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Operating on a closed line

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

Operating on a closed line

Unread postby andyhunt873 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:57 am

How would a closed line be operated when a train needed to use it.

During 1965 and into 1966, the down line (Gt Harwood branch loop line) was lifted leaving only the up line.

Would all the signal boxes have been switched out / closed along the line at that time between the two junctions?
There is a photo that shows the down line being lifted at Gt Harwood signal box (west - 1965/1966) - which has a broken window.

I know by sometime in 1966, there was no track off any points.

Would BR have left the signals in place, and if so were they left off / on - if they were left on - I presume someone would have had control of them?

And I know the line was still occasionally used as a diversion.

From a signalling point of view, how would they have operated a train up / down a "closed" line?
As it was now technically a single line - would they have gone back to issuing the driver a token, or would the driver
proceed slowly along the line?

Thanks again,
Andy.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby MRFS » Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:11 pm

I think that whatever happened, the simplest solution seems to be the most likely. It may just have been telephone working; but I don't honestly know, so don't read anything into that suggestion.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby John Hinson » Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:54 pm

I suspect the whole line would be in engineer's possesion. All movements would be under the supervision of the "Person in Charge".

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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Ashley Hill » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:28 pm

Sometime late 1968 the Sea Wall at Dawlish was blocked. What i understand to have been the up Kensington milk was at Plymouth with nowhere to go. A decision was made to run it over the recently closed North Devon line via Okehampton. At the time it was just a case of unclipping the points at Bere Alston and Meldon and off we go. The Exeter driver Les Stephens recalled that a footplate inspector and PW man accompanied the train stopping periodically to check the position of any facing points.
Trains such as Demolition trains were i presume run under engineer's possession negating the need for any operating staff.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby John Webb » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:43 am

In Martin Bairstow's book "Railways around Harrogate - Volume 3" there is a chapter by Richard Pulleyn recounting how the Harrogate - Northallerton line, closed in March 1967 north of Ripon, was hurriedly returned to service on the 31st of July that year following a serious accident on the East Coast Mainline near Thirsk, when a passenger train on the Down Fast hit derailed cement wagons on the adjacent line Down Slow line. A test engineers' train was sent from the Northallerton end towards Harrogate, carrying batteries and other items to restore the block signalling. Less than four hours after the crash, the line was reopened as a diversionary route, albeit with a 30mph speed limit north of Melmerby. Initially 9 boxes were reopened for the control of traffic on the Down line - up trains continued to use the one open line on the East Coast main line. This temporary working continued until the 3rd August when 'One Engine in Steam' working resumed to Melmerby for the daily freight train following the reopening of the East Coast main line.
The line was eventually demolished in 1970, the last freight having run in October 1969.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby andyhunt873 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:06 am

Thanks everyone,

So really depending on the circumstances, the closed lines were used, and depending on the need, how they were operated.

The Gt Harwood branch line was always an alternative route between Blackburn and Burnley, the other line (East Lancs) joined both the towns together but went via Accrington.

Accrington could get congested as it also had a line running down to Manchester as well.

So a closed line could be put back into full operation in just a few hours, some could be used but with caution.

The only conclusion I can come to regarding this line is that the signals & boxes were left intact until the final up line was lifted which now appears to be in 1968.

I definitely remember my grandfather taking me down to the goods yard via Railway View / Terrace, along there we past (on my right) Gt Harwood West signal box - and I remember the smell of what I now know was creosote from the wooden sleepers and telegraph poles.

Thanks,
Andy.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Stuart Johnson » Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:16 pm

andyhunt873 wrote:So a closed line could be put back into full operation in just a few hours, some could be used but with caution.

True, but the two examples quoted above were probably the only time it happened.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby JRB » Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:41 pm

So far only lines still in railway hands discussed - lines sold for scrap often carry demolition trains with no railway formalities (or motive power) at all.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:03 am

Surely it had legally ceased to be a railway when it closed, so operating formalities no longer applied. If contractors found trains were the best tool for job of demolition, they were effectively just using plant and machinery. The same situation occurred during many construction projects - there are a lot of old photos showing builders using temporary (and often rickety-looking) railways to move earth etc. In the event of an accident on such a line, would it have fallen to HMRI to investigate, or would it just be another accident on a building site? The safety of ordinary railway users is not impacted by learning that a demolition train derails if they try to run it over a stretch they've already lifted. Reopening a closed line in emergency strikes me as similar in some ways to running a service on a new line that has yet to be inspected
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:13 am

I seem to recollect that on the Southern Region the notice relating to the permanent closure of lines to traffic contained a standard clause to the effect that, after the passage of the clearance train, no further traffic movement could be made without the personal authority of the Chief Civil Engineer.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby JRB » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:47 pm

Some closed lines were lifted by contractors employed by the railway. A few lines were sold before demolition. Once a line was no longer officially a railway, the use of level crossings is an interesting question.
Edit: The legal question more than the procedure.
Last edited by JRB on Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Ashley Hill » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:32 pm

I suppose with crossings the gates were just opened by the staff present on site and the train waved over. Any formalities like signals would be ignored. There are pictures of this happening on the internet with an inspection train on the ilfracombe line in 1975.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Ashley Hill » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:24 pm

http://freepages.nostalgia.rootsweb.anc ... /ilfra.htm

Above is a link to the site with several photos of the above mentioned inspection train. The location with the by now obviously handworked gates is Braunton.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby andyhunt873 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:58 pm

It's all every interesting.

I guess it depends on how you view a closed line, and how you would operate it.

Gary - the pictures are very interesting, especially operating the level crossing gate manually.

One thing is clear, the photo shows one of the lines has already been lifted, and no track leaving the points, something that seems to be the standard of order of events when closing a line down before the last line is removed over time.

Can anyone tell me what happened to the signal boxes, signals, signs etc - I guess some were sold, and some "acquired" by souvenir hunters?

I think I read somewhere Network Rail are going to preserve some of the last signal boxes.

Thanks,
Andy.
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Re: Operating on a closed line

Unread postby Richard Lemon » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:40 pm

A few years before closure, the Ilfracombe line was singled. Whichever was in better condition (Up or Down) was retained - with a switch between one and the other at crossovers, which were simply clipped. This slowed trains - perhaps a deliberate ploy. At Braunton, the Up line was retained, the wrong side for the Booking Office.

There was no real staff saving, as although the line was now worked by "One Train" Token, the Signal and Crossing boxes had to be retained and manned. Only Morthoe and Ilfracombe were not needed (I think - it was a long time ago!).
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