Welcome to Trent, the panel at the heart of the East Midlands and the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Some people claimed Trent would be a dull panel to simulate. Well, where else will you see a triple triangle junction, automatic shunt aspects and trams? You'll be surprised of how complex this area is.
The real Trent, which opened in 1969, controls the area from just north of Loughborough to the south, Nottingham to the east, just short of Chesterfield in the north and Spondon in the west. The SimSig version of Trent also includes Kirkby Summit panel, encompassing Mansfield, and a number of mechanical boxes to the east up to Newark and Allington. The southern half of the Robin Hood line is covered. A surprise to the research team is that Trent also has some control over the northern part of the Nottingham Express Transit system; this is because the tram and Robin Hood line run parallel and share a number of level crossings.
At the time of opening, coal was king in the area, with numerous collieries in the northern area. Trains took this to Toton, which had several major marshalling yards, and then this in turn was taken to several power stations which were dotted along the River Trent, and further afield. Sadly, a lot of the collieries closed in the 1980s, along with the closure of Nottingham and Castle Donnington power stations. Today there are no open coalmines within the area, the only ones are to the northeast of Mansfield.
Because of the high proportion of freight, a lot of the lines are goods only lines. These were operated under permissive regulations, which allowed more than one train into a section at a time. When the panel was originally opened, permissive working existed on all of the goods lines, this was accompanied by an unusual feature, automatic calling on lights. In the modern period, the only stretches remaining of permissive working are the up goods between Bennerley and Trowell, and the up goods between Mansfield Jn and Beeston.
Following a derailment in the 1980s, the down goods line through Erewash valley was taken out of use, although most of the track and the signals remained in situ until August 2007. (Indeed, I recall my first journey along Erewash in the 1990s when all of a sudden we passed a tree growing out of the middle of the down goods line!)
When Trent opened, Sleight East and Lincoln St were fringe boxes. The original line from Bestwood to Kirkby closed in the 70s, but was reopened as the Robin Hood line for passenger trains in the 90s, initially as far as Newstead, then to Mansfield Woodhouse and finally to Worksop. Initially, this was not controlled by Trent, but when NET was constructed, the mechanical boxes at Lincoln St and Bestwood were closed, the single line extended to Bulwell South, and a new sub panel at Trent opened. The mechanical boxes between Kirkby and Shirebrook were also closed and replaced by a panel at Kirkby Summit (unattractively housed in a portacabin).
The two boxes on the goods lines at Pinxton and Sleights East remained however, until August 2007. These is little traffic and it was often remarked that signallers there sometimes worked a whole shift without a single train.
In August 2007, the first phase of the East Midlands multi million pound resignalling project started, which will eventually see the closure of Trent, Kirkby Summit as well as Derby, Leicester and all of the mechanical boxes remaining in the area. This first phase involved remodelling Pye Bridge and Trowell Jn, and converting the up goods to a bi-directional slow line. The second phase involved remodelling Clay Cross, and the transfer of Tapton and Chesterfield from Tapton. The third phase involved Toton to Trowell. SimSig Trent is modelled on the layout before the resignalling.
As is traditional with SimSig, a number of siding entrances which have been closed are still functional. Although a new feature of the simulation is that you need to select to right era to enable these.
Ground frames are introduced for the first time. These control points remotely, the extent of your control is to release them, which will only be possible if the interlocking allows. Once the manoeuvre is complete, the remote controller will replace his/her king lever, and you will be able to relock the ground frame.
Level crossings have a clear button. Once you have checked the crossing is clear of obstruction, you need to operate the button to release the signals.
Although you do not set the routes for trams, you control the crossings that are shared between NET and NR. If a user needs to cross, you need to operate the replacement button.
The area to the east of Nottingham is not part of Trent. Although included, it has been setup so that it can be operated automatically.
It is possible to allow passenger trains onto the goods line sections, however, because there are no overlaps, there is a strict rule that only one passenger train can be in a section at a time. Breach of this rule carries a heavy penalty.
On starting the sim, there is a new simulation options screen. Together with the scenario tab, that means you have over 4,000 different situation possibilities. Included is a period option. It is important to make sure the period you select is compatible with the timetable. (Note - in the beta version, only one era is available.)
TORR on/off -default is TORR off, unlike previous sims, which causes set routes to NOT release after the train passes.
Sim Period- (currently only one available)
Gradients are introduced to SimSig. The most severe are those towards aptly named Kirkby Summit.
Kirkby Summit 'Request Slot'
Can be disabled by clicking on “internal slot” at the beginning of the game, if you wish. If you play alone you just have to press the request button twice.
It is intended for playing in multiplayer. Whoever needs the route will press the button for the first time, then the receiving signaller, if it is safe to allow a train onto the section will press the button a second time. Only then the route can be set.
The simulation data has been compiled by Kurt Sickelmore.
Thanks to the original author of SimSig Geoff Mayo for providing assistance in many areas, and for adapting the core code to make this simulation even more enjoyable.
Thanks to Clive Feather for the thousands of email exchanges, advice and support on the custom code programming. Anything you need to know about level crossings, see Clive!
Thanks to Chris Law whose extremely useful contacts gained access to the real Trent panel and made the simulation a realistic possibility.
Thanks to Daan Krantz, Guy Hortsmann, Chris Lord, Tony Hutchins, Darren Goble, Darren Towler, Howard Potter, Andy Brown, James Nelhams, James Warwick, Tom Nicholson and Jamie Steel for their constant testing and breaking, who at times had to endure a new version every few hours.
Thanks to Joel Pearson for his hosting of the “Introduction to Trent” sessions.
Thanks to the team at Network Rail who were very accommodating and provided a wealth of information to assist not just with the simulation, but also the timetables.