Tuesday 23 December 2014

Newcastle Signal Box

It been a while (11 months) since a post and I thought it appropriate to show some pictures of Newcastle Signal Box taken on 26 February and 17 March 2003.

The signal box was opened on Sunday 9 February 1936 and replaced two signal boxes: Brown St which was located approximately halfway between Civic and Newcastle and Newcastle Box located at the end of Platform 1 of Newcastle Station.
Of interest is the arrangement of lines at Newcastle - normally the line to Sydney would be the Up Line but because when opened the Newcastle system was isolated from the Sydney system lines to Newcastle were designated Up and lines from Newcastle are the Down lines. This works fine once past Hamilton but the line between Hamilton and Newcastle is the reverse of else where in the state. The Up line runs from Hamilton to Newcastle and the Down line from Newcastle to Hamilton. This is especially confusing for trains between Sydney and Newcastle (and vice versa) and they travel on the Down line from Sydney to Woodville Junction, the Down Hamilton Loop from Woodville Junction to Hamilton and then the Up Main from Hamilton to Newcastle.
When opened the current box controlled all lines east of of the Merewhether Street level crossing at Civic including the Newcastle Colliery Branch and the Goods Yard, both removed some years ago.
The box had an 83 lever power frame controlling 20 Points, 72 Signals and one gate release with 1 spare and 6 spaces - yes that adds up to more than 83 but some of the levers controlled up to 3 signals.
Upon its closure on 26 December 2014 Newcastle Signal Box was operational for 78 years, 10 months and 18 days or 28,811 days.

Sunday 26 January 2014

The trials and tribulations of the Down Shore Line at Hornsby

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to travel home on some evenings via Hornsby. This entails travelling from Wynyard to Hornsby via the Down Shore, changing at Hornsby and back to Thornleigh via the Up Main. I do this usually when I just miss my normal train (Wynyard to Thornleigh via Macquarie Park) and want to escape the oppression of the platforms at Wynyard due to the heat and being shouted at almost constantly by the station announcer.
At Hornsby every single train on the Down Shore queues up to get into the Down Shore platform and quite often there are two or more trains queue back through Waitara waiting to get in to the platform. There are a number of reasons for this: 

  • There is no overlap between the signal at the end of the platform and the crossovers on the Down Main or Up Shore - the distance from the signal to the points is about 2 metres. Because of the lack of overlap there are two speed controlled train stops along the platform which are 'up' when the signal is at stop.
  • In the afternoon peak approximately 60 percent the trains terminate at Hornsby and thus require increased dwell time at the platform.

A perusal of the working timetable shows the occupation of the Down Shore Platform in the evening peak:

  • 16:00 - 16:30: 10 mins
  • 16:30 - 17:00: 13 mins
  • 17:00 - 17:30: 11 mins
  • 17:30 - 18:00: 12 mins
  • 18:00 - 18:30: 12 mins
  • 18:30 - 19:00: 12 mins
  • 19:00 - 19:30: 10 mins

Terminating trains are allowed 3 minutes and there are numerous occasions where there are two minutes between the departure of one train and the arrival of the other.
While the terminating trains are part of the problem (they rarely clear the platform in three minutes) a major contributing factor is that almost every train has to crawl into the platform due to the speed related train stops because the signal is usually at red.
An additional platform would be the super fix but space (and money) realistically precludes this from happening. An easier fix is to move the Main/Shore junction further north up near the Bridge Road over bridge. While this option would cost money it is relatively easy to implement - some straightening of the down ends of the Up and Down Shore platforms would be required. 
Currently the 527 points (so that Down Shore terminating trains can access the Up sidings) is approximately 40 metres from the end of the Down shore platform - if a train is terminating AND going into these roads the road could be set into the sidings before the train arrives thus negating the need for the speed related train stops. Likewise the crossovers from the Down Main into the shed arrivals road are approximately 200 metres from the platforms - this is over an 8-car train length and trains stops in the platform would not be required at all in this case.
The plan sees the loss of the Up Refuge which is rarely used and the Up turnback which is also rarely used -especially with the latest timetable which has Down Main North suburbans reversing in platform 4 rather than running up into Hornsby Yard to reverse
While there is a cost and some significant re-arrangement of Hornsby Yard the end result would see increased efficiency in the operation of trains from the Down Shore in the evening peak. The  speeding up of the clearing of terminating trains would also have a great effect.
Below are the current arrangement and the my planned arrangement of Hornsby Yard.

