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Operating Equipment & Practices

This section will attempt to list some of the items of equipment or practices required to operate a railway. Initially we will list such miscellaneous items or practices on this page, but once we have added a number of such items we will then separate them under the auspices of the GWR, LMS and LNER. British Railways will be treated as a separate entity.

Use the links below to access the following sections on this page:

Miscellaneous

Composite image showing a photo and drawings of a standard GWR 8 ton Water Crane and drainage hopper
Ref: misc_equip193
Great Western Railway
Composite image showing a photo and drawings of a standard GWR 8 ton Water Crane and drainage hopper
Close of Leamington station's straight arm water crane located on the up platform seen in July 1966
Ref: misc_equip194
C Capewell
Close up of the 20 mph BR standard cut-out speed restriction sign located at the end of the up platform
Section of the GWR route map showing the lines within and around the county of Warwickshire.
Ref: misc_equip195
M Clemens
Section of the GWR route map showing the lines within and around the county of Warwickshire
An official Great Western Railway photograph taken in December 1903 of the Engineering Department Van No 14938
Ref: misc_equip202
Great Western Railway
An official GWR photograph taken in December 1903 of the Engineering Department Van No 14938
Photograph of Great Western Railway Steam Crane No 5 with Match Truck No 5 taken in May 1932
Ref: misc_equip203
W Beard
Photograph of Great Western Railway Steam Crane No 5 with Match Truck No 5 taken in May 1932

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GWR Telegraphs and Telephones

After initially trialling an expensive five wire telegraph system invented by Messrs Cooke and Wheatstone in 1838, the Great Western Railway ordered a two-wire system from the Electric Telegraph Company, which was installed between Paddington and Slough in 1842 for communication purposes. It was removed seven years later when one of the cast iron support posts failed, but in 1850 the Electric Telegraph Company obtained the contract to install a double-needle system alongside the railway between Oxford and Banbury. This double-needle system gradually expanded along all the main railway routes and in 1855 the Great Western Railway set up their own Telegraph Department under Charles Spagnoletti (who invented of several telegraph and signalling instruments).

The early railways predominately used time-interval signalling with the major exceptions being for warning systems through long tunnels. In November 1854 the new line between Hockley and Birmingham Snow Hill was signalled by electric telegraph and this system was extended through Snow Hill tunnel to Bordesley shortly after. Single-needle telegraph instruments were also used on single track lines from 1855 to indicate to other signalmen when a train staff was being issued, but with few exceptions the block telegraph was only gradually introduced for main line signalling after 1867. This changed after the Armagh Railway disaster in 1889, when the Board of Trade required ‘Lock and Block’ to be implemented on all passenger lines.

While the Telegraph system became the primary signalling safety system, Telephone technology gradually superseded it as the general communication medium. Initially private wire telephone systems were point to point, many of which evolved into omnibus lines. Then gradually more manual telephone exchanges were installed at principle locations (see 'gwrbsh3013' and 'Snow Hill Telegraph and telephone Articles'), with trunk circuits being installed between them. As technology progressed, links could be made between; the omnibus lines, company exchange lines and the General Post Office (GPO) network. The point to point and omnibus lines were generally retained for operational purposes, but the development of the selector-mechanism allowed the introduction of Automatic telephone exchanges. As the exchanges became more complex to maintain, and with call and rental costs falling, GPO telephones were increasingly provided.

Close up of the telegraph line construction & arrangements of crossing wires compared to the official GWR arrangement
Ref: misc_equip192
R Ferris
Close up of the telegraph line construction & arrangements of crossing wires compared to the official GWR arrangement
Three different Great Western Railway telephones used at locations on Omnibus circuits
Re: misc_equip233
KRM/Sam Hallas
Three different Great Western Railway telephones used at locations on the GWR's Omnibus circuits
Three Great Western Railway Omnibus Telephone Circuit Cards recovered from Birmingham Signal Boxes
Re: misc_equip234
Tele Cct GWR
Three Great Western Railway Omnibus Telephone Circuit Cards recovered from Birmingham Signal Boxes
Three Great Western Railway Omnibus Telephone Circuit Cards recovered from Birmingham Signal Boxes
Re: misc_equip235
A Emmerson & S Hallas
Railway Telephones by S Flint published in 1934, which describes the principles and equipment used
One, four and five needle telegraph instruments developed by Cooke and Wheatstone
Re: misc_equip254
Fons Vanden Berghen
One, four and five needle telegraph instruments developed by Cooke and Wheatstone

