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Single Needle Instruments on the GN

British signalling of the past (UK, excepting Northern Ireland)

Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby scarpa » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:35 pm

In 1969 with the closure of King s Cross signalbox was the Single Needle Instruments transferred to the present Panelbox?

How far north on the East Coast line were Single needle instruments operating prior to the abolition of the Power box? Did all boxes have these instruments, as some of the boxes were only signalling trains in the Up or Down direction only were they on seperate circuits? Did Potters Bar panelbox have these instruments? Was it a requirement in latter years for signalmen to understand how to use the instruments when applying for a post at a box fitted with them?
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby Russell Maiden » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:49 pm

Potters Bar Panel box did have single needle instruments, as did Hitchin Yard and Wood Green 4, and I suspect some others did too, since it was certainly in use to 'wire on' passing times for Up expresses for regulating purposes at key boxes. JH may have more info., particularly as regards boxes on the Down side in reciprocal advices.

BTW, I think you will find that KXSB didn't close until much later than 1969...

[edit - KXSB closed in 1971; there is an informative article about the single needle telegraph on this site, at [i]http://www.signalbox.org/branches/jh/telegraph.htm[/i]
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby John Hinson » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:11 pm

scarpa wrote:In 1969 with the closure of King s Cross signalbox was the Single Needle Instruments transferred to the present Panelbox?

This change actually occurred in 1971 (not 1969) while I was working at Kings Cross. The new box, although only with a temporary panel covering the same area, had a new telephone circuit provided for communication with Crescent Junction, Hitchin South and Hatfield No1 which were the three boxes that had previously telegraphed all up expresses on passing. (This was for the benefit of the enquiry office, arrivals board etc.). The only other telegraph requirement we had in the old box was to wire on all long distance light engines to Barnet North and I think I only ever did that once so it was hardly missed.

As far as I know all other boxes retained their telegraph instruments through to abolition although many circuits fell out of use in later days.

All telegraph lads (including myself) had to go to signalling school to learn telegraph, as did new signalmen of course, and I actually sat through a full six-week block signalling cource at Ilford.

John

Apologies to Russell, I see he has already comnmented on the date.
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby kbarber » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:14 am

Single needle instruments certainly in use at Biggleswade (nee B'wade South) as late as 1971, though I didn't read morse so don't know quite what was being sent & received. There were occasions when my father would knock out a message but, again, don't know what he was saying or to who.
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby Pete2320 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:21 pm

By the time I worked Letchworth box the telegraph had been abolished. I'd guess when Cambridge Junction became Hitchin psb. Still received telegrams though, mostly to forward to the parcels depot.

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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby StevieG » Wed Jan 14, 2015 3:03 pm

On the ex-GNR south of Peterborough, going by the telegraph circuit code cards provided for the instruments/circuits in many of the area's boxes, the only boxes that I know of which appear to have not been telegraph-equipped were Hertford North (opened approx. 1923/4), and the nearby Block Huts of Bayford, Stapleford and Watton (article about Block Huts can be found in the main site, here : http://www.signalbox.org/branches/sg/index.htm ) : Virtually all other boxes were telegraph-connected at one time or another (although I cannot say if this was so of the branch lines from such as Huntingdon and Holme).
Perhaps the above Hertford line exceptions were not telegraph-equipped as, for this post-1922 LNER opening of the completed double-tracking, and raising to passenger standard, of this (perhaps regarded as secondary) GN/LNE line from Cuffley to Langley Jn. it had been decided that new lines would rely on telephone communication.
However there were also one or two Goods lines-only boxes in the London area for which AFAIK, no definitive telegraph code has so far been established [e.g. Ferme Park South Down (near Harringay) and East Goods Yard (Finsbury Park) ], so they were perhaps not telegraph-equipped, though it may seem difficult to believe that they were never on the telegraph network.

But from the same circuit cards, virtually all boxes did have telegraph call-codes, so in the late 1960s either were, or had previously been, on at least one telegraph circuit : Some had instruments for, or had a telegraph circuit concentrator and a single sending instrument (see photo/text in the article, as linked-to by Russell Maiden, available here : - http://www.signalbox.org/branches/jh/telegraph.htm ), on several circuits ; I recall that in at least one location there were five.

There was great variation in the distances over which telegraph circuits stretched according to intended use : E.g. KC-BN (Kings Cross Teleg. Office to New Barnet North) had most boxes on it and seems intended for comparatively local use, while KC-FO reached to Peterborough (actually Eastfield yard Office?), connected relatively few places along the way and was used for John's previously-mentioned Up train reporting to Kings Cross box.
There were several circuits along some stretches of the line south of P'boro' (I don't know about north thereof), not only because of differing types of use, but also as there would have been too much telegraph traffic for just one circuit in the days when the system was also used for stationmasters' telegrams, traffic working messages (e.g. 'Stop traffic to X'), Yard wagon reports of vehicles present by their individual numbers, and relief staffs' duties for 'next week'.
Quite a few of the more important places were on several circuits.