Hornsby Now
Hornsby Planned

Saturday 25 January 2014

The Sunnyside of Life

The line north of Glenn Innes saw it's last train on Sunday 22 October 1989 - a steam train hauled by 3001 - commemorating Henry Parkes Federation address of 100 years earlier. This train only made it to Tenterfield. The last train to Wallangarra is believed to be a private extension of the Friday's only north Mail to Tenterfield which ran on 18 November 1988, hauled by 4491. Since the demise of regular passenger trains to Wallangarra in 1972the 19 kilometres between Tenterfield and Wallangarra had seen considerably few trains, by the 1980s they were few and far between.
783.957 kilometres from Central is the platform of Sunnyside. Just over 10 kilometres from Tenterfield and 8.2 kilometres before Wallangarra it is the last but one station on the Main North Line. Opened on 16 January 1888 and closed as a station on 12 May 1973, the platform still exists.
280 metres to the north of the platform is the bridge over Tenterfield Creek. It is one of the delightful Whitton queen post ballast top bridge's and has up of six 42 foot spans spans.
A passing visit in late December 2013 saw that at least two of the spans have failed and it is only a matter of time before one of the spans collapses.

A view from the Up side northern end.

The two northern spans

The northernmost span

The abutment at the northern end

The two centre spans

The 'builder's plate on the adjacent road bridge

The abutment at the northern end

The northernmost span

The second to last northernmost span

The southernmost span, another failed span

The southern abutment

The two southern spans

The centre spans

The centre spans

Friday 25 October 2013

The night the 'stars' came to Cowra

I was recently reading Chris Banger’s wonderful book on the Southern Aurora. Among the many stories was the first time the Aurora was diverted from it normal route and travelled via Cowra. This was on Saturday 6 March 1965. The previous day a major bushfire broke out between Goulburn and Taralga and over the next 24 hours travelled east to the towns of Marulan, Towrang and Wingello ultimately causing damage to the Main South in the area. Damage to the line caused its closure and the railways decided to divert all services via the Demondrille – Blayney line (today they would do nothing and the freights would just have to wait).
I researched this and found an article in the March 1965 Railway Digest and started having a look at how this was done. Ultimately the following passenger trains traversed the line on the Saturday night:

  • No. 16 Up Riverina Express
  • No. 66 Up Intercapital Express
  • No. 10 Up South Mail
  • No.2 Up Southern Aurora
  • No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress
  • No. 1 Down Southern Aurora
  • No. 2 Down Spirit of Progress

Demondrille at the southern end of the cross – country line was still totally intact, the coal stage having seen use on 20 June 1964 only nine months earlier and with the triangle connection from Demondrille South to the cross-country line the rerouting of trains was simple - there being no need to run into Harden and reverse.
At the time the cross country line had no less than 11 staff and crossing stations between Demondrille and Blayney. They were (from Demondrille):

  • Demondrille (467.347km) – Demondrille West Junction
  • Kingsvale (456.974km)
  • Young (440.063km)
  • Monteagle (420.724km)
  • Koorawatha (393.596km)
  • Wattamondara (381.389km)
  • Cowra (365.540km)
  • Woodstock (346.371km)
  • Swan Ponds (334.120km)
  • Lyndhurst (321.097km)
  • Carcoar (309.842km)
  • Stanfield (301/905km)
  • Blayney (290.369km)

