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 Note, that one token has been withdrawn from the instrument, ready for the first train of the day to Boat of Garten.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 Note this picture was taken after the token had been withdrawn from the Aviemore instrument, ready for the first train of the day.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.


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.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Dalfaber LC update.

 Dalfaber LC update,

24th November,

Written by Robert Law.

Yesterday was the start of the Ground survey work at Dalfaber LC. Which has continued into today. This work is been done by SYSTRA (rail consultants) assisted by Strathspey Railway on behalf of Scotia homes. Who is investing in the community’s infrastructure around Dalfaber. Trial holes have been dug to evaluate the ground. To see that it’s stable and how it is formed for the installation of the new Equipment. Plus making sure that there are no buried services under the ground that are not registered.

Half road closure put in place for the work to be carried out safely. The railway is closed and no trains are running or allowed to run between Boat of Garten and Aviemore while the work is ongoing.

Trial holes been bug for various different parts of equipment. Depending on the results of the Ground type, this will decide how large the foundations will need to be to support the equipment.

Radar imaging map been created to understand what buried services are under the ground. 

One hole 2 cable’s, now are they post to be their?

The coring machine doing it’s work to discover what the Highland Railway built the railway on.

What it left behind a little bit of back filling required.

An example of one of many cores taken today. Turns out mostly sand.

Manholes and under road cable ducts been inspected. To see if they are serviceable or requiring replacement.

A long look into a deep hole. All have been labelled photographed and documented for future reference. 

This is only an illustration of what is hoped to be achieved. It is not yet approved and is likely to change. At the moment the plan show a half barrier locally monitored crossing. With a white light to the drive to indicate the crossing is working correctly and red if it is not.

Overall from what I have been told it has been a very productive couple of days and that no major surprises were found. Work will progress in the future as plans and diagrams are created.

Information and photo’s supply by Stephen Muirhead and Colin Stirling who were on site.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Autumn S&T Report

Autumn S&T report.

By Robert Law

Well it’s been a while and there is a few things to bring you all up to date with. There has been lot’s of small jobs done by various people. 

Boat yard on a late evening visit.

The big one has been the removal of the trees that were growing into the telegraph pole wires at the back of the Boat yard. The Burch trees will be recycled and should be keeping someone’s home warm this winter.

Our P-way department has been doing some points timber replacement around the Boat of Garten station area. This was requiring S&T presence for one day with the timber under the sole plate of 8 points at Boat South was requiring replacement. This resulted in use having to preform an FPL test after the timber had been replaced. Which it failed! Steps were taken to make the necessary adjustments to correct it. Which then had a knock on affect to the signal detection, which also required adjustment to get both the main line and shunt signals working again. By the shift end, everything was back in and working ready for the Royal Scotsman later that afternoon.

Work in progress replacing the timber.

The completed job, good for another 20 years.

The main work of the last 2 mouths has been getting the key token machines ready for use. This involved making some locking alterations to the Boat of Garten, Broomhill section. The signal Boxes at Boat of Garten are now switched in and out with the Boat - Broomhill section token instead of the Boat - Aviemore section token.

The new section tokens.

Having a look at the now “old” boat - Broomhill section key you can easily work out were it had come from. In around 2001 Nairn was re-signalled to what it is today. Most of the redundant equipment ended up at Boat of Garten, including the shunt key and locks used to release the GF at Nairn. Allowing trains into the sidings off of the up platform.

The “old” section token 

The locks at Broomhill have been changed with the locks that use to be in use at Aviemore about 6 years ago when this project was first started. You can see looking at the new keys that they are a different shape to the original. This has been done on purpose not by mistake! To make a clear difference between the old and new. Hopefully reducing confusion with drivers as they get use to the changes.

The changing of the locks.

Anyone fancy doing some painting? Both new locks fitted to the ground frames at Broomhill but a bit of painting would not go a miss.

Aviemore station GF 

Just a reminder of the locks that are fitted at Aviemore, the annex’s type lock was fitted a few years back now. The second is the shunt key that is released by Speyside box when the box is switched in and the train is in section with the section key. Allowing shunting to be carried out when the Scotsman arrives off the main line. 

Boat and Aviemore token machines 

In the middle of the night when the railway is closed and most people are not around. The professional S&T were around doing some independent testing for the Strathspey Railway. Checking that all was correct with the installation of our key token machines. Which they were quite happy with, just a slight earth issue coming from the batteries at Aviemore but well within tolerances. The key token machines have now been made available for our operations department to start training on them. Once the railways Rule Book has been updated to cover there operation, hopefully we can bring them into use!

Boat Up distant signal

On top of all this, work has started getting the railway signalling ready for the winter season train running. We currently have two battery lit signals on the railway. Both being distant signals, this one the Up distant at Boat and the Up distant at Aviemore. Both batteries have been changed and should be good for the next 3 mouth’s. All other signal lights have been checked and their signal sighting checked. No point having signals if the driver can not see them. Signal wire runs have been checked and slackened off as required with the colder weather. It’s only when you start writing things down that you realise how much work has actually been done.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The final renovation of the North Signal Box at Boat of Garten

 The final renovation of the North Signal Box at Boat of Garten – 6th to 8th September

By Colin Frost


Once again we were lucky with the weather, and with the scaffold removed, we set about completing the outstanding workincluding a final coat of undercoat on the north and west walls, rubbing down and undercoating the two windows on the east side and cleaning down the wriggly tin roof of the store.

