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Signal Box Block Shelf Equipment


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  • RMweb Gold
10 hours ago, St Enodoc said:

On the East Coast route the usual badge of office was an ashtray made from a Deltic piston crown (there were always plenty of those to be had).

Except in the (formerly LNER) Work Study School at Harrogate - where the ashtrays were bakelite mouldings from the 1930s with 'LNER'  moulded into them.  Odd to relate, and counting second etc cousins, I was the third member of my family to attend a course there although I only did the 'short' version.  

 

Now back to handlamps in signal boxes  and an interesting question has to be which colour light was most likely to be exhibited to a Driver by the Signalman?  The answer, possibly surprising to some, was green.  There was only one red handsignal (flag or red light) used by a Signalman and that was a danger signal which was probably most likely to be used when a train or movement was running through signals or something was amiss and in many cases using detonators was quicker that giving a red handsignal.  On the other hand Signalman had at his disposal 9 (nine) different green handsignals one of which was actually effectively a danger signal but which was used instead of red in order to minimise the risks of a collision (and which needed to be used very quickly).  So which was best to keep the lamp set on ...   ...?

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  • RMweb Gold
12 hours ago, TheSignalEngineer said:

Separate round Spagnoletti indicators on the blockshelf close to levers locked by the TC.

 

I don't know how the GWR decided on how many track circuits justified an illuminated diagram but on the LMR in the 1960s it was 6 IIRC. I have seen GWR illuminated diagrams with six on them.

 

Regarding indicators and blocks, in 1948 you would find many old ones. In 1966 I took out a combined arm and light repeater made by the LNWR Signal and Electrical department at Stockport works, which closed c1905.

I'm fairly sure that it was 5 on the GWR.  GWR illuminated diagrams came in two main forms (eyeball being an exception and an oddity).  The first style were sometimes referred to a 'spider's web' because the dome of the light had a black framework over it; it used a single bulb  The later, and far more common, type was the lozenge shape cut into the linen with translucent red material fixed behind the linen - these had two bulbs (but i do wonder if the early might have had only one?).

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21 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

Except in the (formerly LNER) Work Study School at Harrogate - where the ashtrays were bakelite mouldings from the 1930s with 'LNER'  moulded into them.  Odd to relate, and counting second etc cousins, I was the third member of my family to attend a course there although I only did the 'short' version.

Those courses had moved to Faverdale, I think, by my time. I never went on one though.

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  • RMweb Gold
10 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

I'm fairly sure that it was 5 on the GWR.  GWR illuminated diagrams came in two main forms (eyeball being an exception and an oddity).  The first style were sometimes referred to a 'spider's web' because the dome of the light had a black framework over it; it used a single bulb  The later, and far more common, type was the lozenge shape cut into the linen with translucent red material fixed behind the linen - these had two bulbs (but i do wonder if the early might have had only one?).

From SRS Signalling Paper No.8 (which seems to be always present on the desk in front of me at the moment) the styles of lamps in illuminated diagrams were:

1928-1937: "Half crown" lamps (domestic brass bayonet fitting, 1.5in in diameter!) These large lamps really mucked up the layout of the diagrams, IMHO.

1938-1946: "Spider" lamps

1943-1955: "Pea" lamps

1955-1984: "Lozenge" lamps

 

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Thanks everyone for your information and suggestions.

 

The box (Cheltenham Spa Malvern Road West Signal Box) was opened about 1908 and I plan to model March 4th 1948.  As there isn't much information about what was there in 1948, I am guessing and want to model a what could have been.

 

So for example, I prefer the look of the GWR 1947 block instruments but think they would be unlikely here only 6 months after first use.

 

Thanks to all your help, my current thoughts are:-

 

Near middle of shelf:

Spagnoletti 2 line + peg block instrument x 2

Block bell x 2 (different shapes)

Closing switch

Phone to adjacent SB x 2

 

Brass plungers above all electrically locked levers

Combined slot/inner/outer distant on/off indication x 2 by relevant lever

Arm repeats with signal arm representation as appropriate

Lamp repeats as appropriate 

 

There are a couple of signals right outside the box but the signaller would mainly see the side of the signal. I assume lamp repeat for these or could lamps have a telltale in the side of the casing? 

