Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 12/12/2019 at 23:35 #122246
TUT
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I've been wondering about the practicalities of crossing trains at crossing places on electric token block lines.

So let's imagine we are at box B and we have a train approaching from box A and another, in the other direction, from box C.

We must (generally) keep both home signals at danger. When the first train to be allowed to draw forward has stopped, we can clear the home signal for this train to proceed into the loop.

Now, we're gonna have to get the token from the driver of this train. The Rule Book also states

Quote:
When the train arrives at your signal box, the driver will give you the token. You must observe the train as it passes the signal box and make sure it has a tail lamp at the rear.
I can imagine this is not necessarily going to be that straightforward in reality. I have seen several plans with the signal box located in the centre of one or other platform. But even if the signal box is located so that a train in one direction will pass the box on its way to stop in the loop, one in the other direction will most certainly not.

So the Rule Book presumably has this in mind when it says:

Quote:
When it is necessary to send train out of section before the last vehicle of the train passes your signal box, you must make sure the train has arrived, complete with tail lamp, before doing so.
How exactly would that have been done - particularly in the days where electric token block was very common and most trains using these lines were not necessarily 1/2/3-car DMUs. If the train is more or less the length of the platform and the signal box is in the centre of it, it will surely be impractical for the signaller to observe the tail lamp themselves.

I wonder if consideration was ever given to the location of the signal box when deciding which train should be allowed into the loop first.

So anyway, assuming we have satisfied ourselves that the train, complete with tail lamp, has passed clear of the section and is clear of any points leading to the section, we place the token in the instrument and send train out of section. For the sake of the argument, let's say we're giving out of section for the train from box A.

So now we presumably send is line clear to A for the train from C, withdraw a token and lower the signals. Is it likely that we would wait until we could clear all the signals for the train from C, or might we, seeing it standing at the home signal, bring it into the loop before we start exchanging bell signals with box A?

So now we have to go down, give the token to the train from C for the section to A and get the token for the previous section.

Now assuming the train departs straight away, we'll be able to watch it past the box and then replace the token once we've observed the tail lamp and send train out of section to C. But what if it is booked to dwell in the loop for a while, or what if there is an unexpected delay. What if some thoughtless porter has delivered the wrong kind of food trolley?

So anyway, assuming we have satisfied ourselves that the train, complete with tail lamp, has passed clear of the section and is clear of any points leading to the section, as before we place the token in the instrument and send train out of section to C this time. Now presumably we send is line clear to C, get another token, lower the signals for the first train that arrived and then go to deliver the token to the driver.

I understand that electric token block has always been a bit of a faff, and that this led to various developments like lineside token deliverers and receivers, and then tokenless block and RETB and NSTR and direction levers and slots and so on and so forth.

But I wonder what consideration was given to the smooth working of this system (assuming I have described it correctly above). Would the timetable be constructed so one train would be booked to arrive first and have an extended dwell and the one booked to arrive second would have a much shorter dwell time. If the "wrong" train arrives at the home signal first, would you, or would you not, try to make sure trains arrive into the loop in the right order and hold that train?

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 09:29 #122249
kbarber
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All depends on circumstances, but usually there were procedures that were well understood.

TUT in post 122246 said:
I've been wondering about the practicalities of crossing trains at crossing places on electric token block lines.

So let's imagine we are at box B and we have a train approaching from box A and another, in the other direction, from box C.

We must (generally) keep both home signals at danger. When the first train to be allowed to draw forward has stopped, we can clear the home signal for this train to proceed into the loop.

Now, we're gonna have to get the token from the driver of this train. The Rule Book also states

Quote:
When the train arrives at your signal box, the driver will give you the token. You must observe the train as it passes the signal box and make sure it has a tail lamp at the rear.
I can imagine this is not necessarily going to be that straightforward in reality. I have seen several plans with the signal box located in the centre of one or other platform. But even if the signal box is located so that a train in one direction will pass the box on its way to stop in the loop, one in the other direction will most certainly not.

So the Rule Book presumably has this in mind when it says:

Quote:
When it is necessary to send train out of section before the last vehicle of the train passes your signal box, you must make sure the train has arrived, complete with tail lamp, before doing so.
How exactly would that have been done - particularly in the days where electric token block was very common and most trains using these lines were not necessarily 1/2/3-car DMUs. If the train is more or less the length of the platform and the signal box is in the centre of it, it will surely be impractical for the signaller to observe the tail lamp themselves.

The usual procedure is that the guard gives an indication by handsignal that the train has arrived complete. If being particularly pedantic he will make a show of looking at the rear of the last vehicle before doing so, but if he was riding in the rear vehicle anyway (or if it's a goods brake van) that might be considered a bit superfluous.

TUT in post 122246 said:
I wonder if consideration was ever given to the location of the signal box when deciding which train should be allowed into the loop first.

Not as far as I'm aware, given the range of box locations we typically find.

TUT in post 122246 said:
So anyway, assuming we have satisfied ourselves that the train, complete with tail lamp, has passed clear of the section and is clear of any points leading to the section, we place the token in the instrument and send train out of section. For the sake of the argument, let's say we're giving out of section for the train from box A.

