Slack signals?

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Mickey
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Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

I was watching a DVD called St Pancras Suburban of mostly amateur colour film shot during the 1970s and in parts along the Midland main line between St Pancras-Bedford and at two locations in particular Elstree and Napsbury the main running lines semaphore stop signals are all showing a bad 'wrong' indication wise for approaching trains!. At Elstree the Down fast and Down slow lines starting signals which were both double-co acting signal arms and both carried on two separate tall posts (several hundred yards beyond Elstree s/box) with both co-acting signal arms both showing off at about 8-10 degrees off the horizontal angle for an approaching Down 'peak' hauled express on the Down fast line and again at about 8-10 degrees off the horizontal angle for a DMU 'local' train on the Down slow line as well. At Napsbury a similar situation prevailed with the Up fast line home signal being again another double-co acting signal arms carried on a tall lattice post with both arms off at about a 10 degrees angle off the horizontal for an Up 'peak' hauled express and the Up slow line home signal showing off for a Up DMU 'local' train and again the home signal arms are double-co acting signal arms carried on another tall lattice signal post and again shows both arms off at about a 10 degrees angle off the horizontal?. Every time I have watched this DVD over the last 15-16 years it makes me 'cringe' to observe those particular signals as they're all hardly showing an off indication at all?. Personally speaking a few turns of the metal T-bar in the signal adjuster (where provided) wouldn't have gone amiss at both locations and the signals concerned at both locations were clearly 'in sight' of the signalmen and at Elstree in particular possibly were also indicated by a 'signal indicator' as well on the block shelf which would have indicated the signal arm hanging 'WRONG' when the individual signal lever was pulled off by the signalman?. I believe both locations were filmed during the long hot summer of 1976 and may well have been 'let out' (adjusted) by the signalmen during the previous evening/night when it had cooled down and weren't adjusted (tightened up) again when it 'warmed up' again the following day?.

For a upper quadrant semaphore signal usually 45 degrees angle off the horizontal line is regarded as a 'good signal arm off indication' for such a signal.

Also a minor irritation regarding the closure date of St Albans North s/box which is given on a couple of TVP DVDS as either 1967 and 1969 when in fact it was just before Christmas of 1970 (December 20th I believe?) because I visited St Albans South s/box on three separate occasions in October and November of 1970 and St Albans North s/box WAS STILL WORKING at the time of my three box visits to the south box.
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thesignalman
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by thesignalman »

I woz there in the 1970s! Not guilty m'Lord.

Seriously, the Down Starters at Elstree were very easily adjusted with ratchet wheels, and most signalmen I knew when I worked there kept on top of things. The Up Homes at Napsbury were not adjustable by the signalman, but I don't remember any issues with slackness when I worked there, so I think your film must have been filmed on an extremely hot day. I would say in the view below they are just under 45° but not ambiguous at all.

John
Photo: J Hinson 1979
Photo: J Hinson 1979
"BX there, boy!"
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rockinjohn
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by rockinjohn »

Hi all remember when on Holiday @ Bournemouth in the mid'70's & taking a break from wife &two kids &heading to the Central Station for some traffic viewing and much to my amazement discovering all traffic halted....the rails somewhere in the New Forest had buckled from the heat,must have been hot, my foot swelled &couldnt get my shoe on!jj
Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

Yeah I knew you did work at Napsbury at one time John as well as other boxes on the Midland main line out of St Pancras during the 1970s and I guessed it wouldn't have been an issue (signals 'hanging wrong' indication) when you was working the box and as far as when the amateur film sequence was filmed at Napsbury yes I believe it was during the long hot summer of 1976. At all mechanical s/boxes all over the railway usually some semaphore signals worked by a particular s/box could be adjusted by the signalman to either be 'tightened up' during warm/hot weather or 'slackened off' during cold/freezing weather the signal wire leading from the box to the weight bar of the signal post concerned usually via a cast iron 'signal adjusting apparatus' mounted low down on the box wall behind the lever concerned. This signal adjusting apparatus was usually worked by slotting in a metal T-bar into the signal adjusting apparatus and then either turned to the left to 'slacken off' the signal wire or turned to the right to 'tighten up' the signal wire as required.

As for when it was decided when a 'signal adjusting apparatus' was provided in a s/box for a certain signal that could be adjusted by the signalman but many of the other signals at the same box weren't provided with a signal adjusting apparatus so couldn't be adjusted by the signalman I never really knew why it was so?.

