The Working and Management of an English Railway/Chapter 10
The Working of the Trains.
The immense and continuous development of railway traffic during the last fifty years has taxed to the very utmost the ability and inventive faculties alike of those engaged in its management, and of constructive and mechanical engineers, in order to keep pace with it, and to enable it to be carried on with regularity and despatch, and with a minimum of delays and mishaps. In the foregoing chapters, some account has been given of the numerous mechanical and other contrivances which have been almost universally adopted by railway companies for this purpose; and the following pages will serve to afford an insight into the various administrative arrangements which alone enable the traffic of the chief lines in the country to be carried on. That traffic consists of varying elements. There are express and mail passenger trains, running at a speed of forty-five miles an hour, and, in some cases, more than that; others at a somewhat less speed, but still known as fast trains; stopping trains, calling at every station, and running at a rate of from twenty to twenty-five miles an hour; local suburban trains, running for short distances at a fairly high rate of speed, chiefly for residential purposes; express goods trains between the larger towns, attaining a speed of from twenty to twenty-five miles an hour; slow, stopping, goods trains, for serving smaller towns and villages; and, finally, the heavy coal trains, running out of the great colliery districts to every centre of population. All these various trains, heavy and light, fast and slow, some stopping at the stations and others dashing through them at high rates of speed, have to be accommodated to a great extent upon the same line of rails, yet all to keep their time and fulfil their appointed functions—and, briefly, this is the great problem which railway management has to solve. Such a service cannot be carried on under all circumstances, whether by night or day, in fogs, in snow-storms, in wind or rain, and under all other adverse conditions, without entailing hardships and dangers upon the men engaged in the working; yet it is gratifying to be able to say that the vast army of men of all grades employed in the service of the various railway companies exhibit at all times a state of complete discipline and cheerful devotion to duty, which could not be exceeded by any body of men whatever, and which, although perhaps not so well understood or appreciated by the public as might be the case, reflects the highest credit upon them as a class. Bearing in mind the vast importance of the interests entrusted to their charge, and the serious consequences that might easily arise from any carelessness or dereliction of duty on their part, it is a fact upon which the travelling public may well congratulate themselves, that their lives and limbs, their property and interests are confided to hands so trustworthy and reliable. (See Appendix A.)
The train mileage run upon the London and North-Western Railway during the year ending the 31st December, 1888, was:—
|Goods and mineral trains||19,141,030||„|
but this was exclusive of empty mileage and of shunting, and, as a matter of fact, the total engine miles run during the year amounted to 55,525,334. In other words, the engines of this one company ran a mile and three-quarters every second, or 104 miles every minute, and in effect they put a girdle round the earth once in every four hours throughout the year, yet such is the perfection of mechanism attained in the present.day, that the engines were able to run a distance equal to twice round the world for every single case which occurred of a hot axle, the loss of a split pin or cotter, or anything tending to throw an engine out of gear.
During the year above mentioned, the number of passengers carried on the North-Western Railway was 56,830,2 16, and the number of tons of goods and minerals conveyed was 35,922,619. The revenue derived from all sources, except from rents, was £4,25 1,329 from passenger traffic, and £6,198, 583 from goods and mineral traffic, giving a total of £10,449,912.
The accompanying illustration (Plate XXVI.) is a specimen on a reduced scale, of the diagrams which are prepared for each section of the line, showing how the engine working is arranged, the time and speed of running, and the intersection of the trains at places where goods and slow passenger trains have to shunt into sidings for the fast express trains to pass them. It will be perceived that the perpendicular lines divide the day of twenty-four hours into periods of hours, half hours, quarters of hours, and of five minutes; the horizontal lines dividing the railway into sections, while the slanting lines represent the engines or trains timed to run over the line. Thus the diagram offers, as it were, a visible picture of the state of the line, as to its being occupied or otherwise, between any two points at any minute of the day, and it will be easily apparent that such diagrams are invaluable, and in fact indispensable, in arranging train alterations or the running of new trains or special trains when required. The section of line chosen for illustration is that between Liverpool and Manchester, upon the major portion of which there is as yet only one up and one down line of rails, and on this portion one train cannot pass another proceeding in the same direction, unless the first one takes refuge in a siding. Over this Liverpool and Manchester Railway there are running at the present time, for greater or less distances, no fewer than 272 passenger trains, and 292 goods trains, or a total of 564 trains up and down within twenty-four hours. Of the passenger trains, 112 are expresses, fourteen of which travel at a speed of forty-four miles an hour, and the remainder at an average speed of thirty-five miles an hour; and there are 56 express goods trains running at about twenty-three miles an hour.
