Plymouth bridge damage
I thought following the drama of the line closure at Lipson Jn due to the bridge strike, I'd put together a piece about the subsequent Single Line working (SLW) when the Down Main reopened next day. Forgive me for not dwelling on the bridge damage itself (pictures excepted), as this is an operational article.
I was working Truro box on Bank Holiday Monday when the news came through of the serious damage to Ashford Crescent between Lipson Jn and Mutley Tunnel. The news was serious with an immediate closure of both lines. As Duty MOM for the area next day, I would be responsible, along with the team in Plymouth panel, in instituting Single Line Working over the Down Main line between Plymouth East and Laira Jn if one line reopened as was forecast.
I collected the Ford Ranger from St Blazey and headed off at first light and arrived in Plymouth Panel box to news that the P Way had applied stretcher bars on the Down Main, and they were confident to open that line at 5mph over the structure. .
The next section focuses on the detail involved in instituting SLW, so forgive the long passage. In the first instance a Pilotman is appointed. This is an experienced person from the operations department, usually a MOM / LOM or relief Signaller. This person is responsible for setting it up, and must personally authorise any movement which fouls or traverses the section for the duration. There are a couple of exceptions to this, but we wont dwell on these now! Drivers are furnished with a ticket giving full details of the route ahead. This includes and speed restrictions (we had one here for the bridge), which signalling equipment to look out for, obey or disregard, and crucially where the handsignalman with be provided (if one is). The handsignalman is appointed opposite the controlling signal on the closed line and displays a yellow handsignal as authority to cross back over to the correct line. The information is very detailed for trains in the wrong direction (as there are no fixed signals to obey), but less so in the right direction, where all the appropriate signals can be worked normally once the Pilotman confirms to the panel that the driver has their SLW ticket to proceed. The Pilotman may send trains through, but must ride with the last one in that direction to bring the next one through. It's a bit like a convoy system you see on roads, when you follow the vehicle though single sections during road works.
It is key when implementing SLW to provide a robust plan that allows the maximum number of services to traverse the section with the minimum of difficulties. Crossovers that preclude setting back moves are always preferable, as setting back moves are time consuming. Fortunately, we were provided with ideal crossovers at Plymouth East, just prior to the tunnel mouth at Mutley, and one at Laira Jn - which would become facing for Up trains on the Down Main at Laira Jn.
This was an ideal situation in the circumstances, operationally however, it ruled out the junction at Lispon as trains would run through the section only, rather than branching off or joining at the intermediate points. All moves to and from Laira depot would be required to run via Laira Jn and reverse. Therefore the Control and Signallers in Plymouth would need to plan theses adhoc movers or the Pilotman could become "Wrong ended" as we call it. The timetable allowed a fairly simple one in each direction flow which was ideal. There was time to dwell at the Laira end (out in the elements) rather than in Plymouth station. Clever platforming allowed a cross island change for most trains which kept things moving nicely. Almost all the services were class 800/802 GWR Hitachi trains which was great for joining and giving the crews plenty of space in the large cab.
The SLW began just after 08.00 on the Tuesday morning, and would run until the Up line was reopened. There was no need for a Pilotman during the small hours of the night as there were no booked services.
With thanks to an intricate repair job on the bridge by specialist contractors, the news is great that both lines will be open by the weekend. The railway really pulled together during the disruption. From GWR station staff and traincrew, our Signallers at Plymouth, Delivery Unit (Pway / S&T) and other operations staff a steady stream of nine and ten car trains ran from the South West to Paddington.
It certainly looks as if the CRS trip to Paignton tomorrow should have no problems,
Paignton & Kingswear Trip
I was at Plymouth yesterday,trains west of Plymouth seemed to be running normally and some onward trains were going over the affected bridge; I think one an hour in each direction over one track. By Saturday, work on the bridge may well have restored normality.
Fingers crossed!, John
A small chance of rain, sunny afternoon, feels like 60 deg F, wind 12 MPH.
All the Best
(Message Recd at 13.14 on the 2nd September 2021).
6Y41 Freightliner Friday 03/09/21 Dep 19:35 Westbury - Burngullow Arr 00:01, departs Saturday 04/09/21 Dep 17:55 Burngullow - Westbury, booked class 66 and 11 Falcon wagons
Realtime Trains - FRGT 1935 Westbury Down T.C. to Burngullow Jn (Down train times)
6C22 Colas Friday 03/09/21 Dep 17:10 Westbury - Burngullow Arr 23:25, departs Sunday 05/09/21 Dep 08:00 Burngullow - Westbury, booked class 66 and 7 Falcons wagons and 3 Salmon wagons
Realtime Trains - FRGT 1710 Westbury Down T.C. to Burngullow Jn (Down train times)
6C23 Colas Friday 03/09/21 Dep 20:48 Westbury - Burngullow Arr 01:00, departs Saturday 04/09/21 Dep 09:55 Burngullow - Westbury, booked top and tail class 66's and 10 Falcon wagons
Realtime Trains - FRGT 2048 Westbury Down T.C. to Burngullow Jn (Down train times)
Exeter SD to Central
Through the CRS website can I ask if anyone has a photo that I'm sure I;'ve seen SOMEWHERE - but where? - of a diesel loco [a class 50?] banking a freight train [Meldon Quarry? i vaguely remember?] up the bank to Exeter Central. I need it for the continuation of my DEVON BELLE PowerPoint presentation, please.
Naturally credit for it will be given in the final version of that presentation.
Many thanks, Ken (Mumford)