Absolute Block Signalling Question

This forum is for the discussion of all railway subjects that do not include the LNER, and its constituent companies.

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

S&T
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:00 pm

Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by S&T » Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:38 pm

Hi all.....

I have a question regarding AB signalling and hoping an ex-signalman can assist.

Using an example of an UP line through Box A at the rear, Box B with a loop within its station limits and Box C forward.
Let's assume that Box A has offered and Box B accepted a (2-3) light engine and Box B wishes to position the light engine into the loop as there is an express passenger (4) behind it due on the UP road. Once the light engine is in the loop at Box B and the main UP road clear at Box B.....does Box B give 'out of section' (2-1) to Box A and return the Box A peg to Line Blocked, or is there another bell code to say the UP is now clear at Box B and therefore Box A can offer the express passenger (4) to Box B?

Sorry if it's daft question....but I was NX era so not clear to me.

Thanks for any advice
S&T

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:54 pm

In the example that you give above the signalman at box B would give 2-1 'Train Out Of Section' to box A for the light engine and restore the block instrument commutator handle back to 'NORMAL' (or on older block instruments 'LINE BLOCKED') once he has seen the light engines tail light or tail lamp after the light engine has passed his box and then the signalman would re-set the points technically 'locking the light engine into the loop' and if he was 'offered on' another following train from box A the signalman in box B provided the 440 yards 'clearance point' was again 'clear' or 'free' beyond his home signal he could accept another train.

Another example below on Absolute Block is when the light engine or train doesn't pass the signal box after entering the loop so therefore the signalman doesn't see the light engines or trains tail light or tail lamp so what happens then is-

If the light engine enters the 'loop' from the furthest end of the loop before passing the signal box and the signalman doesn't see the tail light or tail lamp of the light engine or train a member of the train crew usually either a fireman in steam days or a secondman in diesel days or guard (if one was also riding on the engine footplate of a light engine?) would go and tell the signalman either by going to the box and verbally telling him that the light engine has arrived in the loop complete or if it was a regular happening maybe a telephone mite have been provided to tell the signalman this information rather than walking to the box to tell the signalman in person. This occurrence was covered in the old B.R. rule book as rule no.147 which was authorised at Welwyn Garden City box when Absolute Block working was still inforce with Hatfield No.3 (later No.2) when trains coming along the Down slow line from Hatfield would terminate in the Down slow line platform before passing the box so the guard would ring up the box and tell the signalman (or box lad) that his train has arrived complete from Hatfield with a tail lamp (attached) so that the WGC signalman could give 'Train Out Of Section' back to Hatfield No.3 and then accept another train along the Down slow line from Hatfield No.3 if one was offered on?.

The box that I worked at in Absolute Block days was situated at the start of a Goods loop so once a train had passed the box and entered the loop (near the box) 'Train Out Of Section' would be given to the box in the rear and the commutator handle on the standard B.R. block instrument that was at the box would be restored to 'NORMAL' and if another train was 'offered on' from the box in the rear provided the 440 yards 'clearing point' beyond the home signal was again 'clear' another train would be accepted.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

S&T
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:00 pm

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by S&T » Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:26 pm

Perfect. Thanks for taking the time to explain Mickey. Always a great help.
S&T

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:53 pm

No problem S&T.

By the way the old B.R. rule no.147 that I referred to in my post was to be found in the old black BRITISH RAILWAYS 1950 RULE BOOK and it's subsequent amendments.

The red 1972 BRITISH RAIL 'bendy' RULE BOOK superseded the black 1950 RULE BOOK.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

S&T
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:00 pm

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by S&T » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:23 pm

Mickey wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:53 pm
The red 1972 BRITISH RAIL 'bendy' RULE BOOK superseded the black 1950 RULE BOOK.
I recall having the red bendy Rule Book at the time.

User avatar
StevieG
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2108
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:08 pm
Location: Near the GN main line in N.Herts.