Over certain busy portions of the North-Western system it has been found necessary, owing to the enormous development of the traffic, to lay down additional lines of rails, and there are now four lines (viz., two up and two down) between London and Roade, between Stafford and Crewe, and over some twenty shorter sections of railway, varying from half a mile to five miles in length, while, on other sections, a third line has been provided for goods traffic only. The advantages of the duplicated lines are obvious; they admit of the fast and slow trains being kept separate, and thus simplify the working, lessen the risk of accident, and reduce delays and irregularities to a minimum.
If the theory of the Time Bill, with regularly appointed trains running at varying rates of speed, with specified places for them to pass each other, could be realised absolutely in regular practice, it would represent the perfection of railway working; but, owing to bad weather, the fluctuations of traffic, the running of special trains at short notice, and other uncontrollable causes, this ideal can never be absolutely attained. The most important thing, at all times, is to keep the line clear for the passenger trains, and, as a matter of fact, everything is made to give way to this, for there is nothing that adds so much to the reputation of a line, or redounds so much to the credit of the officers and servants, as a well-appointed and punctual passenger service. It pleases the travelling public, and brings both reputation and profit to the company.
On a line which is efficiently worked, the percentage of unpunctual trains is small, but at certain times of the year there will always be a considerable amount of late running, which cannot be avoided. For instance, in summer the passenger traffic is largely swelled by tourists proceeding to seaside resorts, the lakes, and Scotland, taking with them great quantities of luggage, which add to the weight of the trains and to the difficulty of getting them away from the stations promptly. Again, in winter, fogs, frosts, and snowstorms delay the progress of cross-channel steamers from Ireland, which run in connection with the trains, and these, in their turn, delay the trains. Those responsible for the working are thus constantly engaged in a contest against disturbing influences, and the arrangements have to be sufficiently elastic to enable trains to be run out of course, if necessary, as safely and well as at the specified times.
Goods trains, starting from terminal stations where the shunting and marshalling of the waggons take place, cannot always leave with absolute punctuality; nor can those having waggons to attach and detach at roadside stations, where a margin is allowed for the purpose, always accomplish their task within the specified time. The weight of the load, the capacity of the engine, the state of the rails and the weather, the varying gradients, and the more or less frequent running of special trains, are all disturbing elements which have to be reckoned with, and which tend materially to upset the calculations made in compiling the time bill, so that the arrangements for shunting goods trains off the running lines into sidings to allow passenger trains to pass them, have to be left very largely to the discretion of the station-masters and foremen. The most that can be done on the part of the management is to lay down certain rules and principles for the guidance of the men, and this is done. For instance, as a general rule, passenger trains take precedence of goods, cattle, and coal trains, and such trains are not allowed to be started from any station within a given space of time before a passenger train is due. This regulation is, however, subject to modification according to circumstances, and a light through goods or cattle train, on a clear day or night, may be started before a passenger train, if the latter has to call at all the stations. Again, if the station-master or foreman has been informed by means of the telegraph or otherwise, that a passenger train which is due, may not be expected for some time, he may despatch a goods train, taking care to inform the driver of the passenger train when it does arrive, what time the goods train was started, and where it was ordered to shunt. The same principle applies to a slow or stopping passenger train travelling in front of an express which is known to be late.
These are general rules, but on all the more important sections of the main lines it has been found desirable to fix an absolute margin of time within which a goods train is to leave a particular station in advance of a passenger train. This information is set forth, for each division of the line, in what is called the "Working Book," a compendium of general instructions and information issued every month for the guidance of the staff, and which gives also the locality of the various shunting or refuge sidings, and the number of waggons each of them will contain.
The following table, as an example, gives these particulars for down trains on the line from London to Rugby; but, of course, similar arrangements exist with regard to up trains and for all the other divisions of the main line.
