Sunday, 17 April 2022

Heritage signaling equipment making a come back!

 Heritage signaling equipment making a come back.

By Robert Law

16th April 2022

New pouch, with a new token!


Good Friday was a good day for Scottish signaling heritage. As there is now three operational Tyers key token sections in Scotland. Two belonging to Network rail, Dunraagit to Stranraer and Mauchline to Ayr, interestingly with an intermediate instrument at Annbank GF. Now you have a third on the Strathspey Railway. Preserving the traditional signaling method of Scotland for all to see, (When tours are available). Between Aviemore and Boat of Garten. But! There is more. The Strathspey Railway is the only one that works over 5 miles of traditional pole route! There is no multicore cables been used within the system, other than the tail cables from the end of the pole route to the signal cabins.

It has been a long time coming with various challenges on the way. The tail cable from Aviemore Speyside cabin to the pole route was found to have poor insulation and cores were leaking to earth. Which first needed to be replaced. A new cable conduit had to be run down the length of the carriage storage shed. Then there was finding a source of tokens. We, as in the railway do have some historic tokens that could have been recycled. But it was agreed it would be an act of vandalism to deface them. So we continued to look for a source of new ones which did take up a lot of time and networking. Kind donations were added to this project in the form of new token pouch’s too. Thankfully they did turn out to be the right size for the new tokens. 

This is a big step forwards for the railway and it’s aims to recreate how the original Highland Mainline looked, felt and sounded in the late 1950s early 1960s. With it’s traditional semaphore signaling, Omnibus phone systems between each signal cabin. All of which is fitting for our heritage railway.


Aviemore KT instrument

The withdrawal of the old “test” tokens and the new WR keys installed. Note, that one token has been withdrawn from the instrument, ready for the first train of the day to Boat of Garten. Which is why the indicator is showing train going to. The system has increased from 8 test tokens to 12 WR keys.


Boat of Garten KT instrument

Again, but this time at Boat of Garten. Showing the withdrawal of the old “test” tokens and the new WR keys installed. Note this picture was taken after the token had been withdrawn from the Aviemore instrument, ready for the first train of the day. Which is why the indicator is showing train coming from. The system has increased from 8 test tokens to 12 WR keys.


The official change over picture

This was the last part of the puzzle withdrawing the old temporary “test” token from the train crew. Briefing them on what is happening, informing them of the new operation notice that has just been released and handing them the new WR key. Almost job done!


The new key in use for the first run round of the day at Aviemore loop. 


The last thing to be done. Destroying the old Temporary test tokens. Job done! 

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

S&T Winter works

 S&T Winter works.

15/02/2022

Written by Robert Law

It’s been a bit quite on the S&T front over the winter period, I am afraid! But still we have been working away trying to keep out of the worst of the weather. Plans have been made and changed and put at the bottom of the pile as priority’s change. 

A view from the summit looking in the Up direction towards Aviemore 

The pole route between Boat of Garten and Aviemore is getting our attention while the railway is closed. It has survived the latest round of storms. Thankfully there was only a few branches down along the line and none of them landed on the wires. Definitely got away lightly with that one. 

A trip out, doing line proving after the storms 

The pole route has since been walked and each pole has been given a health review. There is a good number of poles that are showing there age and requiring replacement, with four that are at the top of the list! With two more not that far behind.

Looks not to bad from the line side, A nice solid pole!

Not the best when you look at the base!
Which engine crew burnt this one I wonder! 

Looks ok as a hole?

Found a hole at the bottom!
Rotten from the inside, but still standing!

In total there are eight poles that are on the watch list and we will get to them in the coming years. The P-way is about to put a large order in to the sawmill in the next few weeks. All going well, we will be able to get the poles added on to the order.


Boat of Garten North cabin has not seen much work from the S&T. Although the p-way has been doing a lovely job of tidying up and putting in a retaining wall in to stop the ballast from slipping away.

A view a nice tidy job. A few bit on the other side to go to the sandpit.

With the increasing amount of trains now been routed into up platform from the south. The Scotsman and the odd charter train to name a few. It’s time to adapt the signalling system to suit what is becoming a more common feature of the railway. To achieve this FPLs need to be installed to both 13B and 17B points, to start with! Then on top of that fouling bars, detector rods and detectors. With signal wires diverted through a new detector on 17B points and a new signal to be installed too! But not all at once this will take time to complete! All this is instead of the current approved written procedure. Of both points been clamped and scotched before a train with passengers onboard is allowed to travel over them in a facing direction. This project will help to improve the safety on the railway for both trains and our ageing signallers. Taking away the need for a wheelbarrow with two clamps and scotches each time a passenger train is routed into the up platform from Aviemore.

Tools arriving to the job, with all the components for installing the FPL to the side.

13B points with its FPL equipment installed. To be connected to the signal box in due course.

17B points FPL equipment installed, rodding will be connected to the signal box in due course.

The stumbling point for this project is the need to replace the timbers on the lead off table in front of the signal box. I’m told that the current timbers were installed 40+ year ago! Plus where second hand when they came to the railway. So I think they have done very well and are entitled to be retired, as they are completely rotten! Until this is done we are unable to move/install the cranks on it, to create the space and connection for the rodding to the signal box. Again this wood is going to be added to the order going into the sawmill.

Timber not in the best of condition. Leaves have been cleaned away since this picture was taken. 

You can see the space between the rodding, this is the space that the new rodding is going to fit into. I do believe S&T of past have left this space on purpose, for the reason of what it is going to be used.  Thank you! 

On top of all this work! It’s time to start the maintenance of all the S&T equipment before the start of the season. If you have time, can drive a grease gun and oil can. A spanner too is useful! Then please get in touch through the railways website. We are always looking for extra help.