Wednesday 18 November 2020

Signalling Maintenance and Installation work

 Signalling Maintenance and Installation works.

15th October to 18th of November.

It is getting harder to find time and help to get on with the jobs at the minute. Between the the ever changing Government Guidelines and the colder and darker Autumn day’s arriving. Again there is no train’s running, even though that helps with our work. It reduces the enjoyment of being on site. This months work has been divided into two different parts. Maintenance and installation. This story starts at Aviemore with the maintenance of Speyside Box.

Speyside cabin sitting in the Autumn overcast sun. The general appearance of the box how ever good it looks, is in need of some major body work! The windows are tiered and the cladding has seen better days. But yet the cabin is probably the most important signal box on the Strathspey Railway now. Controlling movement’s out from the engine/carriage shed on to the main line. Secondly it controls all train movement’s in and out of the carriage storage shed. Within the cabin is the key token machine which will control the single line section between Aviemore and Boat of Garten. Needless to say time must be spent maintaining the signalling equipment to ensure the box is fault free.

This is a view of the lead off table in front of the signal box. As you can see it controls a lot for a small cabin. Some time has been spent and all the cranks and pullie wheels on the entire rodding and signal wire runs. Have been greased and or oiled to ensure everything is working properly for the up coming winter train service. 

A little look inside the cabin, you can appreciate some of the work that has been done and that, that needs to be done. The block shelf has been changed in the cabin. As the original one was in very poor condition and in need of a lot of work. This one has been cleaned up and varnished by Stephen. It was originally the block shelf at Carrbridge, of the frame that was in the station building. The windows in the cabin are in a poor condition now and are in need of repair or replacement. If there is any wood workers reading this and would like to volunteer, you’re help would be much appreciated.

Looking to the back of the cabin you can see the key token machine, yet to be commissioned. The writing desk as well as our internal phone network phone. From hear the signaller can speak to the Aviemore Station staff. Boat Of Garten, South and North boxes. This all works over our pole route between Aviemore and Boat Of Garten. There can not be meany heritage railways that can boast having a work pole route, 5 miles in length.

Moving to Boat of Garten North Box. Colin Frost and team have been able to finish off the internal painting, plus the installation of skirting boards around the Cabin. Internally the Cabin is looking very good. I can see it being a pleasure for the signaller to work in, once a new normality is achieved.

Moving outside number one signal is nearing completion. The balance weight now on, cable run up inside the post. The signal lamp unit installed and wired up. Just some small things to sort out and a bit of painting once the weather improves.

The p-way department has been following up, with the first of the IRJ’s been fitted. (Insulated Rail Joint). There is still some to be purchased before they can be installed, unfortunately there is a number of step joints required which we do not have in the railway storage area.

At the engineering sidings points (number 2 leaver) some remedial work has been carried out. The lock was binding as there is a slight height difference between the lock shoe and the crank in the four foot. After a day of looking in the storage area at Boat of Garten. The correct type of rod was found, cleaned up and installed. It’s a small change but improves the workings of the points. The points detector has now been wired up, ready for telling the signaller what way the points are lying. This is once the location case has gone in that will be supplying the power for it.

 Underneath the signal box there was a big job to do! The prop under the end of the frame was suffering from dry rot and required to be replaced. A jack was borrowed from the engine shed, packing pieces found  around the yard. The leaver locking frame was loose-end up to allow the cross beams to be lifted just enough to knock the old prop out and get the new one in. As you can see in the top left image, the prop was not in the best of conditions.

Since the prop had been changed, work has continued on the leaver locking rack and leaver tails. The locks are now attached to the leaver tail via a con rod. Each signal and the FPL are now locked in place and the signals or FPL can not be pulled off or lock removed, with out the leaver lock first being electrically energised.

So overall the project as a hole is coming along nicely. Thanks needs to be given to everyone who has been helping out in the other departments within the railway. With us all working together, Team Strathspey will complete this and mean more project’s to come.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Boat of Garten signalling works

Boat of Garten signalling works,

Up to the 9th October.