 

Ground disc signal outside the box, I assume not visible at all due to angle so arm and lamp repeat?

 

Thanks again for all your help

 

Will

 

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  • RMweb Gold

I think it was fairly unusual to have repeaters for ground discs in earlier days (i.e. before the mid - late 1950s) and of course you can usr e tell if the signal comes off by the feel of the lever as the detector is the only thing likely to stop iyt being an easy pull.

 

Here's a ground disc with an arm repeater although as you can see it's actually a balance weight lever repeater so if the rod to the back of the disc breaks it could show 'off' when the arm is still 'on' - this signal is 229 yads from the 'box which works it and is not visible from that 'box.

 

822797449_IMGP6957copy.jpg.338bbcdfb9ff21d3638259cc37be3a5b.jpg

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  • RMweb Gold
15 hours ago, RailWest said:

Almost more people in that box than working levers :-)

Definitely.  It was an IRSE Minor Railways Section visit to the Kingswear and Buckfastleigh lines and at times it was rather difficult to get photos of useful or interesting items of detail without lots of humans (or their limbs) in the frame.  But it was an excellent weekend for all that.

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The block shelf is going to look quite bare compared to some other boxes.  Whoever designed the location got it spot on - all home signals were in sight of the box when built.  The section signal to Lansdown Junction moved to the other side of the road bridge but that seemed to be after my chosen date.

 

I'll do a design for the block shelf and share it when I get the time - thanks all for your assistance. 

 

Will

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Most signalboxes kept a set of furled flags near the door, handy in case you needed to grab them for an emergency - these could be on hooks but could be on the block shelf.  There would also be a set of detonators and a lamp for hand signalling by night.  In later BR days this would be a Bardic and that would typically sit of the shelf, but previously I would have expected an oil lamp somewhere.

 

Modern boxes tend to have a lot more clutter on the block shelf: telephones and maybe their concentrators, Trust screens, CCTV crossing monitors, books and manuals for various bits of kit etc none of which would be there in your time frame.  A problem for modelling the interior is that photos of the back wall of the box are much rarer than views of the block shelf, diagram, and lever frame, as the details would not be seen as interesting.  In earlier times critical information such as local instructions, info concerning call out arrangements for fogmen, missives from management etc would all be on a notice board on the back wall.  Other procedural paperwork such as the block regulations, wrong line order forms etc would be kept in the booking desk.   The signalman might put his snap on the block shelf, as boxes tended to have fewer catering facilities such as a sink/draining board, or cooking facilities other than the stove/fire.  There would also be several coat hooks near the entrance, with perhaps an overcoat or two - not day-glow orange back then of course.

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1 minute ago, Michael Hodgson said:

There would also be several coat hooks near the entrance, with perhaps an overcoat or two - not day-glow orange back then of course.

Ah, the proper old calf-length raincoats and a sou'wester...

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  • RMweb Gold

Most GWR 'boxes I have been in had cast metal flag holders fixed to the wall at each end of the frame ready for easy access.  The important thing with flags was to make sure that they couldn't be seen from outside the 'box because they could be possibly mistaken for a handsignal.  Some Drivers could get quite snotty about flags being visible and I know of one instance where a Driver actually put the brake in because he caught a glimpse of a red flag which had been left lying by a 'box window.   So the holders were low enough down to ensure that a flag on the normal Western handle couldn't be seen through the window; regrettably I don't have a photo of one.

 

Stuff displayed on the back wall is an interesting area and one which changed over time.  In a Western 'box there would be a gradient chart (printed on stiff cardboard) hung somewhere readily visibe as it was essential to the working the 'box that the Signalman was aware of the gradients in not only the immediately adjacent block sections but over a wider area especially if there were steep gradients.   The Signal Box Special Instructions would be prominently displayed in the noticeboard with all pages visible.  In GWR days these were referred to as 'Footnotes' and were printed on stiff card to be hung up on the wall but in BR times they were on foolscap/A4 paper pinned to the noticeboard.  The other items required would be a list of Fogmen and the contacts for calling them and a list of overhead power lines in the sections either side of the 'box or over a greater area if the adjacent 'boxes weren't always in circuit (i.e. open).   There might also be a list of various 'On Call' contacts for the Operating, Perway, and S&T Depts.   In later years there would probably be some union notices although officially these were only permitted to be displayed if management gave permission.