Semaphore signals that couldn't be adjusted by the signalman that either required to be 'tightened up' or 'slackened off' the only other way to do that job was to call the S&T linesmen out and then they would have to come to the box and then go 'underneath' the box and find the signal lever concerned and adjust the signal wire that way.

Ha ha I can remember visiting Napsbury and standing at the same vantage point from where the picture above was taken on a overbridge across the railway back in 1970 and wondering if I could somehow visit the box(?) although I never did visit the box. Also I was told back then that Napsbury box suffered an unfortunate number of human suicides on the railway near to the box being as it was close to a mental asylum named Colney Hatch.
Last edited by Mickey on Thu Mar 28, 2024 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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thesignalman
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by thesignalman »

I think the decision on whether to provide adjusters or not was based purely on distance from the box.

I worked quite a few shifts at Elstree that summer, and it was certainly steamy in the box - especially during the rush hours.

The hospital near Napsbury was called . . . . . Napsbury! The box had a direct phone to the hospital for incidents, and an official packet of biscuits to calm escapees. It also had a direct line to the airport control tower for a different kind of escapee. The remains of a plane are buried alongside the line to this day, as far as I know. Today the hospital is a respectable housing estate, I think anyone who wants to live there must be nuts, ha ha. The official walking route to the box was through the hospital. There were two other hospitals nearby too - Shenley and Harperbury.

Nearby is the village of London Colney, which is probably why you thought of Colney Hatch, but that one was in Friern Barnet. It too is now residential housing.

Best regards,

John
"BX there, boy!"
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

With regards to the 'signal adjusting apparatus' being provided at boxes I occasionally tried to workout in my mind why a few semaphore signals at a box had 'adjusters' and many of the others didn't there didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason why a few did and most didn't?.

I recall my time at Welwyn Garden City as a 'box lad' (1972-74) no.24 the Down main line 'starter' heading towards Welwyn North had a signal adjuster behind the lever and quite possibly no.32 the Up fast line 'starter' heading towards Hatfield no.2 did as well and maybe also no.46 the Up slow line 'starter' heading towards Hatfield no.2 also did. I remember one time the signalman (Harry Fitzgerald) pulling off no.24 signal lever and the signal indication was 'hanging wrong' so he put the lever back 3/4 of the way in the frame and pulled off again but the indication was still 'hanging wrong' so he got the metal T-bar and slotted it into the adjuster for no 24 signal lever and 'tightened it up' while holding the lever out of the frame (if the lever had been put back in the frame 'all the way' it would have required another 'line clear' release from Welwyn North to pull it off again which would have meant 'cancelling off' the train on the block and and re-offering the train to Welwyn North again) and after 2 or 3 turns of the T-bar to the 'right' after which Harry pulled the T-bar out of the 'adjuster' and threw the T-bar on the box floor(!) and then pulled off no.24 lever/signal again and this time it came off to a 'good off indication' in the signal indicator anyway I assume it must have been a warm day that day?.

Personally I have 'tightened up' or 'let out' a few signal wires by using a 'signal adjuster' in the box during my time as a signalman (1980-2022) but it wasn't that often done unless it was either a VERY HOT DAY or a VERY COLD DAY especially if it was snowing or was freezing cold and usually then only 2, 3 or 4 turns of the metal T-bar in the signal adjuster way was sufficient either way.

Napsbury looked like a nice little job John and situated in a nice location.

At Napsbury I noticed the Down slow line 'starter' a semaphore signal was situated quite a distance from the box heading towards St Albans South box although I noticed that there was no equivalent Down fast line 'starting signal' heading towards St Albans South box on the fast line though?.

I believe the signalman at St Albans South box a bloke named Brian must have told me about the unfortunate suicides taking place around Napsbury back in 1970 when I visited the box on three separate occasions in October & November of that year when Brian was at the box and I think he was a resident signalman at the south box at that time and if he's still alive I would say he must be up in his 80s now?.
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

John several years ago you once remarked that you knew Roy Bowley and I wondered how you knew Roy so obviously you knew Roy when you worked Elstree and Roy was at Hendon (next box south of Elstree on the fast lines only) anyway I came across Roy when I first went to Junction Road in late 1981 and he was then at Gospel Oak box on the north London line which I presume he got on redundance when Hendon closed in April 1981.

As for Elstree box John a nice fairly large typical Midland Railway box and a nice job to work I presume.
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thesignalman
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by thesignalman »

Yes, I knew Roy of course at both places he worked. I don't think he would have been displaced as such as he was, I think, one of several who came to the London area on loan, but chose to stay in the area when the loan was no longer needed.

