The Battle of the Gauges

Trains run on tracks. Tracks are made of lots of bits (if you want more info you will need to visit a serious site). Railway people don't call them tracks, they name them LINES. Hence railway line not railway track - unless of course it's a single line then it's called a single track (or visa versa).

The tracks are fitted with fixed rails a uniform distance apart - although, weirdly, they do meet at the horizon. The distance between the inside edges is called the gauge. For all sorts of reasons, but chiefly because engineers can never admit a solution already exists, the gauge differs from railway to railway.

Railway folks use slang terms to describe the gauge (the picture explains this). So, hopefully that's cleared that up.

Of course, a four-foot track is wider than four foot; and, by the same token, a two-foot track is less than two feet. But then you probably guessed that. We haven't even mentioned Mr Brunel's seven foot and one-quarter inch Broad Gauge! That would involve some serious fawning so better move on hey?

The wheels on the train go round and round; round and round; round and - oh, we've stopped at a red signal.


Signal Simplicity

The Logic of Signals Explained

All proper signals are of the 'lower quadrant' semaphore type but the really proper ones are those designed and used by the Great Western Railway. Signals are delineated as Distant and Stop but Stop is further divided into Home and Starter, thus:


Archaic Anachronisms

The Early. Origins

Of course, all origins are early but then you knew that. The rare manuscript below shows designs for potentially possible signals (possibly).

  1. Mr William Head's offering was normally in the safety position, making it unusual amongst Victorian erections.
  2. No traces of the Whoa/Goah signal now exist but it clearly did get the thumbs-up from some sad railway proprietor.
  3. The S.P.A.D. signal detected when a train had passed a signal at danger (bad). Paint was applied to the faces of third class passengers who could then be removed from the train and charged with distracting the driver.
  4. The flowerpot signals rotated with the sun - not necessarily a good thing.


Curious Contraptions

Rare Defunct Signals

Even after the invention of semaphore signals there were wonderfully joyous deviations from the obvious. Here are a few:


Noteworthy Nonsense



I created all the drawings on this page in Visio, a tool that has been a good friend to me over the years.
This next one is my take on the look of Great Western Railway Signals on which the sun always shines (no, really)


Dress the Doll

And finally, here's a little something for the long winter evenings. A cut-out-and-keep memento of your visit (be sure to print it first).


The Signal and Telegraph Department on Holiday


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