As to the query over separate Up and Down circuits; yes, owing to the presence of some boxes signalling lines in only one direction (sometimes coined 'one side' boxes), there were some circuits which, though many boxes on them signalled all lines in their location, were obviously designed to cater for messages re trains in only one direction: I'd say that the most obvious examples were the YF-HT [Wood Green No.3 (Down box) to Hitchin Teleg. Office], and AU-HT [Wood Green No.4 (Up box) ] to Hitchin Teleg. Office].

Some boxes' signalmen never needed to use their instrument(s) though may have read (or ignored) messages being passed between other boxes. Other boxes may still have had instruments but they were no longer working - this could be that the particular instrument or its line was not working, or that the circuit itself was partially or completely 'down' [e.g. at either Hatfield No.3 or Welwyn Garden City (I forget which, or both), the telegraph concentrator still had a needle for the XO - DU circuit (Hatfield Teleg.Office - Dunstable), though the line beyond Blackbridge (Ayot) had closed some four years earlier]

Towards the late-1960s, at least some signalman vacancies were still advertised (internally) with one of several code letters to indicate certain knowledge or ability(ies) required, as defined in the vacancy list footnotes.
One of these (I think it may have been 'E'), stated, IIRC, "Telegraphist required", and vacancies in the queried line's boxes normally included this, but as the decade came to an end, there was an increasingly serious shortage of signalmen in/near the London area (there were still about 42 boxes involved in working the main line's traffic in the approx. 32 1/2 miles to Hitchin out of Kings Cross; approx. 23 of these were in London in the first 5-and-a-bit miles : The 'Hertford Loop's 23-ish miles had another 10 block posts).
So to help fill the gap, quite a few signalmen were enticed in from lower graded boxes elsewhere in the Eastern Region, and rather than have too many boxes left switched out to adequately cope with the timetable's busier times, non-telegraphist men were sometimes appointed to boxes customarily required to perform telegraph 'receiving' or 'sending' regularly, presumably with no telegraph training on offer; the resulting loss of some 'wiring-on' by telegraph of trains probably being judged as the lesser evil.

Some circuits saw little, or virtually no use, while others were used up to several times per hour, for regular sending of passing times of certain classes of train to stipulated boxes ahead (e.g. as has been mentioned, to Kings Cross (BX) from Crescent Junction (Peterborough : CJ), Hitchin South (HF) and Hatfield No.1 (HD) ], while much other train reporting was by exception; i.e. not done unless a train(s) was late or running in the wrong order.
For some unknown reason, I particularly remember that one evening at Wood Green No.1, a Down express departure from KX (1S70, 22:15 I think) was sufficiently late departing from there that a Class 3 Parcels booked to follow was run first from Holloway, passing Wood Green while the express still had not got under way.
So it was necessary to advise several further afield boxes of this, and so I had to send, (I think to Potters Bar, Hatfield No.1, Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin Yard) : -
"one s seven o No (pause) three s one five 'xx' " -
- (1 S 7 0 No = train 1S70 not yet offered on the Block ; 3 S 1 5 'xx' = the time, in mins. past the hour, when 3S15 had passed).

As resignalling loomed on the horizon and progressed to staged implementation (the Oakleigh Park and New Barnet area was first in 1970, and in 1971 I think, Hertford North, and commissioning of the first stage of Peterborough power box), it was preceded by the separate traditional 'Control Office phone' system communicating with the boxes and important stations being steadily replaced by a more modern dialled system (PBXs I think) which also provided dialled 'phone communication between all the 'outstations'.
And so with that, and further spread of non-trained staff, plus other circumstances already mentioned, the instances of telegraph use understandably decreased, non-repair of faults accelerated, and the system finally effectively faded away, almost completely unrecorded, into oblivion.

[ Edited to add further information, clarity, and removal of outdated reference to GNRS :
16:27 14/01/15, and 14:45 15/01/15, and 23:48 20/01/17.]
Last edited by StevieG on Sun Aug 20, 2017 10:48 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:41 pm

Information such as your example of a parcels preceding a delayed express would be of little use to intermediate boxes unless they could divert the parcels to the slow should the late running express catch up. All they needed to do was send both trains on to the box in advance. It might matter to a box where one of the trains was booked to stop, but the ILC? code would have told them what was approaching anyway. The information would be more important if both trains were of the same class and had different destinations or calling patterns. The telegraph may have been a refinement which allowed slightly more efficient operation where the staff understood it, but it had it not become a luxury when the cost of training was taken into consideration?
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby John Hinson » Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:55 pm

The instructions about which boxes you adbvised tended to be those with turning-in abilities. You wire on the express when it passes so they can make their judgement. On the GN signalmen made their own decisions on train regulation and Control didn't get involved (unless you went wrong). When I arrived on the Midland it was a bit of a culture shock.