Yes, Elstree was a nice box (I found it easy to work as I visited unofficially as a child) but many relief-men didn't like it owing to the number of signals (five on the Down, four on the Up) with some of them quite heavy pulls owing to the distance from the box. I can still remember the distinct smell of the combination of floor polish and cigarettes there and at other boxes in the area.

John
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

With regards to Roy I think he may have come from the Nottingham area?. Roy and Otis Farley the other resident signalman at Gospel Oak for the most part both use to work Gospel Oak box between themselves working 12 hours shifts when I was at Junction Road during the early 1980s.

With regards to Elstree s/box I recall visiting the station maybe around 1973-74 although I never visited the box but I vaguely recall quite a few 'signal wires' originating from the box which was located on the Up side of the x4 running lines and hearing the 'swish' of the signal wires being pulled through the signal wire pulleys track side.
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

I once pulled a upper quadrant signal arm 'right over the top of it's post' when I was at Acton Wells Junction one day just prior to the NX panel being commissioned in the spring of 1989. The stop signal that I pulled 'over the top' also had the Bollo Lane motorised distant signal beneath it and also to it's right but lower down the stop signal for the junction onto the Down Poplar lines heading towards Acton Main line & Acton yard which was fairly close to the box so I 'nipped out' the box and climbed up the signal post to the top and 'pushed the signal arm' back to the ON position and then quickly climbed down the signal post and nipped back in the box!.

I pulled the signal lever out of the lever frame and didn't quite complete the reverse 'stroke' and the lever moved slightly back into the lever frame before I pulled it off completing the full reverse of the lever that pulled the signal arm 'right over the top of the post' which caused a slight panic before I thought I better 'nip out the box' and go 'up the signal post' and push the signal arm back to the ON position otherwise 'faulting it' and then having to wait for the S&T to show up may have taken and hour or more and in the meantime I would still have to signal trains pass that 'defective' signal and dealing with a 'defective signal' and having to stop trains and talk to divers to tell them to pass said 'defective signal' would have caused A BIG HEADACH for me so it was easier and a lot quicker to go and do it myself!!.
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

With regards to semaphore signals I was once personally involved in a incident when I was working a box on nights which involved the 'working of a signal' that resulted in getting 'two trains in a block section' between two s/boxes in a Absolute block section.

The said incident happened back in either 1983 or 1984 when I was working nights all week at a box named Junction Road Junction on the Tottenham & Hampstead line which became part of the north London lines. From memory sometime between 2:30-3:00 am the signal wire working the Down T&H line starting signal towards Upper Holloway s/box (which was 'switched out' at the time) 'broke' between the box and the signal. Upper Holloway's Down T&H line semaphore distant signal was beneath the Junction Road semaphore starting signal but has no bearing on the incident it just meant that once the Down T&H line starting signal was 'pulled off' Upper Holloway's semaphore distant signal would also 'come off' as well.

Sometime before or around 3:00 am I phoned the S&T linesmen and told them that the signal wire for the Down T&H line starting signal had broken and was told that they were on there way and would be 'on site' within the next 30 minutes. Fortunately it happened at a 'quiet time of the night' with no traffic about anyway the S&T linesmen duly turned up around 3:30 am and 're-attached' the signal wire and after several 'pulls of the lever' the broken signal wire was 'signed back in order' although I did notice the pulling of the signal lever seemed a bit 'heavier' than usual but just thought it would gradually become easier to work after a few hours?.

A little time before 5:00 am a set of empties (a DMU from Cricklewood to Barking) arrived at my Down Tottenham line 'home' signal which was a colour light signal and stopped because I was running a freight coming down off the north London line from Gospel Oak and heading towards the Barking direction (which was quite possibly the Swansea-Dagenham vans from vague memory?) anyway the freight went through passing my box and I gave 'on line' (train entering section) to Harringay Park Junction box the next box along that I was working with and after putting both the Down T&H line colour light home signal lever and also the Down T&H line starting signal lever back in the lever frame and giving 'out' (train out of section) back to Gospel Oak (box) I then 'set the road up' for the empties to come off the Down Tottenham line and to drop up to the Down line starting signal to await train out of section from Harringay Park Junction for the freight train that was then running through the block section between both s/boxes after which once I received 'out of section' for the freight I would get the 'empties' accepted by Harringay and run the empties.