 

The Train Register Book (TRB) in use would be lying open on the desk top usually with a pen nearby lying on the narrow flat section at the top of the desk.  In teh desk there should be copies of the Rule Book (although D signalmen should have normally had a personal copy) the General Appendix, and from 1960 - the late 1960s the WR Regional Appendix, plus the Sectional Appendix.    The situation in respect of Local Instructions changed over the years and normally the separately printed ones (during the relatively short time they were in vogue) didn't apply to Signalmen or the  working of signal boxes.   At one time spare detinators and the tinplate items needed for det placers mighta lso be found in the desk but officially they should have been kept in one of the cupboards. - when i was doing the monthly 'big' check on the 'boxes on my patch in the 1970s I almost inevitably found loose dets in the desk because the Perway had  a habit of popping them in there when they returned them from possession protection (they never seemed to have any of their own and it was not unusual to find them putting out of date dets in the desk - the oldest one I ever found was 30 years old).

 

Officially each Signalman nad a personal cupboard (available in the Springside set and possibly from Shapeways although I haven't checked) and there would be one or two 'official' cupboards for detonators etc plus cleaning materials.  There would also be a high shelf at one end above window level which was officially provided for completed TRBs - which were meant to be kept for 5 or 6 years.   The only official fiurniture apart from the desk was a high stool to go with the desk but by the 1950s most 'boxes had a small table and an 'armchair of some sort, often homemade, although many Stationmasters and Inspectors frowned on such things but would accept something like an ordinary kitchen chair which was too uncomfortable for someone to fall asleep on.  Radios were banned but by the 1970s could be found hidden in various places when giving a 'box a good going over and by then even tv sets occasionally appeared - and were rapidly removed when discovered.

 

The calling codes for the circuit phones would usually be in little glass cases adjacent to the 'phone they applied to so not on the noticeboard.  some more pics -

 

Block shelf hook for lever collars fixed on the end of a short blockshelf. note also below in the corner a red flag in a flag holder (the latter not visible), and a brass lock release plunger on the front of the blockshelf

 

IMGP6965.jpg.71e6d50f2d94087bcd7b6ab72f90ba85.jpg

 

Three GWR pattern 'banner' type track circuit indicatrs - all showing track clear - and brass type shelf labels (sorry it''s all a bit out of focus, the autofocus had found something else in the overall frame to work its magic on)

 

852108334_IMGP6965copy.jpg.e80b9c7908ce234076e592c17dfb44d8.jpg

 

 

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1 hour ago, The Stationmaster said:

 Some Drivers could get quite snotty about flags being visible and I know of one instance where a Driver actually put the brake in because he caught a glimpse of a red flag which had been left lying by a 'box window.   So the holders were low enough down to ensure that a flag on the normal Western handle couldn't be seen through the window; regrettably I don't have a photo of one.

 

That's interesting.  It's a bit like a signalman watching prestige trains looking for gestures that could be misconstrued as "signs of distress" (especially from an unpopular inspector) as an excuse to throw the levers back.

 

A hand signal was always supposed to exhibited outside the box.  Sheltering from the wind and the rain whilst waving the People's Flag inside the closed box window just didn't cut the mustard.  Drivers were supposed to be on the alert for problems at the box, indeed some railways used to exhibit boards outside the box for drivers to report the need for S&T attention.  But most train crews just wanted to get the job done so they could book off and go home.

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  • RMweb Gold
1 hour ago, Michael Hodgson said:

That's interesting.  It's a bit like a signalman watching prestige trains looking for gestures that could be misconstrued as "signs of distress" (especially from an unpopular inspector) as an excuse to throw the levers back.