Incidentally - reference StevieG's comments about signalmen untrained with the telegraph, I don't recall this being an issue at the London end. As you didn't have long-distance phone communication, how could you know whether the recipient was asleep or incompetent? The potential for regulating errors through not getting something wired on seems undesirable. Perhaps it was less critical further out.

Alongside the four telegraoh lads on the course at Ilford were a few signalmen who were there only to train telegraph too. Not that the instructor could teach us a lot, he was a GC man from Sheffield.

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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby StevieG » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:36 pm

John Hinson wrote: " The instructions about which boxes you adbvised tended to be those with turning-in abilities. .... "
I'd add that there were also cases where a box was to be so advised because of its having a turning-out (Slow-to-Fast) ability : One (short distance) message example I recall from around 1968 was that Hornsey No.1 (HE) was supposed to 'wire on' to New Southgate (ZP) (by the KC-BN telegraph circuit IIRC, as I think that was the only one available at Hornsey 1), Down freights leaving Ferme Park yard :- NS was by then the first location where such trains could be turned out onto the Down Fast line (since closure of Wood Green Tunnel box and associated removal of its DS-DF turn-out, around 4-5 years earlier).
John Hinson wrote: " .... how could you know whether the recipient was asleep or incompetent? .... "
... Or that the intended receiving box was switched out when booked to be open?
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby scarpa » Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:47 pm

Thank you Steve G and John for the in depth info. on the single needle operation East Coast line.I remember the importance of the single needle at King s Cross ,the up
train imfomation greatly assisted the regulation and platforming of services.The extra services like postal, newspaper and parcel traffic and light engine movements was
intense all shifts with lots of shunting taking place .The power box staff performed their duties admirably.
Did the single needle instrument operate on other regions in B.R. days? Can we assume the East Coast was the last operators?
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Fri Jan 16, 2015 1:18 pm

Parts of the erstwhile LC&DR used single needle instruments until the boxes were replaced as part of the Kent Coast electrification scheme in 1958/59.
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby StevieG » Sun Jan 8, 2017 8:51 pm

davidwoodcock wrote:Parts of the erstwhile LC&DR used single needle instruments until the boxes were replaced as part of the Kent Coast electrification scheme in 1958/59.
Sorry to have only just come to notice your post David.
That's very interesting; something that I had not heard of.

Over the years one or two late BR era 'GE' men have mentioned to me that, on that former company's lines, they believe that though once in their boxes, they understood that they tended to last in use a lot longer in booking offices, but couldn't say until when, or to what purpose (messages for Station Masters perhaps?).
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby StevieG » Sun Jan 8, 2017 9:22 pm

Russell Maiden wrote: " Potters Bar Panel box did have single needle instruments .... "
I should have elaborated : As I recall, the telegraph setup at the Potters Bar 1955-ish power box was a bespoke one.
IIRC, in 1968 there was a multi-needle switchable receive-only concentrator with a white (rather than green) sheet metal faceplate within a lighter-than-normal and plainer-than-traditional GNR style, wooden casing, made to match other elements of the panel and furniture, and I think fixed standing on the early & late shift-only 'telegraph lad's desk.
The single sending instrument appeared to also have been custom-made, having its one needle also in a white, circular, faceplate, contained in a round-topped wooden case matching the concentrator. But its unique (AFAIK) feature was that it was not fixed down, instead standing on rubber feet and connected to the rest by a cable several feet long, meaning that it could be moved to be within easier reach of the signalman when no lad was on duty, while being sufficiently heavy so as not to move sideways in use.
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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby John Hinson » Sun Jan 8, 2017 9:31 pm

StevieG wrote:Over the years one or two late BR era 'GE' men have mentioned to me that, on that former company's lines, they believe that though once in their boxes, they understood that they tended to last in use a lot longer in booking offices, but couldn't say until when, or to what purpose (messages for Station Masters perhaps?).

Likewise on the LNW it seems, although the only one I knew of was in the station at Windermere up to the early sixties.

I would suspect much use was for local freight advice when only local telephone circuits existed.

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Re: Single Needle Instruments on the GN

Unread postby Russell Maiden » Mon Jan 9, 2017 3:37 pm

If I recall correctly, when I was visiting North Lincolnshire in the late 1960s, there were single needle telegraph circuits in use in the Grimsby district. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures in that particular area as I'd run out of film photographing various 'boxes south thereof.
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