Looking from the box window I saw the red tail lamp of the Down freight train fast disappearing around the left-hand curve towards Upper Holloway when I put the Down T&H line starting signal lever back in the lever frame and then I 'set the road up' for the empties to come off the Down Tottenham line and to drop up to the Down line starting signal to await acceptance from Harringay Park Junction which was my intension. Anyway a minute later the empty DMU passed my box heading towards the Down line starting signal to 'await the road' as I said with myself 'believing' that the starting signal was at DANGER but to my surprise the empty DMU 'sailed past my starting signal' and only then I saw that the 'Down starter' with the Upper Holloway distant signal beneath it were both showing a green light in the darkness with both signal arms showing OFF!!.

So two trains were both running through the block section at the same time first the freight train which when it passed my box was going at a fair speed and behind it a empty DMU!. Anyway I informed the signalman at Harringay Park Junction and reported myself to the Control and after an investigation of sorts I received a 'written reprimand' over the incident that was also entered on my signalman's record under "Failing to observe a signal returning to the ON position" and from memory that rule about observing a signal returning to danger was either in the B.R. Rule book or the B.R. Signalman's Signalling Regulation book anyway it was a fair judgement I suppose although there were subsequently mitigating circumstances.

It came to light that what actually transpired was when the S&T linesmen re-attached the broken signal wire somehow 'in the darkness' they managed to 'wrap' the broken signal wire underneath and over some points rodding that ran from the box to just beyond the Down T&H line starting signal (the point rodding worked a double-ended set of points leading off the Down T&H line onto the Down Reception line that ran for about 400-450 yards to Upper Holloway s/box and also the rodding for the FPL (Facing Point Lock as well for the facing set of points) and that was why the signal became a 'heavy pull' when it was tested and subsequently used by me. Also something that I thought was possibly relevant and contributed to this 'incident' was even though the Down T&H line starting signal wasn't situated to far away from the box (possibly about 300 yards distance?) a brick overbridge abutment partially obscured a 'clear view of this signal' when 'looking along the line towards it' and personally I believe that a 'signal indicator' that would have shown if the signal arm was either ON or OFF should have been provided on the block shelf above the Down T&H line starting signal lever but it never was and at the time of this incident the box only had about a year or two left before it was finally closed and abolished in November of 1985.

The Down Tottenham line was designated the UP TOTTENHAM LINE from Carlton Road Junction on the Midland main line past Mortimer Street to as far as the Junction Road Junction 'home' signal a x3 aspect colour light located underneath the 'covered way' after which the line designation changed from the Up Tottenham line to the Down Tottenham line for about 200 yards before 'the road' fed into the Down Tottenham & Hampstead line from Gospel Oak at the junction points outside Junction Road Junction (box) and then run all the way to Woodgrange Park near Barking as the Down T&H line.
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

I have three colour photographs that were taken (by me I believe?) inside Junction Road Junction s/box during the evening time (it's dark outside the box and the box clock shows 9:20 pm) and these three colour photographs were taken sometime during the early 1980s during the time of the above post of mine referring to the 'broken signal wire' incident in the early hours of the morning, anyway I shall try and get these three photographs posted on here hopefully during this coming week fingers X ??.
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

Another little tale from the same box was a incident that happed over 40 plus years ago when I was working the box on a night turn one weekday night. It was early one morning around 5:00 am and it was broad daylight outside the box so it was during the summertime anyway the s/box 'next door' was 'switched out' so the Absolute block section was lengthened between my box and the next box along the line going east of my box anyway from vague memory a train of parcel vehicles that was being hauled by a blue livered class 31 came 'Up road' and as it passed my box I first put the Up distant signal lever back in the (lever) frame followed by the 1st Up home signal lever the signal of which was on a straight signal post and could be seen from the box window and finally the 2nd Up home signal lever back in the (lever) frame. The 2nd Up home signal was one of two signal arms on a bracket signal post which was situated the other side of the close by railway overbridge so this bracket signal post and it's signal arms (the right-hand arm for the straight route and the left-hand arm for the junction route) couldn't be seen from the box but were repeated via a 'signal indicator' mounted on the block shelf in the box but these signals have no bearing on what was to happen shortly. Anyway back to the passing train of parcel vans or vehicles going by outside the box and as the rear of the train passed the box I saw the tail lamp (an oil lamp) and I gave 'out' (train out of section) to the box in the rear and normalised the block instrument commutator on the block instrument back to the 'normal' position on the block instrument as would normally be done and then turned away from the lever frame and wrote the passing train times up in the train register book that was laying on the high desk opposite the lever frame and block shelf. About one minute later or thereabouts with a 'clear block section' between both s/boxes the berth track circuit on the approach to the 1st Up home signal 'lit up' (illuminated) on my box track diagram and the 'block needle' in the Up line block instrument 'flicked over' to train on line?. So I turned and stood at the box window and looked along the line towards the 1st Up home signal which was situated on a bit of a curve just as a blue livered class 31 was just drawing up to the that home signal that was standing at danger.