 

A hand signal was always supposed to exhibited outside the box.  Sheltering from the wind and the rain whilst waving the People's Flag inside the closed box window just didn't cut the mustard.  Drivers were supposed to be on the alert for problems at the box, indeed some railways used to exhibit boards outside the box for drivers to report the need for S&T attention.  But most train crews just wanted to get the job done so they could book off and go home.

Rule 126 in the old Rule Book - going back to the RCH Rules Pre WWII and probab;y earlier required Dribvers to observe signal boxes when passing them and various other r Rules required vigim lance and being prepared to react to hand danger signal etc.  In teh 1972 E Rule Book it was brought together more clearly and Drivers (and Seconf dmen) were required to be alert for hand signals when passing signal boxes.   And there was of course no need to open a window if  a hand danger signal could be given more quickly without opening the window (althoug adetinator placer was also useful as was throwing back signals to danger.

 

Yes - normally a hand signal (with one common and very useful unofficial exception) should be given from the wondow but an emergency was something different and a good. alert, Driver would keep a look out just in case and as the Rules required them to be - hence the very good reason for keeping anything red out of sight.   The unofficial exception was - for those who don't know - the 'right away' hand signal which would be used by many Signalmen if a train had been checked at stop signals in rear of the 'box (or if the distant had been at caution) and by the time it reached the 'box the Section Signal and any other stop signals had been cleared for that train.

 

One totally unexpected thing happened as some signal boxes were provided with mains electricity anda socket was provided for boiling a kettle (and in later years for the Baby Belling cooker).  Many mains power sockets/switches came with a red light (later a neon) and until it was realised after a number of complaints that there were instances of Drivers taking them as a red handsignal if curvature re reflections etc made the light appear to be a handsignal (especially at night).

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Hi all,

I've done a first draft for the block shelf and would welcome any comments. I'm thinking circuit 'phone on back wall - would there be more 'phone(s) on the block shelf?

20210830_111054.jpg.2218cbf61bee34d90f95ea237e8f5450.jpg

Hope you can read my scribblings.

 

Here's the associated signalling plan - this one shows the down section signal 3 and distants beyond the bridge but I've now found it was located approaching the bridge in 1948 so was visible from the box.

1659853218_MalvernRoad.png.426af28955afc56112682c3acae2b4d0.png

I know the diagram should be the other way around, but I've done it as this is the proposed layout viewing side.

 

I'm still wondering about lamp repeat for 2 and 14 as neither the lamp nor a back blinder hole will be viewable from the box?  How wide were the viewing angles of the lamps? I'm only used to designing on filament or LED signal heads.

 

Thanks

 

Will

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  • RMweb Gold

Track circuit indicators should be fixed to the front of the block shelf  as should signal repeaters although stacked repeaters on a backboard would be used for the distants.      Why have you got plungers which seem to be associated with track circuits?  You only need plungers for levers which are released electrically (3, 33, and 35, and possibly 31 if it is released by TC occupied).  There is then an open question regarding ground discs reading to the two-way goods line but i suspect they wouldn't have plungers.    I am presuming that the FPLs were still locked by locking bars so no track circuits were used.

 

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Ooops, forgot the 'phones.  Nothing on the block shelf but three circuit 'phones on the back wall plus a Control 'phone (looks like a circuit phone but slightly smaller and will have three push buttons in a row on the front.  

A dial 'phone is a possibility as there might well have been an automatic exchange in used by the mid 1950s and it might be on the back wall as well or on a table next to the TRB desk and it could well be n place of one of the circuit 'phones.

 

Likely 'phone circuits  - Gloucester - Cheltenham signal boxes,; Cheltenham - Honeybourne signal boxes; Cheltenham local circuits, operating and loco dept (potentially replaced by dial 'phone).   There might also possibly have been a separate circuit for the Tiddly Dyke reaching here.