But this is not all. To ensure the principal station-masters and inspectors being kept well posted as to the working of the line and the movement of the trains, a most elaborate system is in force for telegraphing the progress of the trains from point to point. For instance, the telegraph clerk at Stafford will telegraph the time of departure of all trains from Stafford, to Crewe, to Chester, to Wolverhampton, to Tamworth, to Warrington, and to any other stations at which the information is useful, and this is continually going on all over the line, and from almost every station and signal cabin, so that everyone concerned is kept well posted as to what is going on.
from Fast to Slow).
|Heyword South.||South end
|16¼||Watford (Junc. from Fast to Slow.)||…||…||40||…||…||…||…||…||…||…|
|75||South end Kilsby Tunnel||100||…||…||…||…||…||…||…||20||25|
In order that the different descriptions of trains may be the more readily distinguished one from another, especially at night, a system of distinctive head lights for the engines has been devised, which is as follows:—
|1. Engines of Fast Passenger Trains, Fish Trains and Break-down Van Trains||Two White Lights—one over each Buffer. Fish and Breakdown Van Trains by day must carry a White Diamond Board over Right Hand Buffer.|
|2. Engines of Slow Passenger Trains and Light Engines||A White Light over Left Hand Buffer.|
|3. Engines of "Express" Goods and Through Trains of Cattle, Perishables, and Shipment Traffic||One Green Light over Right Hand Buffer, and one White Light over Left Hand Buffer. A White Diamond Board at Bottom of Engine Chimney during daylight.||See Note A|
|4. Engines of Fast Goods Trains not having to stop at intermediate stations and sidings; also Ballast Trains not stopping to do work on the road||Two Green Lights—one over each Buffer. A White Diamond Board over Left Hand Buffer of Engine during daylight.|
|5. Engines of Stopping Goods, Mineral, and Ballast Trains||One Green Light over Left Hand Buffer.|
Where there are more than two lines (one Up and one Down) a Green Light must be carried at foot of chimney by Engines of all Trains travelling on the Auxiliary Line.
Light Engines on the Auxiliary Lines must carry one Green Light at the foot of the chimney, the Light on the Buffer Plank being dispensed with.
Note A.—Urgent Express Goods, Cattle, Meat, or Vegetable Trains requiring unusual despatch, will, under special instructions from the District Superintendents, carry the following distinctive Head Signals:—
By day—A White Oval Board, with Green Cross on it, at foot of chimney.
By night—One Green Light over Left Hand Buffer, and one White Light over Right Hand Buffer.
These special Head Signals must only be used in cases specified by instructions from the District Superintendents.
In order to afford some idea of the growth which has taken place in the length and weight of the trains, during the last five-and-twenty years, it may be mentioned that the 10.0 a.m. down express from Euston, which in 1863 was 312 ft. in length, and weighed 123 tons, had increased in 1887 to 652¾ ft. in length, and in weight to 268 tons; while the 5 o'clock train in the evening, in the same period, increased from 403 ft. in length, and 149 tons in weight, to 463¼ ft. in length, and 235 tons in weight. One of the principal up trains from Scotland—the 8.41 p.m. from Carlisle—in 1863 was 206 ft. in length, and weighed 97 tons, while to-day it measures 568¼ ft. and weighs 242 tons (see Fig. 27). Then, again, the speed of the trains has increased to almost as great an extent as their length and weight, for the three trains selected as illustrations travel now from five per cent, to upwards of fourteen per cent quicker than they did even fifteen years ago.The London and North- Western Company, however have not hitherto made it their principal object to run their trains at the highest possible rate of speed. In these days, journeys must be accomplished quickly in order to keep pace with the times, and meet the growing requirements of the travelling public; but the highest attainable speed is not always the most compatible with safety and punctuality, and these latter essentials are certainly not the least important to be secured in the working of a railway. Thus the London and North-Western, if it does not lay claim to the doubtful distinction of running the fastest trains in the world, is, it is believed, fairly entitled to the reputation of being the most punctual line in the kingdom. Still it can, on occasion, achieve notable records in the way of fast travelling, and an illustration of its ability to do so, occurs to the writer in connection with what happened some years ago, at the commencement of the civil war in America. It was at the time when the British Foreign Secretary had sent a despatch, in the nature of an ultimatum, to the Federal Government, with respect to the case of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, the Confederate Envoys, who had been forcibly taken out of a British ship by a Federal cruiser. There was no Atlantic cable in those days, and although all England was on the tip-toe of expectation to know the terms of the reply which would govern the issue of peace or war between two great nations, there was no quicker means of communication than by steamer to Queenstown, thence by rail to Dublin, then again by steamer to Holyhead, and by rail again to London. During this anxious period from the 2nd to the 9th of January, 1862, an engine was kept constantly in steam at Holyhead, and when at length the long expected despatch arrived, it was brought from Holyhead to Euston, a distance of 264 miles, in five hours, or at an average speed of 53 miles an hour throughout, including one stoppage at Stafford for the purpose of changing engines. It may be added that although at that time the Company had not adopted the block telegraph system, and the working was carried on by the ordinary telegraph signals from station to station, the entire journey was performed without the slightest stoppage or interruption of any kind.
