Railway Lines

The page for my steam and signalling interests.

Oh, Lower Quadrant Signals - Lovely!

No, seriously, they do look beautiful.

GWR & BR(WR) Signals:

The notable features of the Great Western lower quadrant signal was the tapering pitch-pine post, the 'wasp-neck' spectacle, and the elaborate pointed finial (designed to protect the post from water ingress) painted to match the colour of the signal arm. The arm was also of wood. some four feet long. During the 1930's wood begain to be replaced by steel for both arms and posts.

There was quite a variety of signal arm shapes in earlier GWR days but the range was eventually simplified.

Ground signals - for shunting - went through a more complex development but finally became standardised as white discs with a red band.

Red arms have a white stripe and yellow ones a black chevron - this simple addition makes the colour stand out against the background environment.

The arm has three positions: ON WRONG OFF.

ON is the most restrictive indication (a red arm in the ON position means stop here). ON is defined as between 0 and 5 degrees in the lower left-hand quadrant (of an imaginary circle with its centre being the pivot of the arm).

OFF means proceed and is between 45 and 60 degrees.

WRONG is a failure to properly indicate either ON or OFF.

At night an oil lamp gave light filtered through a tinted spectacle. The green spectacle is larger to accomodate the wider latitude of degree. The 'green' spectacle is actually blue-green, which with the yellow of the oil lamp gives a strong green light. The red spectacle is a deep ruby red to resist the appearance of a light tending towards orange. Yellow is relatively recent (since 1923).


I photographed this at Thatcham in 1966.

This signal post sports a stop signal at Thatcham Station and a yellow 'Distant' signal for Colthrop Sidings. The stop signal is operated by a mechanical linkage whilst the Distant signal has an electic 'signal machine' at the bottom of the post.

Small Track Railway

Abbeydale Miniature Railway is a thriving, long established model engineering society and founder members of the Northern Association of Model Engineers. Model engineers and interested visitors are always made very welcome.

We are dedicated to promoting our hobby by building and operating steam and other types of powered models; by invention and experimentation; by tool making; by encouraging young people to become engineers; by maintaining links with model engineers in the UK and abroad; by furthering wider interest in our hobby with the local community who visit the Abbeydale Miniature Railway; and by supporting local charities - particularly the Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Growing Up

Growing up in Reading we had some lovely neighbours, one of whom was a signalman. When I was in my early teens I was invited into his signal-box whilst Ken was on Saturday Late Turn. The signal box was Southcote Junction, a busy and interesting 'Box for a lad to immerse himself in.
Apart from the necessary learning of bell codes, lever sequences and Box etiquette I also remember sunny summer Saturdays sitting at a small table with Ken who had cooked a fine dinner for us both.
Tea was made, of course, but the abiding memory is of Camp 'coffee' and the Fussell's Blue Butterfly condensed milk, 'skimmed and sweetened': I confess to spooning it into my mouth direct from the tin.
The Box controlled the busy Summer Saturday Berk's and Hant's route and was the point where the Southern trains were sorted from the Great Western ones. Very satisfying.
There was the Coley Branch curving away behind the Box but I never saw a train there on a Saturday; the Main Line was far too busy.
Southcote's Down Distant (by that time a single arm cleared only for the Berk's and Hant's Line) was mechanically worked and its lever demanded significant attention to get the arm to show 'off'.
Many years later I learned that signalling inspectors and station managers sometimes turned a blind eye to lads in the boxes, it being a way of observing if they were of the right stuff for the duties and responsibilities.
I don't know if I was being observed but, aged 16, my mum told me that she had found me a job. It turned out to be in the Signal Department (engineering); I reflected a while back that maybe she thought she had found me a job as a trainee signalman!

Growing Old

I have had the satisfaction of working on the railways at a time of great change. Trained as a 'Probationer' over a four year period I experienced 13 week stints with mechanical signalling (happily the Berk's and Hant's - Theale to Newbury Racecourse); Reading Panel; signal and telegraph gangs; and installers. Learning was also involved at Reading Signal School.
To obtain my first appointment as assistant technician involved an interview with the Chief Signal Inspector where the question that most stuck in my mind (thankfully I gave the answer sought) was "What is the most important lever in the frame?" (Detonator.)
The Drawing Office beckoned eventually and I took up a post of Technical officer with Vic Doswell's section. There were opportunities for field work in those days and that led me into my long-standing affair with testing and commissioning (which took a lot of one-to-one training and which we were not allowed to commence until we had proved we could design a complete set of Control Tables for an Interlocking - quite right too in my opinion).
An appointment to Bristol saw me undertaking testing and commissioning full-time. With the Division stretching from Penzance to Malvern; Swindon, Gloucester and Bristol Panels; and the Salisbury and Barnstable lines we were kept busy. In those days it was Mechanical and Relay Interlockings.
My professional life after that branched out in ways unimagined to a sixteen-year old, culminating in retirement from Signet Solutions, the business I and Tricia had started in 1996.

robin on track

The Robin

The bird that sang at dawn
He awakened me
To strength
And renewal of courage
And by these two
I found a way.

(C) 2009

Miniature Railway

The Driving Seat

When my Father is in charge
I am the little boy
Who sits on his train
And allows Him
To guide my way....

Train in Tunnel

Emerging Steam

There is no grander sight than this. The steam puffing around its engine;

Then the emergence into full daylight, majestic, powerful and grand.

Quote #1

Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.
E. M. Forster

Quote #2

I wanted to invent an engine that could run for ever. I could have developed a new train, had I stayed in the railway. It would have looked like the AK-47 though. Mikhail Kalashnikov