 So it has been a bit of time since the last update but we have been working away quietly. There has been lots of small jobs done plus a large one as well. As normal all the work has been done following the government guidelines for social distancing. With the necessary line blockages to insure that all work is done safely. Looking after ourselves as well as passenger trains that were running. 

To start with thanks needs to be given to a long standing member from Suffolk and occasional volunteer, Mike Poynton. Mike advised he was spending a weekend at Boat of Garten and wanted a task for his visit. With the weather been poor, Robert Walters our Station Manager, had identified that the South signal box had become quite grubby with the lack of use this year. Mike was provided with the necessary tools, cleaning materials and safety equipment to give the inside of the signal box a really good clean. Then, with the moving of the furniture etc, Mike applied two coats of red floor paint to the main part of the floor before he had to return South. Robert Walters then continued to complete the painting over the next two day, just in time before the engineering department turned up to do some shunting and take the crane to Aviemore for the delivery of  46464’s wheel sets.

In the North box we have been starting to look at the furniture in the signal box. Not a three piece sweat, but relay cabinet and writing desk. The relay cabinet, is from the former Holden signal box in East Yorkshire. It is requiring a bit of work, but fits in nicely on the floor. Now that the floor has been painted you can see the indentations on the floor of the old relay cabinet,  as well as the former block instrument in the corner. The writing desk is yet to be changed with one that will sit on top of the relay cabinet as can be seen in the old photographs.

Sue Davies has been Very busy, trying to make sense of of what is going on and insuring that the new track diagram is completely correct and conveys all the information that the signallers requires. It is currently covered over with the current diagram but is ready for commissioning.

Hear is a closer look at the relay cabinet before it came out of storage. The part on the right of the cabinet is the cable termination area this is were the line side multi core cables from the line side locations will arrive and will then be wired up to the appropriate relays in the left hand side of the cabinet. The doors and door runners are requiring a bit of work. One door is missing it’s glass but we will get a replacement piece. Overall it is in very good condition and will serve the railway very well.

With the age of the signal box there is a few repairs required. Before carrying the relay cabinet up the stairs, each of the steps were made subject to the big hammer test. Quite simple really, hit the step hard with a p-way hammer if it gives in then it needs changed! One step was in very poor condition and failed the test. Some wood of the correct size was found and the tread replaced, before we took the heavy load of the relay cabinet up the stairs.

Under the signal box a lot of work has been done, “the big job”. The lever lock rack has been made bigger to cover all 20 leaver tails. Before this work started the lever rack was only built to cover levers tails 10 to 20. As back in the day I don’t think anyone envisioned the railway putting sidings into the old Engine shed site, let a lone a shed as well. The reason why this work has been done is that we require lever locks on lever 3 the FPL. (If the train is sitting on track circuit 6486, then the points lock can not be removed until the track is clear). The signals 4, 7 and 16 all require to be fitted with a lever lock too. With the points being electrically detected, this is the only way of making sure the correct route is set for the movement of the train. (The points are set and locked before the signal can be pulled off).

On the ground at the remote end of the diode track circuit, the disconnection box with the diode in it has been put in, the tail cables connected and clipped onto the sleeper ends. Both IRJ’s (insulated rail joint) are still waiting to go on when the p-way have the time.

In this picture we are looking at number 16 signal to the left and then 7 to the right. Both now have there lamp units mounted on the brackets, cables have been run up the signal posts and terminated. Just need the location cases to terminate the other ends.

Number one signal now has it’s Balance weight attached. The cable has been run up the signal post, but still requires a lamp unit yet. Have got one, just not had the time to fit it.

The wire runs out to the new signals. Although it is working very well there was still a couple of miner changes required, were the wire was rubbing on the pullie casting. Resulting in making the lever heavier to pull. With these pullie being changed it has definitely made it even lighter when pulling the signal lever to the off position. Small changes but will make for some very happy signaller’s.