For the working of single lines of railway, most companies adopt what is known as the "Train Staff and Ticket System," which is carried out in the following manner:—Supposing the line, or the section of line, extends from A to B, and there are three trains at A wanting to proceed to B. The first one is despatched with a ticket, and the second also, but the third, or last, must carry on the engine what is known as the train staff, a straight piece of wood somewhat resembling a constable's staff, but coloured and lettered in accordance with the particular section of line it refers to. The box containing the "tickets" can only be unlocked by means of the train staff, which is really the key, and no train can enter the opposite end of the section until the train staff itself arrives at that end, so that it is impossible for two trains to meet in opposite directions, and the proper distance between trains proceeding in the same direction is maintained by fixed signals and the block telegraph, the same as on double lines. Where the branch is a long one, it is divided into sections, with crossing places at convenient intervals, and each section has its own staff and set of tickets, and is worked separately in the manner described.
This system of working single lines, although it has been altered and improved upon in many ways, until it may now be considered to be almost perfect, both as to safety and convenience, was originally devised by Mr. Henry Woodhouse, until lately one of the engineers to the London and North-Western Company, for the working of a long tunnel, called the "Standedge Tunnel," on the Huddersfield and Manchester railway, of which he had charge nearly forty years ago, and was authorised generally by the Board of Trade, and included in their requirements in 1860.
Some single lines of short length, and where the traffic is light, are worked by a single engine in steam, and this fact, of course, supersedes the necessity for any special precautions such as those already described.
Another method of working single lines which has been introduced within a comparatively recent period is what is known as the "Train Tablet System," which is now in operation on a section of the line at Cockermouth, on the Callander and Oban railway in Scotland, and elsewhere. Although the train staff system, as described above, combined with the block telegraph, has answered its purpose well, it has one drawback, which is that the sections have of necessity to be short in order to avoid serious delays, and under any circumstances it may occur that the train staff may be at one end of the section while a train is waiting for it at the other. This fact led one of the officers of the Caledonian Company to set his wits to work to devise an arrangement by which a train staff, or its equivalent in the form of a tablet, or circular disc of metal, could be electrically controlled from the other end of the section, so as to constitute in point of fact a train staff and block telegraph system combined.
The apparatus has been since improved and perfected, and has been patented by Messrs. Tyer & Co., the well-known electrical engineers. Although the working is, in practice, very simple, a detailed description of the instruments used, and the way in which they are manipulated, would appear extremely complicated, but the essential features of the system are as follows:—Supposing A and B are the two ends of a section of single line and a train is waiting at A to proceed to B. The signalman at A gives a signal to that effect on an electric bell to the signalman at B. If, according to the block telegraph regulations, the train may proceed to B, that is to say if the line to the knowledge of the signalman at B is clear between A and B, the signalman at B draws out a slide in his instrument, and depresses a plunger, which, by means of an electric current, has the effect of enabling the signalman at A to draw out a corresponding slide in his instrument, and remove from it a train tablet, which he hands to the driver of the train as his authority to start and enter the section in advance towards B. On arrival at B the driver delivers up the tablet to the signalman there, who inserts it in his instrument, and until this has been done, the apparatus is automatically locked, and a second tablet cannot be obtained from the apparatus at either end. Thus it is impossible for two trains to be in the same section at the same time, proceeding in opposite directions, although trains may follow one another in the same direction at the proper intervals without intermission or delay.