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by StevieG » Wed Mar 25, 2020 9:53 pm

S&T (if you don't mind me adding, Mickey),

If only one light engine was involved, - as opposed to a 'train' consisting of anything more than that (e.g typically a loco hauling anything) - in reality the signalman might well be looking only to see (clearly, so probably not in darkness or poor visibility), from any angle, that the engine had gone clear into the loop, i.e. in unofficial practice without necessarily looking for the tail lamp/light(s) [although the Rule Book did require the red(s) to be seen] because, providing that it had been signalled properly from Box A as a single light loco - ILC signalling bellcode 2-3 ("Is Line Clear for. .. ?" code; in this case, 2 bell beats, pause, 3 beats) -, if he could see any part of the complete loco, then that's the whole 'train'.

But what Mickey said certainly holds good in all respects for any other type of train.
And that includes two or more light engines coupled together : -
- If the second and any subsequent such locos were being hauled 'dead' by the first one, then it constitutes a freight train and the appropriate goods train ILC bellcode would reflect that.
- But if both/all the light locos were 'live' (manned, running and able to apply power) then the combination was first signalled 2-3 as for one light engine, but on passing A, when he would send B the bellcode for Train Entering Section (2 beats), then once the 2 was acknowledged back by B, then A would follow up by sending B the code 2-2 (Light engine assisting in Rear; to be ackn.'d back by B) for each and every loco behind the first.

In either of those cases, or for any train of hauled vehicles of course, the tail lamp/light(s) would have to be looked for or reported as present by the Guard or equivalent traincrew member.
BZOH

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

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:55 pm

The last lever frame box that I worked at was Acton Canal Wharf which was a small Midland Railway box on the 'Dudding Hill branch' back in June 1990 when I was 'on the relief' which had some Absolute block working with Neasden Junction or Dudding Hill when Neasden Junction was switched out. It was also Absolute block with Acton Wells Junction when I first passed out at the box until April 1989 when a panel was commissioned in 'the Wells' and it then became TCB (Track Circuit Block) with that box and the 'Conn line' a single line 'connecting line' with the Euston main line and Willesden's various marshalling yards which worked with Willesden PSB was worked under 'TCB single line' anyway I subsequently came off the relief and went back to Upper Holloway which was and still has a NX panel although I did work the Camden Road IFS panel for 12 years before returning to Upper Holloway for the last 16 years and counting.

Although the last time that I worked Absolute block with another box was when Harringay Park Junction box was closed in November 2009 when the last few remaining semaphore signals around Harringay Park Junction were abolished and TCB (Track Circuit Block) and full colour light signalling was extended throughout on the Gospel Oak-Barking line.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

S&T
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:00 pm

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by S&T » Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:05 am

Further question.......

Assuming a busy box (like Finsbury Park etc) with constant traffic one after the other......Once a 'Train out of Section' has been received from B and acknowledged by A, can A immediately offer a 'Is Line Clear for xxx' to B for the next train ...or does A have to send the single beat 'call attention' again first before sending the next ILC code?

Cheers
S&T

User avatar
StevieG
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2108
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:08 pm
Location: Near the GN main line in N.Herts.

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by StevieG » Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:20 pm

The good (green, Signalling Regulations) book gave no official dispensation for not using Call Attention in those circumstances S&T.
In practice things may (🙄 😉) have been somewhat different much of the time in some areas (perhaps some busier ones).
BZOH

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

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:41 pm

If you mean S&T when box B calls attention to box A and when the call attention is acknowledged by box A box B then gives train out of section to box A and if another train was immediately following would box A then call attention again to box B and once box B acknowledges the call attention box A describes a following train?. Well as far as it was usually practised YES is the answer that's how it was done at all the different boxes that I worked at BUT that is if the signalmen were working 'straight' with one another?. "Working straight" was a signalman's term meaning 'working the call attention' or as some signalmen would say the slang term "putting the dots on" with the box next door.