S Roberts<BR>Map showing the extent of the Electric Telegraph Company telegraph circuits in 1852 including Warwickshire
Re: misc_equip255
S Roberts
Map showing the extent of the Electric Telegraph Company telegraph circuits in 1852 including Warwickshire

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Signalling Procedure

The first railways employed a simple time-interval system, with the interval calculated to be sufficient for a train to safely pass through a section prior to allowing a second train to follow, but as train speeds and frequencies increased, it became necessary to develop more rigorous railway operating safety procedures. Telegraph communication allowed ‘absolute Block’ working to be introduced between adjacent signal box locations preventing more than one train to be on any section. The system was gradually introduced to main lines, but in response to the Armagh disaster, the Railway Act of 1889 required all double track passenger lines to employ the absolute block system. Along with the messages necessary to accept a train in a block section, a system of Standard Bell codes allowed each train type to be described.

On single track lines, ‘staff and ticket’ working procedures were used and this system remained suitable for lines where there was only a single engine in steam. On busier single lines various types of electrically interlocked systems (using; staffs, tokens or tablets) were adopted, some of which could be adapted to allow permanent way staff to use Occupational keys when they were travelling on or maintaining a section of track.

The 1889 Railway Act also required interlocking of switch points and signals to reduce the risk of error and prevent conflicting routes being set. This resulted in an intensive programme of Signal box construction, some of which were subsequently abandoned when cheaper operational practices were introduced (for example 'gwrc874'). Gradually within the signal box other instruments were provided to assist the Signalman, including arm repeaters and train describers (see 'gwrsh2285'). In particular, indications from fouling bars (see 'gwrbsh1131a'), and later electric track circuits, identified the presence of a train on a specific section of track and this information could be incorporated into the interlocking.

Communicating to the footplate staff predominately comprised the normal Stop Semaphore signal, which was preceded by a Distant Semaphore signal, but to avoid a proliferation of semaphore signals low speed routes could be signalled with ground disc signals or a single semaphore with a route indicator (for example gwrbg670a) and there were also a range of special signals for subsidiary purposes. The arrangement and sighting of signals was important to ensure they were correctly understood and there were also physical limitations to mechanically operated semaphore signals which lead to the introduction of electrically powered semaphore signals, and eventually to coloured lights. To prevent accidents when visibility was poor the Great Western Railway introduced Automatic Train Control (ATC) to acoustically indicate to the train driver if a distant signal had been past at Danger and the equipment was normally arranged to automatically apply the brakes, if not acknowledged.

At certain lineside locations point-to-point telephones allowed footplate staff or guards to communicate to a Signal box, while at others at established system of engine whistle codes was laid down (for example 'moorstreet-gwr-article5').

Regulations for Single Lines 1 - Train Staff System was the first operational safety system introduced for Single Lines
Ref: misc_equip251
West Country Railway Archives
The Train Staff System was the first operational safety system introduced for Single Lines
Regulations for Single Lines 2 - Train Staff and Ticket System was introduced in 1864 to increase the flexibility of the original Train Staff System
Re: misc_equip252
Great Western Railway
Train Staff and Ticket System was introduced in 1864 to increase the flexibility of the original Train Staff System
Train Staff and Ticket Block system combined telegraph circuits to create an Absolute Block system
Re: misc_equip253
Great Western Railway
Train Staff and Ticket Block system combined telegraph circuits to create an Absolute Block system
Webb & Thompson Electric Train Staff System introduced in 1891, to interlock the remote release of the Staff
Ref: misc_equip250
Great Western Railway
Webb & Thompson Electric Train Staff System introduced in 1891, to interlock the remote release of the Staff
Tyer's No6 Electric Tablet System introduced in 1908, to replace the heavy Webb & Thompson Electric Train Staff
Re: misc_equip236
GWR/S Turner
Tyer's No6 Electric Tablet System introduced in 1908, to replace the heavy Webb & Thompson Electric Train Staff

Tyer's No9 Electric Token System introduced in 1914, a greatly simplified refinement to the previous instruments
Ref: misc_equip249
Great Western Railway
Tyer's No9 Electric Token System introduced in 1914, a greatly simplified refinement to the previous instruments
Some of the equipment for use with the ‘Economic’ and ‘Motor Economic’ Systems of Track Maintenance
Ref: misc_equip237
Great Western Railway
Some of the equipment for use with the ‘Economic’ and ‘Motor Economic’ Systems of Track Maintenance

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Maintenance of the Permanent Way

Maintaining the track in good running order is critical to any railway’s operation. Regular inspection were essential to prevent deterioration, which could cause damage to rolling stock or a potential accident, however along with the need for increased track quality, there was a drive to reduce costs (particularly labour costs). This resulted in mechanisation of working methods and the introduction of specialist equipment.

