Wednesday 27 December 2023

Year Review

Year Review.

By Robert Law

27th December 2023

With so much talk, about things ‘not going’ well on the railway at the moment . I thought it would be good to reflect on the work fulfilled and how productive this year has been for the S&T department.

The first thing that was completed this year was the renewal of the lead off table at Boat of Garten South. This was so rotten and had been put off for a number of years. It had started to cause point’s failure and operational problems. With the investment of new treated Softwood timbers these problems have now all been resolved, with all equipment seems to be working correctly.

The Dalfaber level crossing has been the  biggest project that the railway has undertaken in a long time, allowing us to develop , the road deck, track, level crossing control equipment, road warning lights, barriers, public footpath, street lighting and power supply from the utilities company.

There has only been one operational failure with the crossing repaired within the same day with minimal disruption to the road users. We have taken on and have delivered the Maintenance of the crossing to Network Rail standards for the first year on behalf of the council, who owns and operates the crossing.

In comparison to 2022 where we saw an average of 2 reported level crossing incident's a week, 2023 has had no stated reports, thanks to the updated equipment.

Aviemore Station, North GF: To make operational requirements simpler, removing the need for extra time. The Shunt Key retained in Aviemore Speyside Cabin has been withdrawn and a new electrical release has been installed in its place. This making it easier and more flexible for operations to run an effective railway on event days.

We have also accomplished a the installation of two key token machines in Spey lodge ,this was required as our signalers required refresher courses and practical experience as part of the post COVID development . This year being the first in a while of actively running a two train service, in addition the Aviemore to Boat of Garten Key Token Machines worked the full year with no reported operational issues.

This year has been see us progress , providing much needed face lifts to aging structures and drawing from our colleagues individual strengths.The S&T department has been really productive year and we look to move this enthusiasm in to the year ahead. Wishing you all a very restive festive period and we all look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

Boat of Garten Yard points

Boat of Garten Yard Points

By Robert Law

27th December 2023 

Since the close of the running season, work has continued at Boat of Garten with the signaling enhancements. The detectors for what will become 20 points, into the North Yard. Is looking a lot more completed.

All parts are now fitted and secured in regards to the detectors. The lift bar unfortunately is still to be completed but will be done with time. This set up has been designed/made with as many of our original LMS parts to the LMS design as possible. Some BR standard parts have been required to supplement what we do not have.

Work is now going to move up to the Up to Down crossover. With the renewal of the detector base from a twin to a quad to take the extra detectors for the new signals in the future.

Work has started on cleaning and preparing all the parts that are required. Enough LMS type parts have been found to follow the designs without any BR standard parts.

Friday 13 October 2023

Jigs and Formers.

Jigs and Formers.

By Robert Law

13th October 2023

One of the other small jobs that has been done but probably has been missed by the untrained eye. Is the replacement of the signal lenses, or spectacles. Each semaphore signal is fitted with two. Red, Green. Or Yellow, Green for a distant signal. Luckily we have this from jig from Tyer & Co Ltd. This wonderful device is the cutting edge of 1950s design! Designed to reduce maintenance costs and speed up the repairs to signals with broken or missing lenses. 

This is a jig designed by the LMR. With its concept going back to the early 1950s. It has been a great help with the replacement of the polycarbonate lenses that we use on the railway. Glass lenses were commonly used up to the 1960s/70s. And before the modern days of rubber, window putty or metal tabs were used to secure the lenses in place.

Interesting we have received an early copy of the instructions of use that we thought we would share with you all

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Armed with all this information it was time to fit some replacement lenses around the railway.

So the first thing to be done is to put the rubber seal around the lens. Place the brass oval handle down into the jig. Remove a boot lace from your boot and rap it round the inside of the outside rim. With this done it then gets placed into the jig, with the boot lace on the inside of the brass former.

Once placed in the jig, close the back over to secure the lens in place. Then start to pull the boot lace round lifting the rubber edge up and placing it around the brass oval. Remembering to push the brass former down as you go round otherwise it can slip off and you need to start again.