Sunday 20 September 2020

North signal box painting

North signal box painting.

20 September 2020

 Thanks needs to be given to Colin Frost and Ray Kenton. Answering the call for help with painting the inside of the signal box. This in it’s self is a large job and when you see the photos at the end of the blog I hope you agree with we, that it looks exultant. The work was carried out over two mid week sessions. Between the 8th and 10th and the 14th to 17th of September. All current government guidelines, regarding this type of work and social distancing was followed.

The original appearance inside the south end.

The original appearance of the north end after sanding. 

Ray covering the final piece of grey wall colour in the north end.

The ceiling in undercoat after a panel had been placed over the original stove flue pipe hole in the ceiling on the right hand side. Have a look at the hook in the middle of the roof! This is were the old oil lantern use to hand in the signal box to provide light. There was a stove for heat as well right up to the end of BR days. Only when the Strathspey Railway took over ownership was electricity installed in both the North and South cabins. The current lighting in the cabin will be replaced for something more traditional in the future.

Walls and ceiling complete in top coat.

Windows are complete in top coat, so Colin is painting the floor to complete the repainting of the box.

Job complete. Just skirting board to be fitted to the north end.

The final appearance of the completed north end

Friday 18 September 2020

Track circuits

Track circuits


It’s been a couple of weeks since the last post! There has been lots of tea drinking, drawing diagrams on the back of scrap paper and talking about everything apart from what we are working on! But things have progressed well. As what is now normal, all work has been carried out following the ever changing government guidelines on social distancing. Plus all disruptive work has only been carried out when the line has been blocked and no trains have been running. You will see and understand as you read on.

So the first job to be explained is the removal of the two location cases that was intended to be used in the original plan. But like any other job that I have been involved with, we / the drawing office changed there minds! Georgie and her machine was called for and made quick work of lifting the two location cases out and taking them back to the storage area. While the machine was working Georgie also trimmed the embankment back at the side of the line on route to the outer home.To achieve a straighter line for the signal wire run! The straighter the signal wire is, the lighter the pull on the leaver. The lighter the pull, the happier the signaller is!

The next job that has been done that we are looking at. Is digging more holes and filling them in again! This is the new and not moving again location case base at the section starter. This is a smaller location case but still with plenty of room in it for what is to be housed. Since this picture was taken, the cables have been run into the bottom of the base ready to be connected up once the location case it’s self is on. This will be explained in the next picture.

This is the two location cases at Spey lodge. These are part of the assets that we gained with the Highland mainline resiganling project at Aviemore. Curtesy of Network Rail. In the pictures you can see that one has now been stripped out, ready to be rewired and placed on it’s base at the section starter. The second one that Stephen is working on. Will be going out to the outer home. The equipment that is to be housed in these locations is; Feed units for the track circuits. As well as relays, points detection circuits and signal lightning circuits. Which moves us on to the track circuits.

This is a simple drawing of what we are bringing into use. The first of the track circuits is feed from the section starter through the points and to the outer home. We are implementing the use of a medium voltage DC track circuit. Then from the outer home and 380yd beyond, we are putting in a diode type track circuit. If you would like more information about these types of track circuits, then nip over to the IRSE website (Institution of Railway Signal Engineers).
Hear you will find some interesting information and standards that we must maintain. There is one thing that we are currently short of, for this part of the project. This is the IRJ‘s (insulated rail joint). They go on in the same way as fishplate joints do between the rails. The only difference there is between the two is IRJ’s have a plastic skin to them so one rail dose not touch the other, Keeping the track circuits independent from each other and prevent one track circuit from influencing the other. This is also the reason why the positive rail on one track is staggered to the other. Insuring, if the joint brakes down the the track circuits fail safe. The railway currently has four IRJ’s in stock of the correct type. But unfortunately another five needs to be purchased, at a cost of about £250 a set. If you would like to help with the cost of them. Then your generosity will be much appreciated.

