Sunday, 12 April 2015

Three events in one at the CVR this weekend

Well, 2 events and a 'behind the scenes' first. It was Churnet Valley Railway's Sci Fi weekend, resident N7 tank locomotive's last time in passenger service for probably a very long time. And the first time electric token machines have been used in Consall signal box and at Cheddleton ground frame.

I went down to the railway yesterday to learn something of the electric token system while Rus was rostered signal man. I was keen to do that as today I was rostered signalman. On both days, Emma, the railways signalling engineer, was in Consall box to 'baby sit' the new system.

All the while Consall was in Sci Fi mode, with Daleks, Storm troopers, Cybermen, and a Wookie among other Sci Fi characters abroad in the lovely valley. And the N7 tank engine was in charge of one of the two trains running all weekend, its last day in passenger service before its boiler certificate expires at midnight on 18th April, after which it will return to the East Anglian Railway Museum (who own it) as a static exhibit.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.


I drove to Consall to join Emma and Rus in the signal box for a run-though of operation of the electric token system.

The electric token machine in Consall 'box.

As I've described previously on the blog, on two-train days the railway between Leekbrook Junction and Froghall is divided into two sections - Consall / Leelbrook and Consall / Froghall. There is a 'token' for each section, and only a train in possession of the relevant token may operate on the relevant section. This ensures that on our single track railway trains will not meet head-on. When only one train is running, it carries both tokens locked together as one so it can operate the entire length of the line. When two trains run, each has the appropriate token for the section they are running on, the trains 'cross' each other in Consall loop, and the tokens are exchanged there. 

The first train of a two-train day used to arrive at Consall from Cheddleton yard with both tokens (locked together), and would include both locomotives. The token would then be split using a key in Consall signal box, Consall 'box opened (it's 'switched out' when not in use) using the tokens, and one token was given to each driver. One driver set off to Froghall with his train to commence the train service from there, the other returned to Cheddleton to commence service from there. So there was a 'wasted' movement of a train from Cheddleton to Consall and back just to enable the tokens to be split and the signal box opened.

With the electric token system, only the Froghall train needs to travel to Consall using a token for the Cheddleton / Consall section taken from the machine at Cheddleton ground frame, together with the traditional Consall / Froghall token. On arrival at Consall the electric token from Cheddleton is inserted into the machine at Consall enabling a further token for the Cheddleton / Consall section to be extracted from the machine at Cheddleton for the second train to travel on that section (the placement of the first one into the Consall machine having electrically proved the section is no longer occupied by a train). Meanwhile the first train continues to Froghall using the traditional token for that section.

This not only eliminates the wasteful Cheddleton - Consall - Cheddleton movement of the 'old' system, but there is an equivalent saving at the end of the day.

Emma and Russ at Consall yesterday

The N7's driver leans out to check the injector has 'picked up' as he tops up the boiler water level (if it had't, water would be pouring from the injector drain instead of being injected into the boiler)  while Les guards the crossing to prevent passengers crossing when the train departs

With two trains running, and one brake coach in the carriage shed at Cheddleton undergoing restoration, the Class 33's diesel's train sported a goods brake van. Not being on duty on Saturday, I was free to have a ride up and down the line in it! Note the chimney indicating a cosy fug  from the pot-bellied stove inside!

The view looking forward from the rear veranda of the brake van as we set off up the valley. The 4-wheel van bumps along magnifying every uneven track joint but you do get an unrivaled view of the line from the open veranda at either end of the vehicle.

  The view backwards between Consall and Cheddleton

Surreal effects in Leekbrook tunnel

It's surprising how dark it is in there considering once out, you can see through it

33102 'Sophie' runs around her train at Leekbrook for the return journey down the valley 

 Hutch guards the road crossing as a crew member climbs down from Sophie's cab to operate the ground frame so the 33 can re-join its train

Sophie advances onto her train 

 There was a bit of a struggle to release the vacuum brake pipe on the 33. A large screw driver used as a lever eventually did the job. 33102 is fitted with 'push pull' gear so has a rubbing plate and extra pipework, all making this job more difficult in the even more confined space available.

 Then, the screw coupling is hooked on and wound up to adjustment

I rode the train back to Consall to spend more time with Emma, Russ, and the new token system.


This morning I drove to Cheddleton to travel to Consall on 'Sophie', with Emma.

Travelling down to Consall in Sophie's cab this morning

As yesterday morning, there was a problem switching in the box. Here Emma has the token machine case off to sort it while Sophie idles loudly outside with her distinctive irregular beat. 

The N7 approaches Consall box from Froghall 

The 'Titfield Thunderbolt' (the nickname for the weekend for the passenger train with a goods brake van) waits at Consall as the N7 runs in from Cheddleton 

A Wookie, a Darlek, and two Dr Whos at Consall 

This Wookie seems fixated on my facing point lock lever for the no.6 points

A storm Trooper and Darth Vader patrol the Consall platform 

Dave Gibson's picture of the N7 train in the valley 

Apparently there are pink female Daleks. Did they ever feature in Dr. Who? I think when I watched it decades ago it was in black and white!

 Nick, Sopie's driver, seems unconcerned at being challenged at Consall

So, a great weekend apart from iffy weather late on today, but a few problems with the new token system in switching the box in and out. It'll be interesting to see how that goes over the coming weeks.

And it's goodbye too to the N7. Not 'my kind of engine', but it's been a useful addition to the CVR fleet. 

I'll be glad when the S160 is back in service!

Here's a video I took yesterday from the brake van, of the N7 departing Consall for Froghall:

N7 leaves Consall

Sci Fi weekend, a selection of the Dramtis Personae

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