Saturday, 20 February 2016

Consall 'box gets woken up!

It's the Churnet Valley Railway's steam gala next weekend and as several trains will be running the signal box at Consall will be in use to allow trains to pass in the loop on this single track railway. The last time the 'box was in use was last September when I was on duty. I will also be on duty both days next weekend, so I volunteered to help S&T (Signal & Telegraph) 'wake the box up' today. You can't just switch on one of these traditional electro-mechanical boxes after an autumn and winter of disuse and expect everything to work, and indeed we found that to be the case today.

One of the track circuits was showing 'line occupied' which it was not. When track circuits fail they fail safe and give this indication. A work train had come up from Cheddleton on its way to a site further up the line to clear some vegetation, and because of this fault the interlocking in the box, thinking there was a train in the section, would not let me clear the up starter signal so I had to authorise the driver to pass it at danger.

Consall box on switching on this morning. Note the left hand block instrument with its black bar horizontal. This is T5 track circuit indicator showing 'Track Occupied'

A close-up of T5 track circuit indicator. After S&T changed its battery it showed a 'track clear' indication, which is correct when no trains are present on that section (which they weren't).

S&T fixed the faulty track circuit and set about checking all the functions in the box, and walking up the line to lubricate and check the signals and the points.

S&T staff working on damaged signal cables this morning. Note the marquees at the Black Lion pub, probably in readiness for their beer festival next weekend timed to coincide with our Steam Gala.

Lubricating the 'up' main starter signal.....

.....and the 'up' loop starter signal

A closer look at that 'up' loop starter being lubricated

Frank Richards' superb photo that I've named 'Sophie reflects'. Today's work train motive power, class 33 'Sophie', waits at Podmores as the crew tackle the line side vegetation.

Chief signal technician Emma maintaining the block instruments 

 Emma checks out the block instrument shelf while Dominic works on adjustments to signal lever 13, the 'up' main starter 

When the work train returned I put it into the loop initially. Note the rust on the rails of the loop, which has seen no trains since the box was last in use in early September.

Last job today was to check everything worked using a train. Class 33 'Sophie' on the work train returned and I put it into the loop while we briefed the driver. We were to send the train out of the station to the north, change the points and signals from 'loop' to 'main' line, clear the section interlocking, run the train back through the station north to south on the 'main' line, change the points and signals, clear the interlocking, then run the train back up from south to north via the 'loop' line again.

We did this three times. Then we did it another three times in the opposite direction. Initially one of the track circuits in the loop was not detecting the presence of the train because of the rust on the rails preventing the train from electrically shorting the rails to each other (which is how track circuits detect trains). After the first run it worked fine.

So all now appears to be working as it should in Consall box. Tomorrow I'm duty signal man for a 'single train' day where I'll run the train through the 'loop' in the 'up' direction, and through the 'main' in the 'down' direction.

Update, Sunday 21st February

S&T continued work at Consall today with lots of hi viz in the station yard, as I was working the 'box as rostered signalman.

S&T and PW guys in hi viz, station helper Guy in the purple jumper, station manager Les in the dark jacket

The Polish Tank now sports its 'Hotspur' name plates 

 The signal box relay cabinet being checked

Hotspur gets away from the 'up' platform with the Sunday Diner train past Consall's 'up' loop starter signal (doesn't that Kitchen Car look good?).

I was working the 'box today even though we were only running one train (forming the 'Sunday Diner' on one of its runs up and down the valley).
Using the 'box all train movements at Consall used the appropriate up or down platform, rather than all using the down platform as is the case when the 'box is switched out.

Next weekend is our Steam Gala. I'm rostered signalman both days. Let's hope the box behaves itself!



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