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1 hour ago, The Stationmaster said:

Track circuit indicators should be fixed to the front of the block shelf  as should signal repeaters although stacked repeaters on a backboard would be used for the distants.      Why have you got plungers which seem to be associated with track circuits?  You only need plungers for levers which are released electrically (3, 33, and 35, and possibly 31 if it is released by TC occupied).  There is then an open question regarding ground discs reading to the two-way goods line but i suspect they wouldn't have plungers.    I am presuming that the FPLs were still locked by locking bars so no track circuits were used.

 

Thanks Stationmaster,

 

Really useful as always.

 

My thinking on 29 was that to pull the lever, you would need the goods line empty and Malv Rd East's interlocking lever normal? So the lever would need a lever lock?

 

Thanks again

 

Will

 

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  • RMweb Gold
20 hours ago, WillCav said:

Thanks Stationmaster,

 

Really useful as always.

 

My thinking on 29 was that to pull the lever, you would need the goods line empty and Malv Rd East's interlocking lever normal? So the lever would need a lever lock?

 

Thanks again

 

Will

 

Sorry, misunderstood the way it was written Will.  It's an interesting question as I can't recall seeing plungers for Acceptance Levers (but it is an awful long time since I saw Acceptance Levers in everyday use).  I think the point with an Interlocking Lever is not so much that it releases something (although it no doubt does) but more the fact that it locks something in the signal box at the opposite end.  I'll see if i can find any locking charts (and ideally control tables) or info which might give us a lead on that  

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11 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

Sorry, misunderstood the way it was written Will.  It's an interesting question as I can't recall seeing plungers for Acceptance Levers (but it is an awful long time since I saw Acceptance Levers in everyday use).  I think the point with an Interlocking Lever is not so much that it releases something (although it no doubt does) but more the fact that it locks something in the signal box at the opposite end.  I'll see if i can find any locking charts (and ideally control tables) or info which might give us a lead on that  

Surely part of the set-up for the Interlocking levers at East and West must be that they lock each other, which presumably would have been done electrically. Otherwise, what is to stop both boxes pulling their levers and releasing the signals at both ends at the same time?

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5 hours ago, RailWest said:

Surely part of the set-up for the Interlocking levers at East and West must be that they lock each other, which presumably would have been done electrically. Otherwise, what is to stop both boxes pulling their levers and releasing the signals at both ends at the same time?

It is one of the S&T tests to reverse both interlocking levers and ensure no release is given.

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2 hours ago, LNERGE said:

 

It is one of the S&T tests to reverse both interlocking levers and ensure no release is given.

Which would suggest that it is physically possible to pull both levers? 

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, RailWest said:

Which would suggest that it is physically possible to pull both levers? 

I think this means all the levers for signals into the shared goods line would be locked mechanically with the local interlocking lever and locked electrically with the other box's interlocking lever.

 

So the interlocking lever doesn't need a plunger but all signals to shared goods line do need a plunger?

 

Thanks for all the info everyone - getting closer to a 'possible' arrangement for the box.

 

Will

 

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1 hour ago, RailWest said:

Which would suggest that it is physically possible to pull both levers? 

I doubt under normal circumstances it would be possile to pull both levers together. As part of testing the circuitry it would be possible to arrange for both levers to become reversed by the application of test straps or manipulation of the electric locking. The cross protection between the circuits will prevent any release being given.

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  • RMweb Gold
1 hour ago, WillCav said:

I think this means all the levers for signals into the shared goods line would be locked mechanically with the local interlocking lever and locked electrically with the other box's interlocking lever.

 

So the interlocking lever doesn't need a plunger but all signals to shared goods line do need a plunger?

 

Thanks for all the info everyone - getting closer to a 'possible' arrangement for the box.

 

Will

 

That’s awful expensive, you need a lock on every signal rather than just one on the interlocking lever.

However, I might be getting mixed up with direction levers for block lines.  They need the track circuit(s) clear before you can change direction, effectively transferring ‘route locking’ from one box to the other.  With the interlocking levers you are making sure that trains aren’t signalled in from both ends at the same time, but not proving the loop clear in order to change direction.

As an example, changing a loco requires in one end, remove loco, new loco in from the other end, but the track will have remained occupied.

Paul.

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