Gangers were expected to daily inspect their assigned length of track, regularly test the; alignment, level and gauge of the tracks, expansion spaces between the rails, and superelevation (cant) of curves. They also were required to organise regular maintenance tasks such as; clearing drainage, maintaining boundaries, vegetation management, checking and replacing of individual track components and remedying any defects found. Maintaining longer assigned lengths was made possible by the introduction of the Economic system of maintenance with; hand trolleys (see 'gwrsf964'), velocipede inspection cars and subsequently motorised trolleys.

Each Division had Permanent Way Inspectors who were responsible for the proper examination and maintenance of the line and works plus the supervision of ordinary maintenance, renewals and new works. They were specifically tasked with; inspection of structures (viaducts, aqueducts, tunnels, bridges, subways, footbridges, culverts, retaining walls, etc.), identification, rectification or reporting of significant drainage or subsidence issues, prevention of trespass or encroachment, supervision of all works being undertaken by company staff or contractors (see 'gwrkd111'), and ensuring the safety of staff by; examination of their competencies, providing suitable equipment and issuing the necessary operational information and documents.

A renewal programme including; relaying, rerailing, reballasting or resleepering sections of track and the replacement, reinforcement or major repair to structures was annually authorised by the Divisional Engineer, and these together with any new works would be undertaken by either a larger permanent way gang or issued as a contract to a private company (see 'gwr/bordesley-viaduct', 'gwr/leamington-station/bridge' and 'gwrga769'). Other new works could result from requests by traders for connections to private sidings and occasionally major unplanned work was necessary following an accident.

One special feature of the Great Western Railway was its development of a Whitewash coach, which travelled over the main routes to identify where track defects resulting in rough riding existed and where superelevation (cant) on curves was incorrect.

Photograph showing the underside of the whitewash coach with pipe leading up to the dashpot
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JH Russell
Photograph showing the underside of the whitewash coach with pipe leading up to the dashpot
A scan of a typical Hallade Record showing places where whitewash was recorded as being dropped
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Great Western Railway
A scan of a typical Hallade Record showing places where whitewash was recorded as being dropped
A composite photograph of internal views of the Great Western Railway Whitewash Coach No 2360
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Great Western Railway
A composite photograph of internal views of the Great Western Railway Whitewash Coach No 2360
An extract from the GWR's Engineering Department’s Instructions detailing the cant requirements on curves
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Great Western Railway
An extract from the GWR's Engineering Department’s Instructions detailing the cant requirements on curves
Great Western Railway Whitewash coach No 2360 alongside platform 7 at Birmingham Snow Hill station
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JH Russell
Great Western Railway Whitewash coach No 2360 alongside platform 7 at Birmingham Snow Hill station

Photograph of a Hallade Recorder and an extract from a 1934 London Midland and Scottish Railway handbook
Ref: misc_equip247
GWR/LMS Document
Photograph of a Hallade Recorder and an extract from a 1934 London Midland and Scottish Railway handbook
Extract from the November 1937 GWR pamphlet entitled ‘Instructions for the operation of the Motor Trolley System
Ref: misc_equip238
Great Western Railway
Extract from the November 1937 GWR pamphlet entitled ‘Instructions for the operation of the Motor Trolley System

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Coaching Stock

Train Staff and Ticket Block system combined telegraph circuits to create an Absolute Block system
Re: misc_equip312
Great Western Magazine
An article in December 1930 edition of the GWR magazine giving a brief history of the smoking regulations
A GWR circular detailing the proportion of smoking accommodation to be provided on each of its services
Re: misc_equip313
Great Western Railway
A GWR circular detailing the percentage of smoking accommodation provided on each of its services

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GWR Lamp Headcodes, Tail Lights and Train Identification Boards