So now we presumably send is line clear to A for the train from C, withdraw a token and lower the signals. Is it likely that we would wait until we could clear all the signals for the train from C, or might we, seeing it standing at the home signal, bring it into the loop before we start exchanging bell signals with box A?

So now we have to go down, give the token to the train from C for the section to A and get the token for the previous section.

If the train from C is at or approaching the home by the time we get the token back into the box, it would make sense to pull off in to the loop before asking on to A.

If there's time, you'd ask on and withdraw the token before pulling off (including the back board if you're quick enough). You'd then go down as the train approaches and exchange tokens. Remember that, back in the day, token changes would be done with the train still moving. And on some secondary main lines such as the M&GN that could be done (in reality) at speeds up to 40mph with manual exchange; I suspect 60mph was possible where automatic exchangers existed.

TUT in post 122246 said:
Now assuming the train departs straight away, we'll be able to watch it past the box and then replace the token once we've observed the tail lamp and send train out of section to C. But what if it is booked to dwell in the loop for a while, or what if there is an unexpected delay. What if some thoughtless porter has delivered the wrong kind of food trolley?

See above; the guard gives the tip.

Incidentally, where trains were booked to be put in sidings and couldn't pass the box, a 'tail lamp plunger' would sometimes be provided for the guard to press, that would give an indication in the box. Totally dependent on location, policy, intensity of service and the availability of funds.

TUT in post 122246 said:
So anyway, assuming we have satisfied ourselves that the train, complete with tail lamp, has passed clear of the section and is clear of any points leading to the section, as before we place the token in the instrument and send train out of section to C this time. Now presumably we send is line clear to C, get another token, lower the signals for the first train that arrived and then go to deliver the token to the driver.

That's about the size of it.

TUT in post 122246 said:
I understand that electric token block has always been a bit of a faff, and that this led to various developments like lineside token deliverers and receivers, and then tokenless block and RETB and NSTR and direction levers and slots and so on and so forth.

But I wonder what consideration was given to the smooth working of this system (assuming I have described it correctly above). Would the timetable be constructed so one train would be booked to arrive first and have an extended dwell and the one booked to arrive second would have a much shorter dwell time. If the "wrong" train arrives at the home signal first, would you, or would you not, try to make sure trains arrive into the loop in the right order and hold that train?

Sometimes it would be necessary to arrive trains in a specific order (the Severn Valley Limited always had to arrive second at Hampton Loade, for example, because its 9 coach formation was overlength for the loop). If you have a choice (both trains arrive together), you'd bring the train on the track further from the box in first, so you can pick up the token as it passes, then exchange the token with t'other as it passes. Big saving on shoe leather, less far to walk in the rain, and back to the newspaper and mug of tea all the quicker. But if one train were more important than the other, it would definitely be timetabled to arrive (or pass) after the other had time to stow itself in clear, and to depart first.

Last edited: 13/12/2019 at 09:30 by kbarber
Reason: None given

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 13:32 #122253
Late Turn
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The only direct experience that I can give is from Weybourne on the North Norfolk, where the box was roughly in the middle of the Up platform. My preference was always to get the Up train in first, receive the tablet on the platform outside the box, restore it to the instrument and immediately offer the Down train, and only then pull off (right through) for the Down train, which then gave me time to get to the foot crossing in front of the stationary Up train to do the exchange, returning to the box to pass the Holt section staff through the instrument and hand it straight to the driver who'd invariably wandered back along the platform to the box. Less walking, and thus less time wasted. Train complete was given by the guard of the first train to arrive, and I could see the tail lamp myself on the Down.
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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 14:57 #122254
Ron_J
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Typically where a tail lamp can’t be seen from the box a phone is provided for the guard or driver to report the train is complete or, more recently, tail lamp cameras have been used for this purpose. I’ve never known a location where a handsignal from the guard was considered enough only ever a positive report by phone or camera but that’s just my personal experience and it may have been more widespread to accept this in the past.

The other critical thing touched on in a reply above is that the token(s) must be passed through the instrument(s). The order of how things are done during a crossing really depends on the specifics of the location and how the trains are running but it’s almost always first in last out.

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 17:03 #122255
geswedey
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(If there's time, you'd ask on and withdraw the token before pulling off (including the back board if you're quick enough). You'd then go down as the train approaches and exchange tokens. Remember that, back in the day, token changes would be done with the train still moving. And on some secondary main lines such as the M&GN that could be done (in reality) at speeds up to 40mph with manual exchange; I suspect 60mph was possible where automatic exchangers existed.)

I have in the past had an Irish Rail driving cab pass and have exchanged a few tokens on the move as follows (note this wasn't a one off)

The token held by the driver was just thrown onto platform with exhortations not to hit anybody for the siggie to collect and the incoming token collected on the move prior to coming to a stand at the correct place in the platform.

There are stories possibly apocryphal of tokens ending up in the adjacent canal on the Dublin Mullingar line when thrown to hard.