An apparatus very similar to this, and designed to attain the same objects, has recently been devised and constructed at the Crewe works, and is now in use on the Bedford and Cambridge branch, having been approved by the Board of Trade. In this case train staffs of the ordinary type take the place of the tablets, and these are made in such a form, that they will serve to open any of the intermediate sidings within the section, which in their normal state are locked. Although the apparatus differs in form, the manipulation is almost identical with that of the train tablet system, it being physically impossible for a staff to be withdrawn without the concurrence of the signalmen at the two ends of the section. The experimental trial of this system having proved very successful, it will probably be extended to other single line branches.
There is one element which causes, perhaps, more difficulty, and entails more anxiety upon those engaged in the management of a railway than all others put together, and that is the prevalence of fogs in this country. When one of these unwelcome visitations descends upon us, although the telegraph still remains, the whole system of visible signals is, as it were, blotted out, and it is easy to realise how extremely difficult this must render the working. The greatest caution has to be observed, the speed has to be reduced, and more or less delay is inevitable in the interests of safety, which, after all is, of course, the first and last consideration. To admit of the trains running while the signals are invisible, a system of what is called "fog-signalling" has been devised, and a brief description of this system, which is as simple as it is perfect, may do much to reassure any of our readers who may chance to find themselves performing a journey by an express train during a fog. At such a time the platelayers are perforce idle, since the permanent way is not allowed to be interfered with until the weather clears, and these men for the most part furnish the ranks of the fog-signalmen. Directly a fog comes on, a man is stationed at the foot of each distant signal, and becomes, in fact, a living signal-post. As soon as the signal-arm is raised to "Danger," he places upon the rails two detonating signals, which are exploded by the engine of a train passing over them, and the driver of the train is thus apprised that the signal, although invisible to him, is at "Danger," and he must act accordingly. If the signal is lowered to indicate that the line is clear before any train approaches, the fog-signalman at once removes the detonators, but replaces them as soon as the signal is again raised to "Danger."
Each man is provided with a hut to shelter him, a fire and a thick warm overcoat, which is supplied by the Company for his use. As soon as he has been on duty three hours he is supplied with refreshments at the Company's expense, and again six hours later if the fog continues so long; and, after twelve hours, if the fog still continues, he goes off duty, and his place is taken by a relief man. The refreshments supplied consist usually of bread and meat, and tea or coffee.
During the week ending the 14th January, 1888, as may perhaps be remembered, occurred one of the most severe visitations of fog within living memory. It was general throughout the country, and, in fact, was not confined to England, but extended over some portions of the Continent. In most parts of the country it commenced either on Sunday night or Monday morning, and, with brief intervals, and in some places with, practically, no interval whatever, it continued until Friday night. It may readily be imagined that to carry on the working of the railway under such circumstances, and for such a lengthened period, became a matter of great difficulty, and imposed a very severe strain upon all the men engaged.
Delays, more or less, were naturally inevitable, but it is gratifying to state that, with the exception of one or two trifling mishaps with goods trains, involving no serious results, the whole of the traffic was carried on during this trying week without any actual interruption, and without accident or injury to a single passenger. This result was entirely due to the efficient carrying out of the system of fog-signa1ling above described, and probably there could not well be a more searching test of the efficiency of the system employed. Enquiries have shown that during the week in question on the London and North-Western Railway alone, fogmen had to be provided at 2,462 signal posts; 2,375 men were employed, in addition to 1,377 relief men, making a total of 3,752 men. During the week scarcely any express train was more than half-an-hour late, and some of the trains actually ran to time.
Various plans have from time to time been suggested for dispensing with the fog-signalmen, and conveying to the drivers the requisite warning as to the state of the signals during a fog, by mechanical means, either in connection with electricity or otherwise, and it appears probable that sooner or later some efficient system of this kind will be devised, but, so far, none has been developed which has been thought to be sufficiently reliable, and the matter is still within the region of experiment.
