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Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

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Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Chris Osment » Wed May 3, 2017 7:49 pm

I have encountered examples of Stevens 'knee' frames where the levers at each end (typically when used for distant signals) were fitted with large circular weights, and the quadrants sloped down almost to the floor (unlike the rest of the frame) so that the lever pulled over almost to the horizontal. But was this an 'early practice' that was later abandoned, or did it a remain a variant that could be ordered if the customer requested it?

I have seen examples at some of the level-crossing boxes on the Ilfracombe line (late 1880s), and allegedly the frame at Spetisbury (1901) had that feature, but it did not exist on the frame at Honiton Incline (1870s? or a later replacement?).
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Wed May 3, 2017 8:48 pm

Distants, especially those a long way out, could be surprisingly difficult to pull (the down main line distant at Andover Junction A comes instantly to mind). Was this mod provided to make it easier for women crossing keepers to pull the levers?
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby JRB » Thu May 4, 2017 8:15 am

Quite a common practice for both genders and various frames, not just womens' Knees.
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu May 4, 2017 9:55 am

Chris Osment wrote:I have seen examples at some of the level-crossing boxes on the Ilfracombe line (late 1880s), and allegedly the frame at Spetisbury (1901) had that feature, but it did not exist on the frame at Honiton Incline (1870s? or a later replacement?).

There is, or certainly was, a frame of this type at York Museum which I understand originated in an NER box.

I don't really see the benefits of the arrangement, I don't think there was any latching arrangement so the weight must have been quite heavy to hold the signal off - which would make replacement hard work. Nor am I sure how such distants were interlocked with the rest of the frame.

I have a photograph and some notes somewhere but I'm not quite sure where that "somewhere" is just at the moment.

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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Thu May 4, 2017 3:04 pm

Are we talking about the frames shown in this old thread? viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4653
The 4th posting on that thread shows a photo Chris posted. The sector plate casing for these end levers seem to be a lot larger diameter than necessary - could house some form of gearing?

Like John I'm struggling to understand how the weight helped. If you increase the arc of travel for the lever whilst the arc of travel of the arm obviously does not change, it should be easier to pull as you have more leverage. The weight would obviously also assist. John sees difficulty in restoring, but as previously discussed this could have been by releasing a latch with the foot. Or is the bolt sticking out the end just a footrest to brace against?

Before Elf & Safety of course, but when reversed the lever would be quite a tripping hazard.
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Chris Osment » Thu May 4, 2017 6:03 pm

My apologies to all - it does appear that we are going over 'old ground' here, tho' from a slightly different angle. I had a feeling that I had mentioned this sort of frame before, but my excuse is that no amount of 'search' on this site before posting this new thread yielded any result. :oops:

[ Actually, no search for any keywords yielded any results at all, so maybe the search facility was 'dead' anyway! ]
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu May 4, 2017 7:17 pm

Mike Hodgson wrote:John sees difficulty in restoring, but as previously discussed this could have been by releasing a latch with the foot.

The mind boggles! Just make sure your waistcoat doesn't get caught in it as it goes . . .

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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Fri May 5, 2017 8:24 am

John Hinson wrote:
Mike Hodgson wrote:John sees difficulty in restoring, but as previously discussed this could have been by releasing a latch with the foot.

The mind boggles! Just make sure your waistcoat doesn't get caught in it as it goes . . .

J


Yeah, but they weren't really signalmen were they - only crossing keepers? And I thought that given that the Victorian era was lacking in the way of pensions or social security, that good employers tended to give the job of crossing keeper to the lame and infirm - engine drivers who had been maimed in accidents etc, & who had become otherwise unemployable.
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby John Hinson » Fri May 5, 2017 8:31 am

Well to be honest at the probable date of construction of those frames I suspect there was little difference between a signal box and a crossing box. I am sure they were all fine, upstanding gentlemen. I very much doubt there were any fine upstanding ladies in the job at that time, either.

At any rate, do not assume those frames were only provided at crossing cabins - the one at York (amazing it was already there by 1927!) has enough levers to have a few more responsibilities than that.