Once the outside rubber seal has been lifted on the brass former it can be removed from the jig. Don’t have it out of the jig for too long as the rubber seal is under a lot of stress and it wants to get back to its original shape. As you can see on the left hand side of the picture.

The brass former is then passed through the spectacles plate with the outer edge of the rubber seal pushed firmly agents the spectacle plate. With this the brass former is then pulled out.

With the brass former pulled clear the rubber seal then moves back to its original form trapping the lens in the correct position.

Looking from the other side.

Various signal lenses have now been changed around the railway. Not a big job, but one we thought you would like us to share with you.

Boat North home signal with before and after

Boat South home signal before and after.
Lots more lenses have been changed around the railway. Have a look around and see if you can spot the difference.

Boat Of Garten Signalling Project.

Boat of Garten Signalling Project.

By Robert Law  


It has been a while since the last S&T Blog update , however we have been busy in the background. 

Work is slowly progressing on several areas of the Boat of Garten South Project, with the normal maintenance still to be done across the whole of the railway. In addition Dalfaber level crossing  has been added as part of the regular work. 

I thought we would start with a reminder of  what we are looking to achieve: Currently the Down platform is signalled to allow bi-directional moves of passenger trains. In simple terms trains are permitted to arrive or depart in both North or South directions. However the  Up platform is currently only permitted to send passenger trains in both directions but not receive passenger trains form the South. This is because of the lack of  Facing Point Locks FPLs been fitted on the yard and the crossover points.

We have so far prepared the rodding run from the signal box to the point ends, for the FPLs. Locking and associated equipment have been fitted at both point ends. The lift bar, we are still working on and hope to  complete this in the coming months. 

Firstly at the yard points, we have needed to dig a big hole. The reason for this is to accommodate a new detection table. You can see the Timbers used to build the table, stacked up in the background.

Once the hole was levelled off, at a depth of 2ft 2”. The bottom timber and cross members were lowered into the hole and then partially back filled. The Timbers have been packed to ensure that they are firmly in place, reducing the risk of movement or sinkage. With this achieved, the top Timbers have been placed, with a detector base and a single detector on it. (Two will be required). It has then been possible to adjust all parts until a good placement is found. Ensuring that: heights and alignments are all correct and the swords will be able to move freely. On our next organised visit we will be spending time screwing and bolting everything into place.

At the B end of the crossover, some investigation digging was carried out to see what condition the existing timber table is in. The original timbers were found to be in very good condition and placed in a way that a second timber to widen the table could be added. This work is required for a larger detector base that needs to be installed, that can accommodate 3 detectors for the 3 routes from these future signals.

New timber added and the ground back filled.  There will be a new table built in front of this and the new pair of ground signals will be installed. This includes a signal post in the middle for movements into the Up platform.

Inside the Signal Cabin we have been busy with the installation of the extra/ missing levers from the frame. As you can imagine nothing is small, nothing is light. It dose not look much, but I can assure you that this was no easy task. With help been drawn in by unsuspecting passersby’s. Thank you.  First the quadrants had to be lifted out of the way. But to do this, the lever catch handles needed to be dismantled to allow them to be lifted. The levers themselves were then carefully lowered down, onto the cam shaft below. 

With the lever’s in-place the cam followers could then be installed. This is the connection between the interlocking tappets and the levers. The remaining tappets will be installed as the interlocking changes are made. With All this installation completed the whole frame was then put back together.

With the history of the cabin that is documented, this is the original frame and can be placed back as far as the 1930s. It may well be earlier but we are unable to confirm that it is. We do believe that this is the first time that the frame has been complete in its history. As it never had all its levers installed in BR days or LMS, that we know of. Please if you have any information about the early days of the frame, get in touch.

Before and after shot.

The extra levers that have been installed in the frame have come from the original 40 lever frame, out of the North cabin at Boat of Garten. Which we do still have. The frame that is in the North Cabin has 20 levers. That came from Carrbridge central cabin and was located in the station building. Witch was removed in the 1970s with the coming of the current signalling system “Scottish Geographical”.

1 tray of 4 that make up the locking.