This is the remote end of the diode track circuit. Around 380yd north of the outer home. The track tails have been attached to the rails, they just need clipped to the sleeper. IRJ’s are ready for the p-way to install. The short circuit has been attached to the rails beyond the track circuit. This is hear so if the IRJ’s bracket down, then the track circuit dose not feed out beyond where it is required. Maintaining if the IRJ fail then the track circuit fails safe! The disconnection box that houses the diode still needs mounting and tails attached, that is all that is left to do hear.

This is what the bonding looks like for the track circuits. Two solid wires over each joint from the section starter, to the remote end of the diode track circuit. Two nights work after the trains have finished for the day. Has been spent drilling and bonding up. This job had to be done after the train had finished, as it is not permitted and certainly not safe to have a drilling machine on the rail with a chance of a train approaching.

Hear is a wee clip showing the railway’s own drilling machine working! Drilling two holes at a time. This took some time and only 4 drill bits to drill over 232 individual holes. Thanks to Davie Dow who gave the machine a service before we started.

So this is how the outer home is looking now! Old location cases have gone, embankment has been trimmed back, for the signal wire. New “correct” location case base has been dug in. Power cable and 19 core, needs a bit of cable management but is ready to connect up, once the location case is dropped on top of the base. Track circuit tail cables are attached to the rails and ready to connect into the location. The tail cables just need clipped down to the sleeper. One  IRJ is on site, but unfortunately need to wait until we can purchase some more IRJ’s to complete.

Monday 31 August 2020

All coming together

Yet again we have been hard at it! But now it is quite nice as everything is starting to come together and more jobs are being completed rather than started.

Not quite about the current project but still nice to see. 28, 15 and 26 signals, with 26 signal in the off position. Plus our resident class 31 leaving Boat of Garten from platform 2. With the Royal Scotsman tour train plus a dead class 66 on tow. The class 66 is acting as a brake van as the second MK3 with the brake in it, is not on the train.

Well I will start with an apology to the P-way! Yes that is your mileage post sitting to one side! It was in the way of the wire run. The wire run stakes are now all in the ground, apart for the last 4 still to go in. We stopped at this point as the two loc’s still need to be taken out again. Plus the embankment needs a wee trim back as well. This is to get a good line to the base of the signal. The wire run is set back by 7ft from the running line, ensuring that a good and safe walkway is maintained.

Number 7 signal wire (the outer home) has been run from the signal box to this point. The coils of new wire that we have in stock are about 70yd short on there own. So a part coil of new signal wire left over from running 17 signal wire run has been used up on 7 signal run. As it will require a joint in it to complete the run.  The joint and the the rest of the wire run will be run once the loc’s have been removed at the outer home and stakes have been completed.

This is Ben our newest volunteer to the railway who is helping me out with the S&T work. Seen hear making off the wire for 17 signal. 

This is 17 signal completed, on the ground. It will remain out of use until the mechanical interlocking is done. So it can only been pulled when points are set and the line is safe for the train movement.

 This is the shunt signal for going into the engineering sidings. The round disc covered by the black bag! Well you can’t see it in this picture but it is connected up and is in the off position. Again this signal will remain out of use until the interlocking, points detection and track circuits are completed.

This one is a bit easier to see. This is 16 signal all connected up and displaying a hidden off! Again with both of these signals, they will remain out of use until the mechanical interlocking, the track circuits and points detection are completed.

The next one to be completed was number one signal. Coming out of the engineering sidings. With the wire run connected up, the mechanical detection of the B end of the points was adjusted, set up and tested. As the mechanical interlocking is in place between leavers one and two, detection of the facing point has been achieved. Number one signal can be brought into use.