Perhaps the real purpose of this type of frame was to provide assisting weights on distant levers in ground-level boxes where they would normally be provided underfloor. But I still don't really see the alleged latch.

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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Fri May 5, 2017 9:41 am

John Hinson wrote:Well to be honest at the probable date of construction of those frames I suspect there was little difference between a signal box and a crossing box. I am sure they were all fine, upstanding gentlemen. I very much doubt there were any fine upstanding ladies in the job at that time, either.


Surely, there would have been many examples where a gatekeeper's cottage was occupied by, say, a platelayer, while the (gates normally closed to road) crossing was operated, when required, by his wife in return for the rent-free (or rent-reduced) accommodation. Some companies, at least, would have provided both home and distants at such crossings, operated by knee-frames.
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Fri May 5, 2017 9:55 am

John Hinson wrote:Well to be honest at the probable date of construction of those frames I suspect there was little difference between a signal box and a crossing box. I am sure they were all fine, upstanding gentlemen.

The fine gentlemen must have had considerable skill to remain upstanding whilst operating those levers! :lol:
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby John Hinson » Sat May 6, 2017 2:31 am

davidwoodcock wrote:Surely, there would have been many examples where a gatekeeper's cottage was occupied by, say, a platelayer, while the (gates normally closed to road) crossing was operated, when required, by his wife in return for the rent-free (or rent-reduced) accommodation. Some companies, at least, would have provided both home and distants at such crossings, operated by knee-frames.

I myself have seen no evidence of women being employed by the railways on such work in the 1860s and 1870s but if you say so . . .

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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Sat May 6, 2017 6:42 am

I would be astonished if UK railway companies provided knee frames (or any other type of frame) at level crossings in the 1860s and 1870s.

By regulation, level crossing gates were kept closed across the road unless it was necessary to open them for road traffic. The gatekeepers were expected to know the (relatively infrequent) train service and not open the gates in front of trains. There was no need for protecting signals (let alone home *and* distant signals). Hence there was nothing to interlock the gates with. There wouldn't even have been any gate locks - all I'd expect is a chain to secure the gates open or closed.

In the rare situations where a protecting signal was necessary, I would be quite confident that it would simply be worked from a ground lever near the crossing. It would be completely uninterlocked with the gates. Most railway companies at that time didn't see the point of spending money to interlock points and signals at stations or junctions unless there was a really good reason, why would they spend money on interlocking signals with gates?
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Sat May 6, 2017 6:55 am

John Hinson wrote:
davidwoodcock wrote:Surely, there would have been many examples where a gatekeeper's cottage was occupied by, say, a platelayer, while the (gates normally closed to road) crossing was operated, when required, by his wife in return for the rent-free (or rent-reduced) accommodation. Some companies, at least, would have provided both home and distants at such crossings, operated by knee-frames.

I myself have seen no evidence of women being employed by the railways on such work in the 1860s and 1870s but if you say so . . .


I can't answer for the UK, but women certainly were being employed in exactly this way in Victoria at that period. A typical rural gatekeeper would be the wife (occasionally sister or daughter) of a platelayer or ganger. The woman would usually get a small wage (about a decade later, it was a shilling a day, but wages were higher in Victoria than in the UK), and the family would occupy the gate cottage rent free.

This is, of course, a colony not Britain. But remember the senior traffic and engineering staff at this period all started their railway career in Britain, and the railway practice was very much based on British ways of doing things.
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Re: Stevens 'knee' frames with 'weighted' levers

Unread postby John Hinson » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:49 pm

Finally found a picture of one of these frames, never did find my own:
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York Museum, 11/6/95. Photo: N L Cadge/John Hinson collection

If anybody knows which box it came from, I'm interested. Looks like it may have been a crossing station on a single line. I am pretty sure it is ex-NER, levers 4 & 8 refer to "wedges" rather than FPL.

Also, perhaps difficult to see in a small image, there is a pedal on the inside edge of the distant quadrants which presumably releases the lever from the reverse position.

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