system allowed pull-and-push units to be attached either side of the equipped loco and there were certainly some four car (2+L+2) workings in the Brighton-Worthing area prior to electrification. The only regular use of six car formations (3+L+3) that I am aware of was between Faversham and Herne Bay after the North Sea floods of January 1953 breached the railway east of Herne Bay and a shuttle service was operated until  the seriously damaged line could be restored. However, six car formations may have operated occasionally in connection with special events elsewhere.

 

Some Southern pull-and-push trains on branch lines were operated without guards, a leading porter being carried instead, but only where specially authorised by a relevant entry in the Sectional Appendix.

 

In the mid-1960s, the Central Division also had a short-lived six car pull-and-push unit 601 which worked between East Grinstead and London Bridge and was formed of ex-COR/BUF trailer cars, topped and tailed by demotored COR motor cars. Pull-and-push fitted Class 33 D6580 provided the motive power.

Edited by bécasse
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On 28/05/2021 at 16:15, Steven B said:

Here are some pictures I took of GWR 1450 and Collet diag. A28 autocoach #178 on the Dean Forest Railway - the pair have been on the Severn Valley Railway since 2014.

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_03.jpg.a8d5eb6a8dd570400481d53b2a0fd1e2.jpg

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_02.jpg.71ef6e46f1060b8350367750af75ecb9.jpg

 

 

GWR_autocoach_controls_01.jpg.6824b901a85b4ba6d8db88d6b412c687.jpg

 

 

GWR_Autocoach_178b.jpg.ac929658ee5ba9b9a1c9e70339d144e3.jpg

 

1450_d__regulator_linkage_.jpg.ecdd03d3a40b67bc8ee881140922d439.jpg

 

1450_Autocoach_e.jpg.28241a4d652da0cbc65597a3313e5f03.jpg

 

GWR_autocoach_notice.jpg.97c7091ef393bc7a7c259f8ca8f29402.jpg

 

Steven B.

Can someone explain the driving coach controls please.

I assume the top lever is the regulator. The red thing on the floor is a fire extinguisher ...

The small red lever is the loco brake (?) but what is the L shaped lever (coach brake ?). There is a gauge above the windows but what pressure ?

Obvious to some.

Thanks.

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You are correct the regulator handle is the black top hung vertical lever.  The small red lever is the driver's vacuum brake valve which admits air to the system applying the brakes throughout the train.  The gauge above the window would be the vacuum gauge measured in inches of mercury.  The GWR (and BRW) ran at 25" - the rest ran at 21".  The L shaped handle is the carriage hand brake and only used as a parking brake. The brass gong is for bell signals by which the driver communicates with the fireman who remains on the loco.  There is also an external gong for warning of the train's approach.  The driver can also sound the loco whistle by means of a pull chain. Hope this helps.

Ray.

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Some GWR trailers had sanding gear and atc and presumably equipment for both of those somewhere in the coach cab.

 

Trailer sanding gear for braking I assume?

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On 28/05/2021 at 06:03, chrisf said:

I think you'll find that it's in the Cardiff District Branch Lines book.

 

Chris

Just looked at it, and found that it is indeed the Cardiff District Branch Lines Book, and stand thus corrected.

 

7 hours ago, Hal Nail said:

Some GWR trailers had sanding gear and atc and presumably equipment for both of those somewhere in the coach cab.

 

Trailer sanding gear for braking I assume?

 

According to the John Lewis book, sandboxes were introduced on 'some' trailers after an incident as Snow Hill in which the braking performance of a propelling auto train was a factor, but that full records of which trailers carried it are not available.  He also states that sanding gear was fitted as standard to newly built trailers (I do not know if this includes SRM conversions) from 1928/9, i.e. the steel bodied trailers.  It was fixed to the leading bogie frame.

 

ATC in the trailer cab consisted of the bell/hooter and a cancelller, but no sunflower.  The system was normally isolated and brought into use with a key so that only one instrument was in use at any one time on a train which might, if there was a 4 trailer sandwich, have 5 of them. 

 

There was an electric battery operated buzzer communication system between the driver, guard, and fireman on the loco as well, no doubt with all sorts of unofficial local codes.  The official code was 1 = start, 2 = release brakes, and 3 = start.

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