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 18:50 #122257
clive
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Ron_J in post 122254 said:

The other critical thing touched on in a reply above is that the token(s) must be passed through the instrument(s).
See Abermule.

It's why the token machine is interlocked with the starting signal in modern practice.

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 18:52 #122258
clive
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geswedey in post 122255 said:

There are stories possibly apocryphal of tokens ending up in the adjacent canal on the Dublin Mullingar line when thrown to hard.
I've read a similar story somewhere, but can't remember where. After several people had gone paddling it was eventually declared lost and S&T told by management to put the machines back in sync.

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 18:54 #122259
jc92
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clive in post 122257 said:
Ron_J in post 122254 said:

The other critical thing touched on in a reply above is that the token(s) must be passed through the instrument(s).
See Abermule.

It's why the token machine is interlocked with the starting signal in modern practice.
It's also why tokens are generally shaped differently for adjacent sections

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 22:28 #122262
TUT
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Thank you very much everybody Interesting and informative
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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 22:42 #122263
Ron_J
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clive in post 122258 said:
geswedey in post 122255 said:

There are stories possibly apocryphal of tokens ending up in the adjacent canal on the Dublin Mullingar line when thrown to hard.
I've read a similar story somewhere, but can't remember where. After several people had gone paddling it was eventually declared lost and S&T told by management to put the machines back in sync.

Several lost in the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry over the years (before RETB) and more recently - as in last year - one of the Annet’s keys for the swing bridge there had to be retrieved by a diver...

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 13/12/2019 at 22:43 #122264
Ron_J
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clive in post 122257 said:
Ron_J in post 122254 said:

The other critical thing touched on in a reply above is that the token(s) must be passed through the instrument(s).
See Abermule.

It's why the token machine is interlocked with the starting signal in modern practice.
That didn’t stop an Abermule style irregularity at Elgin a couple of years ago....

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 00:42 #122265
TUT
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kbarber in post 122249 said:
If there's time, you'd ask on and withdraw the token before pulling off (including the back board if you're quick enough).
Also forgive my ignorance, I assume the back board is the distant signal?

Kids these days eh?

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 09:34 #122268
kbarber
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TUT in post 122265 said:
kbarber in post 122249 said:
If there's time, you'd ask on and withdraw the token before pulling off (including the back board if you're quick enough).
Also forgive my ignorance, I assume the back board is the distant signal?

Kids these days eh?
Indeed. Excuse this dinosaur.

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 09:55 #122269
kbarber
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geswedey in post 122255 said:
(If there's time, you'd ask on and withdraw the token before pulling off (including the back board if you're quick enough). You'd then go down as the train approaches and exchange tokens. Remember that, back in the day, token changes would be done with the train still moving. And on some secondary main lines such as the M&GN that could be done (in reality) at speeds up to 40mph with manual exchange; I suspect 60mph was possible where automatic exchangers existed.)

I have in the past had an Irish Rail driving cab pass and have exchanged a few tokens on the move as follows (note this wasn't a one off)

The token held by the driver was just thrown onto platform with exhortations not to hit anybody for the siggie to collect and the incoming token collected on the move prior to coming to a stand at the correct place in the platform.

There are stories possibly apocryphal of tokens ending up in the adjacent canal on the Dublin Mullingar line when thrown to hard.
The only time I've done token changes was on the SVR, where there is the inestimable advantage of a fireman (and no deadman, at least on kettles). The large hoops of the token carriers are essential. Both parties hold the token end with the hand in front of the token; that means it will be pulled away from your hand, without bending it back (possibility of a dislocated wrist if it's a bit quick or you grip too firmly). (The arm holding the token is the one further from the track and thus lies across the body, so that happens fairly naturally.) The other arm is raised and points forward. You aim with the hoop. The token you're receiving should ride up your arm to your shoulder and have room to swing round behind you, without hitting any part of you (unless it's quick enough to keep going and ride round as far as your back). You can get an idea of it about 40 seconds into this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNhJH0sUC_8 although interestingly it's the guard, not the driver who deals with the token.

It helps if you can do it from a platform. I'm told that, for exchanges from ground level on the M&GN, the fireman would crouch down and grip the cab side with his knees to leave both hands free. On a steam engine (often a 4-6-0 - they tended to be rough riders) hammering over pointwork at 40mph!!! Rather them than me...

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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 12:34 #122271
geswedey
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I remember exchanging the staff for the Thame branch at Prince Risborough from the cab of a class 37 and had to get on my knees to do it.
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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 13:37 #122272
jc92
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I've heard interesting tales from the south Yorkshire joint where tokens were exchanged and 25mph at Firbeck A. The driver would have to stand up and cross the cab on the move and use the 2nd man's dead man's switch whilst hanging out of the 2nd man's window and exchanging both tokens on the go.
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Crossing trains at crossing places (ETB): practicalities 14/12/2019 at 13:40 #122273
Ron_J
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Maybe it's worth noting here that moving token exchanges are not officially allowed on Network Rail infrastructure and haven't been for quite a while.
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