Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

This forum is for the discussion of the LNER, its constituent companies, and their histories.

Moderators: 52D, Rlangham, Atlantic 3279, Blink Bonny, Saint Johnstoun, richard, Tom F

Post Reply
Dave Cockle
NBR J36 0-6-0
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:44 pm

Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by Dave Cockle » Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:54 pm

One aspect of railway working which rarely gets mentioned was the method of getting signal box coal bunkers filled up. When I was a box lad at Finsbury Park No 3 in 1969 I remember, one Saturday morning, a Class 08 Shunter conveying a loaded sixteen ton coal wagon and a brake van with the guard and a couple of P'way staff on board. The short train shunted to a throw stopping adjacent to the various Finsbury Park signal box coal bunkers and the P'way staff quickly shovelled a quantity of coal from the wagon into the signal box bunkers. It was quite a work of art fitting the signal box coal trip between trains without causing delays.

In 1971 when I was signalman at Hertford North we had a sixteen ton coal wagon shunted off the morning Hitchin - Enfield Coal Concentration Depot block train. I was offered four hours overtime, which I accepted, after my booked 06:00 - 14:00 turn to unload the wagon and fill up the box coal bunker.
I remember looking at the wagon label. It said "Colliery Droppings!" I think this was a cheap deal the railway had with the Colliery to buy the coal spillage
from plant at a cut price rate. Some of the coal was in huge lumps and had to be broken up to fit in the box coal stove.

Mickey
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by Mickey » Sun Mar 24, 2019 7:26 am

I remember a former telegraph lad who was at Welwyn Garden City box telling once about 50 years ago that when he was at the box between 1962-63 (the famous winter in the UK) that a couple of times during that time he would nip out of the box and down the staircase and cadge a coal bucket full of loco coal off an arriving N7 standing in the Down slow line or Luton line platform.

There was a brick built coal bunker outside Welwyn Garden City box but it always seemed to have quite a bit of domestic coal piled up in it although the x2 coal fires at the box were rarely ever lit when I was at the box between 1972-74 unless it was exceptionally cold then it was my job to clean the fires out the next day and empty the ash pan(s) and clean the fire place up and then remake the fire up for the night turn signalman.

User avatar
thesignalman
GER D14 4-4-0 'Claud Hamilton'
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:37 pm

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by thesignalman » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:30 am

Yes, usually by pilot and wagon but in later years on the Marylebone line the coal used to come bagged in a DMU brake. We didn't have any engines or wagons to use!

Of course in steam days, the official supply was enhanced by oversize pieces of coal that were dropped off by the crew of passing trains. By the time they hit the ground one large piece would be many small pieces.

John
"BX there, boy!"
Signalling history: http://www.signalbox.org/
Signalling photographs: http://shop.studio433.co.uk/

52H
NBR J36 0-6-0
Posts: 115
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:53 am
Location: chester-le-street

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by 52H » Mon Mar 25, 2019 8:38 pm

We used to save the big lumps and when approaching a cabin,you shoved it out of the door,when it hit the ground it just burst apart. Timing was critical.

User avatar
StevieG
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2042
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:08 pm
Location: Near the GN main line in N.Herts.

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by StevieG » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:46 pm

Except, John, when the crew of a local goods trip loco, arriving to shunt a certain small yard in the late 1950s/early '60s, were reputedly asked by an apparently unpopular reliefman to drop off a lump or two as they left again - 'I've put my bucket ready, just before the box steps'.
All exchanged waves as the train passed in departing on its way to the next sidings, after which the tale related that the signalman went to retrieve the bucket plus anticipated contents, only to find one l-a-r-g-e lump of coal, atop the bucket now squashed to a height of less than six inches !
BZOH

/
\ \ \ //\ \
/// \ \ \ \

User avatar
manna
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 3201
Joined: Sun May 24, 2009 12:56 am
Location: Booborowie. S. Aust

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by manna » Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:09 am

StevieG wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:46 pm
Except, John, when the crew of a local goods trip loco, arriving to shunt a certain small yard in the late 1950s/early '60s, were reputedly asked by an apparently unpopular reliefman to drop off a lump or two as they left again - 'I've put my bucket ready, just before the box steps'.
All exchanged waves as the train passed in departing on its way to the next sidings, after which the tale related that the signalman went to retrieve the bucket plus anticipated contents, only to find one l-a-r-g-e lump of coal, atop the bucket now squashed to a height of less than six inches !
G'Day Gents

:lol: :lol: :lol:

manna
EDGWARE GN, Steam in the Suburbs.

Mickey
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by Mickey » Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:53 am

Not strictly the topic subject matter but I have a vague memory of hearing a story probably when I was a telegraph lad about 47 years ago of a detonator being mixed in with the signal box coal supply in the outside coal bunker either unintentionally or intentionally by a unknown person anyway the unseen detonator must have been shovelled into the coal bucket and from the coal bucket it was shovelled into the signal box fire and obviously the detonator exploded and blew the soot out of the chimney although I can't remember where this incident happened?. Thinking about it again it may have been at Welwyn Garden City where it happened?.