Signalmen were expected to ALWAYS work the block using the 'call attention' where it was required in the 'block regulations' but in reality (to make the work easier) it wasn't as many signalmen would work 'loose' as it was again known by signalmen and they would only 'work straight' when any signalling District Inspectors were in the box or if any management showed up at the box. A few signalmen always worked using the 'call attention' but most didn't.

From personal experience at a busy box using the 'call attention' it could slow the job down slightly I personally recall a number of times of having to work straight with the signalman next door at the next box because he may have had 'company' with him(?) meaning he had a manager in the box with him(?) or rarely he wanted to work 'straight' using the call attention (not many signalmen wanted to work straight all the time that I ever came across?) so by the time the bloke in the next box wanted to give me train out of section for a train that had just passed his box he would send me the call attention and I would have to go to the block shelf and answer his call attention he would then give me train out of section the 2-1 bell and I would have to acknowledge his 2-1 train out of section then he would 'un-peg' the needle meaning by putting the commutator (handle) on the block instrument back to NORMAL or LINE BLOCKED then I would have to ring the 'call attention' again to him and he would have to answer my call attention then I would then offer on a following train for acceptance and if he was in a position to accept it he would then acknowledge the is 'line clear' and then give me a 'line clear' on the block instrument so I could clear the 'section signal' but by then the train had come to a grinding halt outside the box!. It use to happen quite regular at one box I was at.

The easier way of doing the above was box B would just give 2-1 train out of section and restore the block instrument to NORMAL or LINE BLOCKED to box A and if another train was following box A would just offer on the train on the block instrument and get it accepted and pull off!!.

A lot seemed to be made about signalmen using the 'call attention' (or not using it?) but nothing was said or made of signalmen not giving the call attention and then having it acknowledged by the box in advance and then giving 2 bells train entering section or train on line?. Signalmen would just send the 2 bells train entering section and walk away from the block shelf regardless if it was acknowledged or not by the box in advance?.
Last edited by Mickey on Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

S&T
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 67
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:00 pm

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by S&T » Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:06 pm

Thanks for the response as always.....pretty much as I expected. Thanks for relaying your experiences.....very interesting and much appreciated.
S&T

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:06 pm

A small number of unofficial bell codes not found in the Signalling regulations were used around the railways.

On the GN (southern area maybe?) 1-2-1-2 Manager approaching the box so use the call attention or Manager in the box.
On the Midland (St Pancras area and maybe further north?) 1-2-1 Manager approaching the box so use the call attention or Manager in the box.
On the GN (southern area maybe?) 1-2 telling the signalman in the 'next door box' to go on the telephone.
On the Midland (St Pancras area and maybe further north?) 1-1 'rung slowly' telling the signalman in the 'next door box' to go on the telephone.

Later on towards the end of British Rail I believe the 1-1 bell telling the signalman in the 'next door box' to go on the telephone was made official and included in the official list of bell codes but by then most signalmen would just ring the 'direct phone line circuit' on a telephone concentrator to ring the next box and not bother with the 1-1 bell which was the practice on the North London line at any rate.

A bell that I remember being added to the list of official bell codes by British Rail back in the early 1980s was the 1-1-6 bell that meant
Police assistance urgently required this bell code was brought in after a small number of signalmen had unwelcome visitors come into signal boxes and they may have been threatened by these unauthorised guests?. The idea behind the 1-1-6 bell was simple in that a signalman who had a 'unwelcome visitor' in the box with him wouldn't be able to openly ring up for the police or for help from Control using the telephone but he could send the 1-1-6 bell to all the other boxes that his box worked with and then hopefully assistants would be summoned quickly?. The reality may have been different?. Because the 1-1-6 bell wasn't hardly if ever used a signalman sending the 1-1-6 bell to other boxes would no doubt get his telephone ringing with the signalmen in the other boxes asking- "What did you just give me?." Defeating the object of discreetly summoning police assistance?.