With things progressing well, it was decided that it was time to cut the FPL in the reverse direction of the A end of the points. Set up and tested with the 3.5mm gauge and 1.5mm gauge. With the 1.5mm gauge placed between the switch and stock rail, the point can be locked. Although with the 3.5mm gauge in, the points can not be locked. Protecting agents unsafe train movements and will not allow signal 4 for the sidings or 16 for the main line to be pulled off. This is an ORR required test that on our railway is carried out once a year.

A bit of work has been done in the signal box, the new block shelf brackets have been mounted and block shelf placed on top for now. Please note the type of shelf we have put in. It looks the same as the old photographs of Boat of Garten North Box. Not your standard type block shelf that you see in most other signal boxes. It still requires a bit of work before being mounted properly. Between myself and Ben, we have all so been doing a bit of painting and I must say the frame is looking quite smart now. Just the rest of the signal box to be painted.. Help please! 

Just a small reminder of how the signal box use to look at around 1957, and what we would like to recreate, in a way that works for “our” railway operators.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Running Signal wires.

It’s been a while since the last up date but things are forever moving forward and but now we have trains passing us as we are working, which is great! Frustrating though,when you are trying to get things done.

To start with hear is a video of the train going through the Morley’s shed area. This video was shot from the brake van sitting in the sidings which was under my possession. Please excuse the grunts and sniffs, did not know how bad my hay fever was that day.

The first of the jobs to be done was to run the down wire/chain on what will be number 17 signal. Then run the wire round the flat wheels under the track and on to the down cess. This is as far as I have got the wire run for now. Only the straight wire run back to the signal box is left to do.

The next job to be tackled was the outer home. A newer arm has been put on and lenses installed. Down wire has been run. A different balance weight and bracket has been put on, one that is more suited to the post. The crank has been mounted at the bottom as well and wire connected up. The next thing that unfortunately needs to be done, is the location cases need to be pulled out. Gurr! This was a mistake on my account. If you look closely you will work out that the wire run will need to go through the cases. OOps! The plans have also changed for the type of track circuits that will be used through the points and berth track. “Current” plan is for the berth track to be a diode track. Then the one through the points will be a medium voltage track. (8 volts.) The new location case will go in front of the signal and will be a smaller size.

The new section starter! Proudly showing off it’s signal arm. Sadly it needs to be covered up until it is completed. But it is looking the part. Still some painting to do. (The black at the bottom.) A new hoop has been put on the ladder. The down wire is connected up to the balance weight. The crank is mounted at the bottom and wire connecting to the balance weight. The wire is also run back to the signal box, it just needs to be connected to the wire rope coming out of the bottom of the signal box. That is it! One condition to make and it is working! The shunt signal number 4 is all connected up. The wire is run all the way back to the signal box, just one more connection to be made and this one is done too. There will be a half location going in behind the signals, with the modified plans. This is for the signal lightning circuits of 16, 4, and 1 signals. The points detection circuit, plus a feed unit for the track circuit through the points.

Here is a look at how the wires are/will be going over the road. This way keeping the walkways clear.

This is the exit signal from Morley’s, which is number one signal. Again the down wire is connected to the balance weight arm, which still needs a weight! The wire is then connected to the crank, through the detector, onto the flat wheel under the track and on to the next flat wheel. You would have seen the wire going over the bridge in the last picture and it goes all the way back to the signal box. Just one more connection and this signals wire run is completed.

Three signal wires arriving at the front of the signal box just need to be connected up to the correct wire rope/chain coming out of the signal box. Getting to this stage is very rewarding indeed. 

As well as doing installation work at Morley’s at Boat of Garten. The general maintenance and faulting still requires to be done. We had a few problems at Aviemore with everything sitting in hibernation for so long. 13 signal was needing a good grease as it was not moving freely. Plus both sets of points were a wee bit out of balance! An easy fix. Everything at Aviemore has now had a maintenance visit. As well as the point FPL testing at Aviemore and Boat of Garten has now been completed.