Lamp Headcodes, Tail Lights and Train Identification Boards were introduced by the GWR to enable railway staff to identify the type of train from a distance and in the dark. Lamp Headcodes had been introduced in the 1850’s to inform Signalmen of the expected speed of a train through their section. This was particularly useful when operating a Time Interval signalling system, but even after this system was superseded by Block Section signalling Lamp Headcodes were retained. Tail lamps were essential in maintaining the safety of the railway. In an era when a significant number of trains consisted of wagons with unfitted brakes, the presence of the Red Tail Lamp on the last vehicle of every train confirmed to the Signalman that the train was complete. Train Identification Boards allowed staff to identify the train's de[parture and arrival station and in the summer when several trains made up an advertised service, whether it was the second, third, fourth or fifth part.

Photograph of Great Western Railway Steam Crane No 5 with Match Truck No 5 taken in May 1932
Ref: misc_equip216
Great Western Railway
The GWR rule book and procedures for identifying trains by headcodes, tail lights and ID boards

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Ambulance Trains

Medical and military personnel await the arrival of an ambulance train with wounded soldiers from France arriving in the UK for recuperation
Ref: gwrbsh1157
Birmingham Post & Mail
Medical and military personnel await the arrival of an ambulance train with wounded soldiers arriving in the UK
Two views of the inside of an Open Ward Coach constructed for an Ambulance train at Swindon Works
Ref: misc_equip244
Great Western Railway
Two views of the inside of an Open Ward Coach constructed for an Ambulance train at Swindon Works
Extract from ‘Notes on Military Railway Engineering - Part IV Operating’
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Great Western Railway
Two views of the inside of an Open Ward Coach constructed for Continental Ambulance train No 18 at Swindon Works
Extract from ‘Notes on Military Railway Engineering - Part IV Operating’
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Official MOD Document
Extract from ‘Notes on Military Railway Engineering - Part IV Operating’ authorised by Quartermaster-General
The world’s purpose built first ambulance train built by the BRCWC in 1898 for use as a mobile field hospital
Ref: misc_brc&wc143
Anon
The world’s purpose built first ambulance train built by the BRCWC in 1898 for use as a mobile field hospital

Fifty seven foot long third class corridor ex-toplight coach No 3629 in Tyseley Carriage sidings in 1950
Ref: gwrt3031
RH Russell
Fifty seven foot long third class corridor ex-toplight coach No 3629 in Tyseley Carriage sidings in 1950
Fifty-six foot, eleven inch long 3rd class corridor toplight coach No 3892 in the final GWR livery in 1950
Ref: gwrt3032
RH Russell
Fifty-six foot, eleven inch long 3rd class corridor toplight coach No 3892 in the final GWR livery in 1950
Ex Great Western Railway 43xx class 2-6-0 No 6342 in an unlined black livery passes through Hockley
Ref: gwrhd1964
S Richards
A Great Western Railway 3206 class 2-4-0 locomotive with an ambulance train speeds past Hockley Station
Two more publicity photographs showing the inside of Continental Ambulance Train No 18
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Great Western Railway
More Great Western Railway publicity photographs showing the inside of Continental Ambulance Train No 18
The first wounded soldiers arrive in Birmingham on 1st September 1914 for treatment and convalescence
Ref: gwrms3880
Birmingham Post & Mail
The first wounded soldiers arrive in Birmingham on 1st September 1914 for treatment and convalescence

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Temporary Speed Restrictions

Every week the Great Western Railway issued notices to their train staff regarding works that would involve speed restrictions. The pages seen via the thumbnail image are from a notice issued in July 1910 and describe several track alterations in the Warwickshire region. Details include; the direction, maximum speed that applied, plus the start and finish points of that speed restriction.

Photograph of Great Western Railway Steam Crane No 5 with Match Truck No 5 taken in May 1932
Ref: misc_equip221
Information on the GWR's speed restriuctions for the period 2nd to 8th July 1910 are available via this link

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GWR Road Horse drawn and Mechanised Vehicles