If the below narrative gets complicated please have a look at the train graph at the end.
No. 16 Riverina Express was the first train to be diverted but it had already got as far as Goulburn on time at 15:49. It waited for the Canberra-Monaro Express to arrive from Cooma and Canberra and finally departed Goulburn almost four hours later at 19:34 with 4411 hauling RUB set 145. Harden was reached at 22:02 where it departed five minutes later for the adventure on the cross country line. It was actually the second Up passenger as No. 66 Intercapital Express had proceeded it.
The Up Intercapital Express, 10 cars hauled by 4460 and 4205, had been held at Junee waiting for a pilot driver and arrived at Demondrille at 18:43. After sitting at Demondrille for 58 minutes (for reasons unknown) it departed at 19:41. As far as can be ascertained, no crosses were made on the whole trip to Blayney. The train stopped at Cowra for 45 minutes (21:45 to 22:30), passed Blayney 00:04/00:07 (Sunday), Bathurst 01:09/01:16, Lithgow 02:41/03:02, finally arriving in Sydney at 05:52 some eight and a half hours late.
Despite at least eight extra trains running on the cross country line that night the normal services still had to find paths. No. 22 diesel train was the next train to run north from Demondrille. With the Intercapital Daylight almost two hours in front of it there was no delay at Demondrille and it ran virtually to time through to Cowra. The 27 minute stop at Cowra was shortened to about 15 minutes to facilitate crosses between Cowra and Blayney. The train departed Cowra at 23:30 and running 15 minutes early crossed No. 25a Rail Motor at Lyndhurst (00:55 – 01:00) and the Down Southern Aurora (more of below) at Stanfield) 01:30/01:47) and arrived at Blayney on time at 02:02.
‘The Riv’ reached Demondrille at 10:15 and traversing the junction at Demondrille North signal box headed for Blayney. It had a free run all the way to Cowra (Young 22:50 – 23:15) arriving at 00:46. 22 minutes were consumed refuelling the PHS power car and it departed Cowra at 01:08. By this time there were diverted trains coming the other way. At Woodstock it crossed No. 25a the Cowra- bound railmotor. At Lyndhurst it was put in the loop to cross the Down Aurora (02:03 – 02:19). Once it left Lyndhurst it got a free run through to Blayney where it arrived at 03:06. After a three minute stop to change staffs it continued through to Sydney (Bathurst 04:11-04:16, Lithgow 05:54 -06:12 to replenish the buffet and he train finally arrived in Sydney at 09:12 on the Sunday morning some 13 hours late. Despite this the buffet car facilities were available for the whole trip. Apparently there were some Enfield crews on this train that had travelled from Goulburn.
The next train from the south was No. 416 Fruit Express. This train reached Demodrille basically on- time at 22:45. It followed ‘The Riv’ one section behind and had to wait line clear at some locations (Kinsvale for around 25 minutes and Cowra for the railmotor from Blayney. The freight was looped at Woodstock for the Aurora, and spent 45 minutes at Carcoar waiting for the Down Spirit of Progress. It cleared Blayney at 05:10.
No. 10 South Mail was next and it arrived at Demondrille at 12:40 and departed at 01:08. It was put into the loop at Wattamondara (03:14-03:49) to cross the Aurora, Swan Ponds (04:49-05:05) to cross the Spirit of Progress  and reached Blayney at 06:05 – after five minutes it departed for Sydney with stops at Bathurst (07:10-07:23) Lithgow 09:05 – 09:25 and arrived in Sydney at 12:08 – just over six hours late.
Now it was the turn of the ‘stars to head north on the cross-country line. No. 4 Up Spirit of Progress, hauled by 4447/4415 which had departed Albury at 23:05, changed crews at Junee and reached Demondrille at 03:06. It was stabled to wait for the Up Aurora which by this time was only 20 minutes behind, to run through it – Presumably it was drawn forward and stopped on the Up Main between Demondrille South and North signal boxes. After waiting for the Aurora to clear Kingsvale it departed Demondrille at 04:08. Crossing the Down Aurora at Young (04:45 -05:37) and its Down counterpart at Koorawatha (06:38 – 07:09). The cars were watered at Cowra (07:40-08:15), it passed Blayney at 09:47, Bathurst at 10:44-10:50, Lithgow at 12:17-12:30 and arrived in Sydney at 15:10.the Junee crew had run as far as Cowra, while the Cowra crew had run to Lithgow.
As seen the Up Aurora, hauled by 4449/4443 had run past the Up Spirit at Demondrille (03:28-03:40) and Young was 04:14-04:16. It arrived at Monteagle at 04:33 to find its Down counterpart in the loop – it had arrived only a few minutes earlier. A quick change of the staff saw it on its way quickly. Cowra was reached at 06:00 where it crossed the Down Spirit. After a 30 minute stop it departed, passing Blayney at 08:00, Bathurst (08:55-0915)where the cars were watered, Lithgow (10:35-10:43 and it arrived in Sydney at 13:13. The locos were crewed Albury – Cowra, Cowra – Lithgow and Lithgow – Sydney.