As far as I know the 1-1-6 bell code Police assistance urgently required is still in the list of official bell codes but I personally have never used it in over the last 40+ years in signalling.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

User avatar
StevieG
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2108
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:08 pm
Location: Near the GN main line in N.Herts.

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by StevieG » Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:08 am

Another unofficial idea I recall hearing of Mickey, - an equivalent to 1-1 I think - was perhaps used on the LNW or GCR.
This was to ring 1 on the block bell to call 'next door' onto the 'phone; but in doing so, the bell tapper was held down for about 2 to 3 seconds before releasing it; so possibly (depending on the precise adjustment of the hammer hitting the dome) making the bell ring a bit more 'dull' than usual, and then (after the 2 - 3 seconds) the hammer would be heard to fall back to its de-energised position.
I think that verbally, doing this was referred to as something like "Giving him a flat 'un".
BZOH

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

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:35 am

Mickey wrote:
Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:41 pm
A lot seemed to be made about signalmen using the 'call attention' (or not using it?) but nothing was said or made of signalmen not giving the call attention and then having it acknowledged by the box in advance and then giving 2 bells train entering section or train on line?. Signalmen would just send the 2 bells train entering section and walk away from the block shelf regardless if it was acknowledged or not by the box in advance?.
I shall qualify this post. Mostly every time train entering section (2 bells) was given to the box in advance the signalman at that box would usually ALWAYS acknowledge the 'on line' from the box in the rear and it was quite rare for a signalman not to acknowledge train entering section 2 bells from another box an exception being maybe he was in the toilet when he received 'on line' or he was busy dealing with other traffic but even then if a signalman was 'on the frame' or on the phone he would usually acknowledge a train entering section from another box even if it was just by 'pegging' to 'train on line' on the block instrument even if he didn't actually ring the 2 bells on the tapper on the block instrument or block bell.

I believe the old Midland Railway use to have there signalmen 'call attention' before sending 'train entering section' to the box in advance but at some point in time that practice was either officially or unofficially abolished?.
Last edited by Mickey on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:15 am, edited 4 times in total.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

Mickey
GNSR D40 4-4-0
Posts: 233
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:27 am

Re: Absolute Block Signalling Question

Post by Mickey » Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:42 am

StevieG wrote:
Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:08 am
Another unofficial idea I recall hearing of Mickey, - an equivalent to 1-1 I think - was perhaps used on the LNW or GCR.
This was to ring 1 on the block bell to call 'next door' onto the 'phone; but in doing so, the bell tapper was held down for about 2 to 3 seconds before releasing it; so possibly (depending on the precise adjustment of the hammer hitting the dome) making the bell ring a bit more 'dull' than usual, and then (after the 2 - 3 seconds) the hammer would be heard to fall back to its de-energised position.
I think that verbally, doing this was referred to as something like "Giving him a flat 'un".
Absolutely correct Stevie in fact now that you mention doing it the way that you describe I remember doing it that way myself occasionally and other signalmen doing that way as well. On the North London line from the time that I worked on it at the very start of the 1980s sometimes if you wanted the bloke 'next door' to come on the phone it was more often than not a 1-1 rung slow i.e. 1 long pause 1 but also I do remember the 1 bell held down for 2-3 seconds as you state Stevie with some signalmen doing it that way and some signalmen did it the other way and I sometimes did it either way. If you wanted to talk with the signalman 'next door' it was so easy just to tap 1-2 or 1-1 or just the 1 bell held down on the block bell and then pick up the circuit phone to speak to the signalman next door rather than messing about dialling the phone number or pressing the 'correct rings' on the circuit phone to get the signalman next door to come on the phone.

All these little ways and customs in signalling gradually died out as small line side boxes were closed and power box signalling took over larger areas.
Original start date of 2010 on the LNER forum and previously posted 4500+ posts.

Post Reply