Looking down on the store roof


The following day the top coat of ‘pollen’ was applied to the north and west walls and the two windows were finished in ‘Banana dream 6.  The final broken pane of glass was replaced in the door and then the wriggly tin roof required attention. Due to the uneven ground surrounding the store and the way that it falls away in two directions, this was a bit of a challenge. But a coat of red tile paint was successfully applied without too many dramas.  


The finished of store

On day three all the remaining areas were painted in ‘saddle brown’, mainly the frames around the windowsand a final few touch ups were also completed.


Broken windows replaced 

All the wood off-cuts that had been lying on the ground at the rear of the box was collected and dumped, where possible the paint scrapings and swarf were swept up and all the old paint kettles and brushes were also skipped. 


Back all clean and clear of vegetation 

Along the way we have also cut back the overgrown foliage from the bushes and trees that partially obscured the footpath from the station.The work on the box is now complete, so our thanks go to the other team members that have helped Ray and I over the past weeks – a great job done.


The completed North cabin

Team this week Colin Frost and Ray Kenyon



September S&T Report.

 September S&T Report,

By Robert Law,

Yet another mouth has passed with more work been completed around the railway within the S&T department. Some time has been spent at Aviemore Speyside box, trying to improve the wight on the points into the carriage shed and the engine shed. With the carriage shed points it was found that there was an in balance of the rodding between the signal box and the A end of the points. With a new closure cut and bolted into the rodding run. This has greatly improved the wight of the point. Hopefully keeping our signallers happy. 

Newly restored 5025 passing Boat of Garten North box

At Boat of Garten North cabin the new points and signals are all working very well with only a few minor adjustments been required as everything beds in. The scaffolding is down around the signal box with just a few little bit still requiring attention with the building but there should be a separate report shortly about that.

Boat of Garten North box almost completed.

With the project on hold at Boat of Garten North box, until the location cases arrive. Attention has moved onto the long awaited Key token machines between Boat of Garten and Aviemore Speyside. Over the years the work has been on and off with this project. The large jobs that have been done over the years, is the repairs to the pole route between Boat and Aviemore. There is still lots to be done to the pole route. With at least 3 poles requiring  replacement, trees needing cleared from underneath the wires. Plus lots of cross members on the poles require replacement. Considering the vast majority of the poles date back to the 1950’s and earlier (it is believed), we can not complain to much. Before lock down began a new cable was run from the end of the pole route at Aviemore to Speyside box. Completing the connection between the two signal boxes. 

One of the poles that needed to be repaired 
Speyside KT machine 

The machine themselves are Tyers number  9 machines. Both machines in there recent past have been to uni part rail to be professionally overhauled. The locks have been reconfigured to an A lock, (the type of keys that we will be using). The machines are now in place at Aviemore and Boat of Garten. They have been tested by the installer, although are still requiring to be independently tested to prove that installation has been done correctly. We are waiting on personnel bodies for this task. The keys you can see sitting in the machine are not the key that will be used once the machines are in use. They are for test purposes only.

Broomhill loop GF

Included within the introduction of the key token machines between Boat of Garten and Aviemore. The section Token key and locking requires to be changed between Boat of Garten and Broomhill. The Broomhill section token will become the token that opens up Boat of Garten Signal boxes. Resulting in the locks requiring replacement and a new section key being created. Hear you can see the trial fitting of the new lock on Broomhill loop GF.  The original one is back on until such time that we are ready to do the change over.

Dalfaber LC.

Work is progressing very well and very fast. The scheme plan and the ground plans have been created and presented to the developers. At this point in time the plans are with the ORR and the Highland Council to be commented on and hopefully approved. Detailed draws for the level crossing are now been worked on. This is a very large time consuming job and requires the full attention of the professional members within our railways team. Below is part, of what is outlined. They are Not the finish or approved drawing and are subject to change. They are just an illustration of what work is been put in by the Railways professional members, that are not seen on the railway every weekend. Although are busy working away at home for the good of the railway. 
Part of the scheme plan

Part of the scheme plan 

Part of line side diagrams 

With the diagrams to help you understand them green is coming out, black is what will not be changed and red is what is to go in. That is all there is for this mouth, if you would like to get involved and help out with tasks within our S&T department or on the railway in other departments. Please get in touch with us through the railways website. We are always looking for help. From cleaning, tidying, oiling, greasing and preforming maintenance tasks. Also helping out with installation projects, there is lots going on just now!

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Renovation of the North Signal Box at Boat of Garten – 18th to 20th August

 Renovation of the North Signal Box at Boat of Garten – 18th to 20th August 

 By Colin Frost

Our aim on this visit was to finish all areas that required scaffold access, and to this end the final top coat of ‘Pollen’ was applied to the walls in all the remaining areas just above ground level.


This achieved we moved on to paint the three windows in the porch area with undercoat and the finished top coat of “Banana dream 6” applied.  The porch was also completed, with the ceiling now in white and the window in light cream, which now gives a much lighter effect, as it had previously been painted brown.


At ground level on the east side of the under-croft there were two panes of wired glass that had been damaged many years ago, so these were removed and replaced with similar glass, and finally working at ground level around the back of the box, under the maze of supporting scaffold poles the undercoat was commenced on the north and west walls.


As a final touch the windows on the east and north sides were paint scraped and given a clean.


The good news is that the scaffold is being removed on Tuesday 24th after being in place for just about two months.


Team this week Colin Frost, Jim Hardy and Ray Kenyon


(to be continued)