Special Fordson tractor No 2316 towing a loaded modified horse drawn trailer (No 3553) at Warwick Royal Show
Re: gwrw2025
Great Western Railway
Special Fordson tractor No 2316 towing a modified horse drawn trailer (No 3553) at Warwick Royal Show
Fordson tractor No 1194 towing large agricultural machinery to the Warwick Royal Show on 4th July 1931
Re: gwrw2646
Great Western Railway
Fordson tractor No 1194 towing large agricultural machinery to the Warwick Royal Show on 4th July 1931
Temporary garage facilities erected for Warwick Royal Show with Fordson tractor No 2313 under repair
Re: gwrw2647
Great Western Railway
Temporary garage facilities erected for Warwick Royal Show with Fordson tractor No 2313 under repair
Six wheel Morris Commercial ex WD lorry chassis originally allocated No 1115 when purchased by the GWR
Re: gwrw2651
Great Western Railway
Six wheel Morris Commercial ex WD lorry chassis originally allocated No 1115 when purchased by the GWR
View of the travelling crane loading one of the GWR's mechanised tractor and trailer at Queens Head yard in the early 1930s
Re: gwrqhy2642a
Great Western Railway
Close up showing the mechanised tractor with its trailer being loaded with steel joists

GWR Chain Horse helping another horse with a loaded flat trolley up the Pitsford Street slope
Ref: gwrhd748
Great Western Railway
GWR Chain Horse helping another horse with a loaded flat trolley up the Pitsford Street slope
A Great Western Railway two horse tilt van in Hockley Goods Station driven by Mr Jack Jackson
Ref: gwrhd693
Great Western Railway
A Great Western Railway two horse tilt van in Hockley Goods Station driven by Mr Jack Jackson
GWR two horse covered tilt van No 417 outside the old ‘Inwards shed and Warehouse’ in Hockley Goods Yard in 1921
Ref: gwrhd2624
GWR Magazine
GWR two horse covered tilt van No 417 outside the old ‘Inwards shed and Warehouse’ in 1921
GWR single horse flat trolley being loaded with sacks for distribution at the end of the Inwards Shed and Warehouse
Ref: gwrhd2625
GWR Magazine
GWR single horse flat trolley being loaded with sacks for distribution at the end of the Inwards Shed and Warehouse
A GWR Karrier Cob Mechanical Horse acting as the 'Chain Horse' in Pitsford Street with a two horse tilt van
Ref: gwrhd707
Great Western Railway
A GWR Karrier Cob Mechanical Horse acting as the 'Chain Horse' in Pitsford Street with a two horse tilt van


Ref: gwrhd732
GWR Magazine
Anderson Air-raid Shelters being distributed in Birmingham by GWR cartage services in early 1939
GWR single horse flat trolley No 971 loaded with several carcasses outside St Chads Cathedral
Ref: gwrbsh3825
Birmingham Library
GWR single horse flat trolley No 971 loaded with several carcasses outside St Chads Cathedral

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LNWR Trackplans

LNWR trackplan of Coventry Cotton Mill Siding at Coundon Road on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3369
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Coventry Cotton Mill Siding at Coundon Road on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of GF Smith & Sons' Brickworks siding at Milverton on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3370
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of GF Smith & Sons' Brickworks siding at Milverton on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Newdigate Colliery Sidings at Bedworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3371
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Newdigate Colliery Sidings at Bedworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Coventry Corporation Gas Works Sidings at Foleshill on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3372
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Coventry Corporation Gas Works Sidings at Foleshill on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Street's Sidings at Kenilworth Junction on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3373
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Street's Sidings at Kenilworth Junction on the Nuneaton to Leamington line

Part One of LNWR trackplan of Warwickshire Coal Company Ltd at Wyken Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3374a
B Hickman
Part One of LNWR trackplan of Warwickshire Coal Company Ltd at Wyken Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Part Two - LNWR trackplan of Warwickshire Coal Company Ltd at Wyken Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3374b
B Hickman
Part Two - LNWR trackplan of Warwickshire Coal Company Ltd at Wyken Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Exhall Colliery & Brickworks Ltd at Bedworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3375
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Exhall Colliery & Brickworks Ltd at Bedworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Mr Hawkes' Brickworks Sidings at Kenilworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3376
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Mr Hawkes' Brickworks Sidings at Kenilworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
LNWR trackplan of Cherry Orchard Brickworks Siding at Kenilworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3377
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Cherry Orchard Brickworks Siding at Kenilworth on the Nuneaton to Leamington line

LNWR trackplan of Nuneaton Colliery & Brickworks Sidings at Griff Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line
Ref: lnwr_track3378
B Hickman
LNWR trackplan of Nuneaton Colliery & Brickworks Sidings at Griff Branch on the Nuneaton to Leamington line