Tuesday, 26 July 2022

External renovation of the Speyside Signal Box at Aviemore.

 External renovation of the Speyside Signal Box at Aviemore. 

By Colin Frost

26 July 2022

Copyright Graham Maxton.
Following on from painting the outside walls of The Lodge accommodation block over the spring, Ray and Colin have commenced the much needed renovation of Speyside Box.

A little history about Speyside Cabin. Originally it was the former Garve West cabin and it was mounted at the end of the up platform. The structure is entirely original, until we have started this work. The cabin came available to the railway with the introduction of RETB on the Kyle route in 1984. The cabin was uplifted sometime after this but with no lever frame with it because BR had already removed it. The cabin was brought to the railway on a low loader lorry and was installed where it is today. Garve West, Now Speyside cabin is now fitted with the right hand half of the Wick lever frame. Again this frame became available to the railway with the introduction of RETB in the Far North.

We have taken delivery of new 20mm planking to replace the rotten wall boards, and as the required scaffolding is not expected to be available until September, we have made a start on the South wall, as this is in the worse condition.

With the rotten ends of the cladding removed revealing the damaged beams behind..

The cladding in front of the beam in boor condition.

So over 19th to 21July22 the lower couple of feet of the wall planking was cut out, the horizontal wall frame treated with Cuprinol preservative and replacement boards cut and fitted.   Aluminium Primer and the first coat of White undercoat were applied.

A productive start but with a LOT more work to do.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Aviemore Improvement Works Continued

 Aviemore Improvement Works Continued.

By Robert Law


Only a short blog today, to fill you in on what’s now been completed. On the ground, our up direction home signal has a call-on arm. The purpose of this is to inform the driver that the section into the station is not clear to the buffer ends and that they must proceed at caution, following any instructions that are given. Lots of improvements have been made around this with the interlocking now completed. Improving the overall safety of the railway. Not that it was not safe before but it makes it a lot harder to make mistakes now. A new shed exit signal is currently getting installed but still to be completed. The paint brushes have been out and the levers in the box have received a clean up. The home signal has received a bit of paint to but a second coat wouldn’t go a miss. Time has been spent writing up briefing notes for all our operating staff. So everyone is aware of what has been done and how it effects there roles. The brief should be handed out soon. Just needing approval at this stage.

The view as you arrive into Aviemore. The main arm being number one lever and the call-on being number two. The rust stains have gone with a coat of paint. But a second would be good!

The lamp unit with the stencil on the side. Will only be see when the arm is in the off position.

How it all looks with the call-on signal in the off position.

The frame after receiving a bit of paint and a good clean up.

Aviemore signal diagram 

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Aviemore improvement works.

 Aviemore Improvement Works.

By Robert Law

15 June 2022

Over the last two months our attention has moved to Aviemore. What was always considered to be a temporary signaling arrangement until the loop is re-instated. Has now for the time being become permanent. With this, it has been decided to make some improvements to the interlocking, to help take away human error. Which also includes the installation of a new call on signal for permissive movement when the section is not clear to the buffer ends. 

Our residents class 31 passing the work site.

The planed new signal is going on to the home signal structure. It will be a smaller arm for calling on a train. This way the signaler can inform the diver that they are permitted to continue at caution but be prepared to stop sort of any obstructions.

What is to be installed 

This is an illustration of what we are looking to install. Which is in keeping with the heritage signaling of our area. When the signal is “pulled off” it will reveal a stencil with the letter C, for Calling On. Giving the driver permission to proceed.

A start has been made.

On the signal, the spindle bracket and lamp bracket have been installed. All parts were sand blasted in the workshop, before been painted and put up.

Bottom of post

At the bottom of the post the old balance weight has been replace from a single to a double. One for the current home signal and one for the new calling on signal. Again these parts have been stripped down, sand blasted and painted. Signal wires have been attached and run under the track to the flat pulley wheel.

Replacement flat wheel.

The flat wheel opposite the signal was requiring replacement as it was only a single before. As the timber base was not in the best of condition the decision was made to use this opportunity and replace it at the same time. This picture was taken before the new wire and rope was run.

Works at the signal box end

At the other end of the signal wire run. The chain and adjustable wheel has been installed on the lever tail. The vertical and flat wheel have been installed and chain has been run to the outside of the box. Ready for the wire to be run once we have the time to do it.

The lamp and stencil holder.

The lamp unit being cleaned down with most of its paint removed. Revealing the wonderful tin work of the stencil unit. Someone had put a lot of work into building this, with it’s white metaled joints. Truly a lovely thing to work on. Unfortunately the history of where it came from is unknown to me other than it has been in storage for a very long time. If anyone knows the history behind it please send me a message!

A view of the back of the lamp holder.

Not completed but starting to look the part again.

At this moment in time the lamp unit has been fitted with a electrical lamp holder. It did not have one fitted before, as it is of the era from when everything was lit by paraffin. The lens is only loosely fitted and needs some window putty to fit it. The stencil with the letter C is still to be fabricated. As you can imagine it is not a standard item and requires something to be specially made for it.  

Interlocking designs 

Before all this “ground work” was done. A good few months was spent discussing and designing the interlocking for Speyside cabin. A lot of tea was consumed in the creation of these plans. Just when you think it is correct your independent checker would find something you had missed.

Hard to get a shot that shows the working of the interlocking.

A closer look at the slip locking for permitting opposing signals to be pulled when the box is switched out.

Several days was spent implementing the plans of the interlocking. New tappets, notches and bars made up. Lots of fun was had doing this work and I am glad to report that the diagrams were made correct and that everything worked as expected.  This is a big step in insuring that operations are controlled and reduces the risk of mistakes been made. 

Everything explained.

Along side all the work that the S&T department has been doing, the operational department has been keeping up with us! Each signal box now has written regulations of what and how to do it. From normal operations, to in the event of failure. This in itself is a big step forwards in running a safe railway. Just need everyone to read them now.

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.