A great deal of difficulty was formerly experienced in getting the fog-signalmen to their posts, especially if the fog came on during the night, as is frequently the case. In remote country districts the men often found it impossible to obtain dwellings near their work, and even in the vicinity of large towns the only houses available were sometimes those of a type unsuited to the means of men of the class to which they belonged. Thus the signalman, confined to his cabin, perhaps in some lonely cutting, far from any station or town, during the solitary hours of the night, would see a fog approach and blot out his signals, and, not daring to leave his post to call assistance, and knowing that the nearest fog-signalman lived a mile, or perhaps more, from the spot, he was frequently placed in a position of great anxiety and perplexity. This difficulty is being gradually met by the expedient of the Company themselves building in the neighbourhood of every station or signal-post where the circumstances are such as to give rise to the necessity, a number of workmen's cottages sufficient to accommodate the platelayers and others who are required for fog-signalling at that particular station or post. These cottages are specially designed for the convenient occupation of a single family; they are of uniform construction, all the wood-work, iron-work, and other fittings being turned out in quantities at the Company's works at Crewe, where the bricks are also made; and owing to this, and to the buildings being erected by the Company's own workmen, they can be completed at a comparatively moderate outlay, each pair of cottages costing from £350 to £400. There is usually an electric bell communication between the signalman's cabin and the bedroom of one of the men, generally the ganger, whose duty it is, on the alarm being given, to call out the other men, so that within a very few minutes of the first warning, every man is at his appointed post, and ready for duty. Both the Company and the men are the gainers by this arrangement. The Company attain their object of having the men concentrated on the spot, and easily accessible at all times, and the rents paid by the men, which range from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per week, ensure them a certain return, although a small one, for their outlay. The men, on their part, reap the benefit of occupying, at a small rental, a commodious and convenient dwelling, near to their work, constructed under proper sanitary conditions, kept in a good state of repair, and in every way infinitely superior to the best accommodation which their small means would otherwise enable them to obtain.
Besides the cottages for fog-signalmen, the Company provide houses for their station-masters, foremen, signalmen, engine-drivers, brakesmen, and others, who cannot easily obtain suitable dwellings near the stations to which they are attached, the houses owned by the Company and occupied by their servants, being in all nearly 4,000 in number.
It is only during the passage of the Royal train to convey Her Majesty and suite to and from Scotland twice a year, that the ordinary arrangements for working the line are suspended. The exceptional nature of the regulations then adopted may be considered as affording the nearest approach to perfection in railway travelling that has yet been arrived at. The train is lighted with gas, and fitted throughout with the Westinghouse and vacuum brakes, with an electrical communication between the compartments of each saloon and carriage, and the guards, and with a communication between the front guard and the driver. A pilot engine is run fifteen minutes in advance of the train throughout the entire journey, and in order to guard against any obstruction or interference with the safe passage of the train, no engine, except the pilot, or any train or vehicle, is allowed to proceed upon or cross the main line during an interval of at least thirty minutes before the time at which the Royal train is appointed to pass. All shunting operations on the adjoining lines are suspended during the same period, while, after the Royal train has passed, no engine or train is permitted to leave a station or siding upon the same line for at least fifteen minutes. In addition to these regulations, no engines or trains, except passenger trains, are allowed to travel between any two stations on the opposite line of rails to that on which the Royal train is running, from the time the pilot is due until the Royal train has passed. For instance, supposing the Royal train is to run on the down line from Stafford to Norton Bridge, and the pilot is due at Norton Bridge at, say eight o'clock, if a goods train or light engine required to travel on the up line from Norton Bridge to Stafford, and it was ready to start at eight o'clock, it would be kept back until the Royal train had passed.
The precaution is also taken of specially guarding every level crossing, farm crossing, and station, to prevent trespassers, and of securely bolting all facing points over which the Royal train must pass. Plate-layers are also posted along the line to prevent the possibility of any obstruction or impediment occurring; and all level crossing gates, where gatekeepers are not kept, are locked an hour before the train is due, and kept so until it has passed. Special arrangements are made for telegraphing the passage of the train from point to point as it speeds along its journey, and an instrument is conveyed by the train by means of which a telegraphic communication can be established at any place on the journey in case of need. The train is accompanied by a staff of fitters, lampmen, and greasers, who keep a vigilant watch on each side of it, so as to notice any irregularity in the running of the carriages, and who, upon the train stopping at the appointed stations, examine it throughout and grease the axle boxes. The average speed of the train does not exceed about thirty-six miles an hour excluding stoppages.