To be fair there was a I.B. section (Intermediate block section and an associated stop signal that was worked by the box in the rear) so 'maybe' the driver of the class 31 arrived at the I.B. signal and found the phone on the signal post wasn't working (defective) so he took it upon himself to pass at danger the I.B. signal which was allowed in the B.R. Rule book for a driver to do that if the phone was 'defective' at a I.B. signal although if that did happen it would have been 'nice' if the bloke in the next box that controlled that signal who I was working with all night had told me but nothing was said to me on the box circuit phone about any light engine coming up road following behind the train of parcel vans?.
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Mickey
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by Mickey »

I was a resident signalman at another box named Victoria Park in Hackney Wick east London between 1980-1981 and on the Down line (it may have been originally named the Down Poplar line but it was shown as that on the box diagram) heading towards the disused Homerton station a I.B. (Intermediate Block) section existed between the box and the Down I.B. semaphore stop signal situated on a wide sweeping right-hand curve towards Homerton and carried on a fairly tall straight white tubular metal signal post (the I.B. distant a semaphore signal was mounted on a medium size lattice signal post underneath the Down starter a few yards from the box) anyway I 'let out' the signal wire on the Down I.B.H. signal and it worked a lot easier to pull off. Not long after 'letting out' the signal wire on this signal my relief showed up in the box and we changed over and my relief started working the box while I had signed off duty and waited in the box to catch a ride on the next Down train which was a x2 car Cravens unit on a North Woolwich-Camden Road passenger service. Anyway my mate stopped the train outside the box (you could do that sort of thing on B.R. but that kind of thing stopped under the privatised set up after B.R. was abolished) and I climbed up into the guards brake compartment open door and we set off from the box and rode onto the long sweeping curve towards the Down I.B. home signal which was standing at about 8 degrees in the off position!!. The actual signal arm on approaching the signal looked like it was standing at danger!. Anyway the driver kept on going and when we finally arrived at Camden Road I went up to him (because I was riding in the train and not with the driver in the units cab) and I said to him that the Victoria Park Down I.B.H. signal didn't look to good (meaning it wasn't showing a good off indication?) and he laughed but he knew who I was a signalman anyway I quickly rang up my mate at Victoria Park box from Camden Road station and told him that he better 'tighten up' the Down I.B.H. ASAP because it was hardly showing a 'off indication' to approaching drivers!!.

The Down line I.B. home did have a 'signal repeater indicator' on the block shelf immediately above the signal lever although 'I didn't pull the signal off' for 'my train home' after my relief arrived in the box so I would assume that when he got a 'line clear' from Western Junction box (Dalston) for the 3-1 North Woolwich to Camden Road passenger train and he pulled the Down I.B. home signal off it would have shown the signal arm in the indication on the block shelf as 'wrong' and not a 'full off' indication.
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rockinjohn
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Re: Slack signals?

Post by rockinjohn »

Hi don"t usually "buy in" to your signalling posts&memories, but read avidly, but noticed your "Down Poplar" line mention, I assume there was an "UP" also,the title of the lines going wayback to LNWR times, even to this day the connection with the Western Region lines @ Acton Wells (Victoria Park jnc long gone)are still called the Poplar lines, much to my surprise,the Poplar Docks area had separate goods sheds for all companies, except the Southern England Area Companies & a very large footprint with traffic from GWR/LNWR/NLR &LNER,can remember two(2) separate photographs of arriving goods trains on the approach lines showing a J52 &97XX(Western Region)locos,I visited the docks when very young, so little memory of that visit,but did visit later when the only traffic on show was Steel Traffic on Bolster Wagons shunted by an "03"shunter in blue ex:(30A) I assume, never found out what bought the trains in, possibly ex: Temple Mills trip by a 31or37 or maybe the latter an ex: South Wales thru working, often saw these in the "Street"loaned for the Norwich/Ipswich trains but these could have been borrowed from the Parkston Quay Freightliner turns ex: South Wales.jj
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