In the background of site, planning and development is still ongoing with the mechanical interlocking designs. This is no easy task and is proving difficult to achieve. For every problem there is a solution! It just takes time and lots of tea and biscuits. For those who are unsure what the interlocking means. This is the brains of the signal cabin. Controls the train movements with the aid of a competent signaller. Ensures that trains can only travel when it is safe to do so.

There is lots of small jobs that can be done, it’s not all about big lifting. Time has been taken by our operations volunteers Painting the levers to the current layout. Tidying the place up until the big change comes.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

S&T Work Week Report

S&T Work Week

By Robert Law

Last week between the 10th of June and the 17th. The S&T department, but well supported by others. Had a very productive week in pushing the plans forwards with Boat of Garten South Cabin. Unfortunately or not, it also turned out to be the hottest week of the year so far, with heavy thunder storms included. Despite all of this it turned out to be a very productive week and a chance for members to catch up with each other too.

Boat of Garten South Cabin enjoying the sun.

The work over the week was concentrated around making the Up platform bi-directional. This meaning that trains can be signaled from Aviemore, into either the Down or Up platform at Boat of Garten as a passenger move. To achieve this FPLs (forwards points locks) need to be installed and controlled form the signal cabin. There are two ends of points that are involved with this work. These FPLs, All be it are currently manually operated, were installed last year with a written procedure of use put in place. This alone has helped our signalers with the increasing amount of charter traffic, coming off the Highland mainline. But things need to be completed and the FPLs controlled from the signal cabin. 

The plan for the rodding of how the FPLs are controlled.

Before the week had even been set in the diary. Plans were drawn up and marked up on the ground. Like any other installation of this type, the expansion and contraction of the rodding in the forever differing temperatures that we have, needs to be accounted for. This is done quite simply with the “push” and the “pull” of the rodding equaling the same. Providing that the rodding all heats and cools at an even rate, the movement at the end of the rodding remains a constant. With some of the work already been done when the lead off table was changed back in November. (See previous blog entries to remind yourselves.) There is only 4 tables to be sunk in the ground. Two compensator cranks and two sleeve cranks. 

The rabbits have been busy digging there holes.

Each hole had to be dug by hand because of its location. Each hole being 770mm deep and 1500mm in length and breadth. Yes, we could have disconnected the rodding and use the digger. But unfortunately the clamshell bucket is too big to fit between the rodding stools and would have generated more work. Plus unfortunately the Scotsman was in and out twice within our week. Meaning that the signal cabin had to remain in use over the whole of the week. 

The base of the first compensator crank table.

This is the part that most people don’t see or realize it is there. To give the crank stability there are three layer of wood. The base at the bottom, two side members, then the top that the crank sits on. Yes, this could have been built up with concrete members in the ground and a steel plate on top. But this is not the Scottish traditional way and as this is a heritage Railway in Scotland. It’s good to keep the old ways alive. The ground that we are working in is very free draining with 300mm off top soil then foundation sand underneath. All other timbers in the ground, associated with this cabin are already between 30 and 40 years old and still holding well. 

First compensator crank fitted and ground leveled off.

With the base, level and at the correct depth, the top timber and crank are placed. The height is then confirmed to be correct, with the crank and drop lugs offered up the lengths of rodding in the stools. Once happy that everything is correct the top timber was fixed down to the base and the crank screwed down to the top timber. After checking that the movement is correct and not been held /rubbing on anything that it shouldn’t, the ground is back filled and cess cleaned.

Completed first sleeve crank, for the north yard FPL.

Second competitor crank completed, but missing its grease points.

Second sleeve crank, for the FPL on the crossover to the Down.

In the four foot of the crossover the final crank has been installed. 

Over the whole of this project, no rodding has been cut to size as the temperatures were to high, with the rodding been swollen compared to its normal length.

The other interesting part of this project that you might have seen in the diagram, is the installation of a new LMS lifting bar, for the protection, that the signalers can not remove the lock while the train is over ( in this case between) the points. The parts that we have acquired for this, were recovered from Nairn. When it was re-signaled in the year 2000. The 50ft lift bar is made of three part. Within the week we have managed to correctly install one part. With two more lengths to be fitted and jointed in the coming months.

This is the late 1930s plan that is being used for reference.

