A Signalman's Railway.
As the saying goes, "The Driver drives the Guard's train on the Signalman's railway"
Our model hopes to replicate the scene at South Pelaw and Stella Gill as it was in the 1950s and 60s. So our control methods for the scenic side of the layout is based on the signal box as it was then.
South Pelaw box had an 85 lever frame, with 6 spares. We have modelled all the turnouts and signals but have not catered for facing point locks nor detonator placers, (though those would liven up things at an exhibition!).
We have added to our panel some signals that would be controlled by our neighbours - slotted distants. And have included controls for turnouts that would have been operated by ground levers.
So our signal box controls 55 signals and 33 turnouts. The Stella Gill box controls including the signal bridge with it's 13 boards, are at present included in the fiddle yard operations but there are plans to make it a box in its own rights.
All the signals are capable of operation and the panel has interlocks based upon our understanding of the system but updated recently by the acquisition of details from the Ken Hoole Centre.
Drivers of trains (now using DCC) will have to observe and obey signals. SPADs will cost a round of drinks for the rest of the team! (orders taken on the back of a Form 1).
All signals have been hand made from etched parts and the usual metal materials, with a lot of scratch building to best replicate the originals. Here's one ready for painting which has a lower quadrant arm for the Down Main towards Ouston Junction and then Gateshead and an upper quadrant arm for crossing over onto the Down Branch to Tyne Dock.
The finished article can be seen in earlier postings on this blog.
Here we show the variety of what was there before rationalisation in the mid to late 60s. The signal on the left has the section signal towards Durham Turnpike and thence Tyne Dock with the slotted distant below it (just to confuse - not a slotted post). In between is a calling on arm for giving access to the crossover. Then on a little bracket to our left is a shunting signal (slotted post lower quadrant) for crossing over in the opposite direction.
The post on the right is the Home for trains going on the UP Main to Consett or across the junction to Stella Gill.
Away in the distance, in the right hand side cess is a diminutive slotted post shunting signal for crossing over at the junction. See next photo for better view.
A closer shot shows that there are 8 signals in this view and the driver has the OK to proceed from the tiny rotating NE pattern shunt signal (Dusty Bin signal) at the foot of the small post.
The turnout that the loco is stood on is one of those that would not have been operated from the box but by the crew with a ground lever - as yet to be added to the model.
Only a few yards further on and we have a traditional NE slotted post shunting signal - with it's tiny friend on the far side of the tracks. This train will eventually join that main line towards Consett but has to go out onto the branch first - to at least pick up the brake van!
For an out of the way, work-a-day railway South Pelaw had some beautiful signals. This one featured as an ornate frame for several artistic photos taken by photographers of the real place.
Careful examination of the right hand abutment of the Pelton Lane bridge will reveal a meat skewer.
The next photo shows what re[placed it a few months later.
In it's hey-day this cantilever bracket must surely have been home to more signal dolls but sources fail to identify any.
The whole junction area, about half a mile long, was illuminated by gas lamps, the remains of one of which is in the foreground (a bit out of focus). Over the bridge you might just see the forest of signals awaiting the drivers concentration.
The driver has got the road (but I don't know where he is!).
The layout is about to go out on the exhibition circuit, but these two bracket signals have been all over already as part of demos for MERG and the EMGS.
The anonymous Q7 has now been numbered but the frames and motion are still to paint now that it has run in.
The junction nerve centre with its 85 levers is this modest building.
Talking of buildings, this row of railway cottages is nearing completion. The 'snow' on the roof may seem appropriate but it is just Plastkard, put in place for the purposes of this photo.
Can you imagine, being a signalman at South Pelaw, being able to see the mechanical parts of your job out of your front bedroom window?
As I say, not yet finished, there's the roof, drain pipes etc to add but look at the detail. Those doors and windows are not etches, they are painstakingly made from plastic strip and sheet. And the lace curtains -----!
Since the theme of this post is about signals, I have included this rather poor and old shot of the signal box panel. I know it should be levers rather than knobs and switches but you can take realism only so far.
Today's panel is a little simpler since we abandoned DC and the cab control method for DCC. (I can hear Jeers and cheers in equal proportions).
The turnouts and signals are operated by servos communicated via MERG's CBUS system.
Traditional control out on the front of the layout but the fiddle yard is controlled by a touch-screen with two panels . The fiddle yard, again, uses servos for turnout operation and CBUS as the communication means. However the touch screen is a JMRI PanelPro version.
These are not the most up-to-date pictures. The loco spur is no longer there on the blue panel (a long story) and the pink panel now has the touch icons for the signals on the Stella Gill Flatts gantry.
Once the panel is live, the question marks change to proper icons. To select a route the signalman presses the point of entry and the point of exit. and all the intermediate point-work changes to set up the route. There are precautions to prevent conflicting routes.
The system was not without it's teething problems, mainly caused by a lack of understanding of several aspects of setting the system up. It is workable but still something of a work in progress.
Well we need lots of operating practice and then the layout is invited to this year's Railex NE at North Shields on July28th & 29th for its maiden voyage. Following that to the Newcastle and District Exhibition on November 10th & 11th.
Any offers thererafter, gratefully considered!