User avatar
thesignalman
GER D14 4-4-0 'Claud Hamilton'
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:37 pm

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by thesignalman » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:45 am

Micky wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:53 am
Not strictly the topic subject matter but I have a vague memory of hearing a story probably when I was a telegraph lad about 47 years ago of a detonator being mixed in with the signal box coal supply in the outside coal bunker either unintentionally or intentionally by a unknown person anyway the unseen detonator must have been shovelled into the coal bucket and from the coal bucket it was shovelled into the signal box fire and obviously the detonator exploded and blew the soot out of the chimney although I can't remember where this incident happened?. Thinking about it again it may have been at Welwyn Garden City where it happened?.
That would have been me, it was at Holloway South Up and the stove doors were not bolted shut so the explosion blew them open and half of the fire the fire shot out onto the floor. Two pairs of feet stretched out in front of the fire from the armchairs were rather hastily retracted. At the time we thought it was sabotage but retrospectively I suspect it was a detonator hanging by the door for emergencies that fell into the coal bucket.

It was popular practice to do it deliberately but with the doors firmly bolted shut if you had a blocked chimney.

John
"BX there, boy!"
Signalling history: http://www.signalbox.org/
Signalling photographs: http://shop.studio433.co.uk/

Mickey
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply

Post by Mickey » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:47 am

Nice one John regarding the 'det in the fire place' joke. These days detonators are no longer kept in signal boxes and were phased out back in the early/mid 1990s from memory in case someone mishandled one and blew there hand off or eyes out!!.

What's that old joke about detonators being 'the stamp on variety' when any new railway staff were asked how do you fix a detonator to the railhead?.

Platypus
GER J70 0-6-0T Tram
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue May 28, 2019 7:51 am

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply & Detonators

Post by Platypus » Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:27 pm

Hello All,

re Detonators, ( now known as ATWs / Audible Track Warners , due to a change in legislation both defining and controlling the use of detonators ) when I joined the railway in the early 1970s, the detonators were round metal objects placed on the railhead and held in place by soft metal straps, and they were a mineral red brown colour. They consisted of two metal discs between which was the detonating material.

When I did my Safe Working Course, we were warned to keep well away from them after they were placed on the railhead. The reason given was that many years previously, a senior railway official died as a result of a flying metal disc severing his main neck artery.

By the late 1970s our railway replaced all of the metal detonators with American style reflective orange plastic tube detonators which were held onto the railhead by a brass omega wire. As I recall, Way&Works staff came around and did a complete change over from metal to plastic detonators.

So someone must have decided to do the change over of existing stock as a matter of urgency.

Regards, Platypus

User avatar
thesignalman
GER D14 4-4-0 'Claud Hamilton'
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:37 pm

Re: Signal Box(s): Coal Supply & Detonators

Post by thesignalman » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:05 am

Platypus wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:27 pm
re Detonators, ( now known as ATWs / Audible Track Warners , due to a change in legislation both defining and controlling the use of detonators ) when I joined the railway in the early 1970s, the detonators were round metal objects placed on the railhead and held in place by soft metal straps, and they were a mineral red brown colour. They consisted of two metal discs between which was the detonating material.
The colour of the detonators changed yearly and rotated through a pre-defined list of colours so that out-of-date ones could be easily identified. Out of date ones, on the LMR at least, were apparently dispatched to Holyhead and dumped in the irish Sea. In practice we usually used them up, by arrangement, with a ballast train during engineering work.

When I worked Radlett box (on the Midland Main Line) in the mid-1970s there were detonators there going back to the 1950s. These were similar to the type described above except they had a flange around the edge on the rail side. Some of these were elephant grey or dark green, from memory these were not standard colours so the list must have changed over the years.

Nobody seemed too worried about the threats of injury in those days, I am sure they were over-exaggerated. I spent some hours at one quiet signal box on a Saturday which was due to close until Monday morning trying to fix detonators under the signal weight bars so they would explode when the box re-opened on the Monday but was totally unsuccessful.

There was also another variation of detonator without the lead strap which was used in detonator placing machines of various types. Some worked in connection with signals using a magazine-type dispensor with the capacity for ten or a dozen detonators. Lever operated ones were usually ready-fitted to a metal plate for installation (you bent the end up), but the WR ones had to be fitted in pairs to a single Y-shaped plate (with lips you bent over) before installation.

All this is history now, and was the last thing at the time you ever thought to photograph.

John
"BX there, boy!"
Signalling history: http://www.signalbox.org/
Signalling photographs: http://shop.studio433.co.uk/

Post Reply