Not the best of pictures, but shows the first part of the lifting bar that has been fitted.

This video shows better what has been achieved with the locking bar.

Boat of Garten South frame

As you can see in the picture, there is several leavers that are missing from the frame. With the new FPLs and signals that are being installed the missing leavers will need to be replaced. Thankfully we do have some, that were used in Boat North when it had a 40 leaver frame within it. With the use of these stored leaver we can replace what is missing.

The spare levers cleaned up to be installed.

So it’s fair to say that a good amount of work has been achieved over our planned work week and that it has been very successful. Thanks is to be given to all those who came to help. It was much appreciated. Hopefully we can arrange another work week in the future.

Thursday 11 May 2023

May Report for the S&T

 S&T Works Delivery and Faulting sagas.

By Robert Law

11th May 2023

One of the unusual movements during the Gala weekend.

This blog begins before the mixed gala event. For the Gala, there was a late request to make changes to the way that the Ground Frame at the north end of Aviemore station operates. Before the changes were made, the Ground Frame was released by either, the section key or the Shunt key. The Shunt key is retained in the frame at Aviemore Speyside cabin. For the smooth operation of the Gala, it was requested that the mechanical Shunt key, to be replaced with an electrical release from Speyside Cabin. Taking away the restrictiveness of needing to remove and return the shunt Key before a returning train from Boat of Garten, as the home signal can not be pulled if the Shunt key is removed from the frame.

Aviemore Speyside, with it freshly painted location cases. Finishing off the refurbishment work.

To achieve this, a lot of work was required. Designs needed to be drawn up and checked; a “new” location case needed to be re-serviced; 400 meters of cable needed to be repurposed and terminated;. two reconditioned relays to be wired up; a remote power supply to be created at the GF and lever locks needed  to be installed on the GF and plungers fitted. Just a small job! All this after finishing Dalfaber LC and only 6 weeks until the Gala. Happily, all was completed on time and this new equipment worked very well, allowing Operations more flexibility with the events intensive timetabling.

The “new” location case at Aviemore north GF
New plunger, for the electrical release of the GF

The new annett’s electrical release for the GF, released by the Shunt Key. So no alterations was required to the interlocking..

More information on the Aviemore GF project can be found in the previous blog post.

With this being the first time that the railway has been used to its full potential since pre-covid, naturally a few issues presented themselves. The largest problem being that 3 of, the remote power supply’s for the railway’s internal phone system had failed over the winter. Thus needing modified working to be put in place. After extensive investigation it was found that yes, 3 remote power supplies hade failed and that 300 meters of 50 year old telecoms cable had come of age and required replacement. This was identified by the large amount of “noise” on the line after the power supply’s had been replaced.

New temporary housing of the remote power supply at Boat South. This will get worked on and improved as time is found. For now it is working!

This work has now been completed new cables installed. These cables had been stored in the sand pit at Boat of Garten, so could be 10 years old already, but tests well. The internal phones are now working between Aviemore platform 3, Aviemore Speyside, Boat South and Boat North cabins. Work will continue to add extra phone locations onto the network at a later point.

Boat North looking a lot tidier with the old remote power supply removed and the new, now down below. Still a job in progress though.

Boat South phones and KT looking tidy after the Gala.

Now our attention is returning to Boat Of Garten with the next project. This project being, making the Up loop bi-directional, so passenger trains can be signaled North to Broomhill through the Up loop. With this project we are installing two new mechanical FPLs, up-grading a sub signal to a main arm and installing a new signal onto the up platform, with all mechanical detection at two ends of points as required. With this work, the interlocking of Boat of Garten South cabin will require to be changed significantly. Not a small job for our small department. 

The p-way have been at work and have built a retaining wall to stop the bank slipping down on to the rodding run.

We are planning a work week from the 10th of June through to the 17th of June if anyone is interested in coming along to help. Work will be varying, from small lighter jobs, to the digging and installing of new equipment tables. Don’t worry, Boat of Garten sits on fine sand formations and digging is really quite easy. Working hours will be between 10am and 4pm. If interested please contact us by email; if interested. I believe the p-way may be doing something this week too.