Our Signalling & Telecommunications (S&T) Department look after the range of signals, both mechanical and electrical, that we use to control the trains along the line. Craig Donald, S & T Technician, takes us through one of the many jobs that the S & T team undertake.

There have not been many advantages to the lockdown over the last year or so, but one of the few was the ability for us to carry out repair work on the Railway’s signalling systems without having to work around trains. Normally, we have to plan work around the timetable to limit the disruption to the planned daily services.

We have a rolling programme of routine checks of our signalling equipment along the line to maintain and repair where necessary.

Earlier this year we commenced checking the cables from the relay locations to the signalling equipment between High Mill level crossing and the station at Pickering. Many cables are in excess of 30 years old now and the only way to be sure they are still in good working condition is of course to test them using insulation testers and multi-meters. About 30 cables were tested and most were very good, thankfully. A few short lengths of two-core cable were producing readings that had values that were lower than we would like, so they were completely removed and replaced with new ones.

One cable that was very poor was from the relay locations to the ground frame at the Carriage & Wagon shed. This needed to be checked to see if it could be repaired or had to be replaced in its entirety. To do this we have a device that can detect the distance from the end of the cable to the fault so it’s simply a case of then measuring back from the cable ends once a fault is detected.

Fortunately, it indicated the fault was at the tips at both ends of the cable but not more than a few feet in. We cut the ends off and retested the cable. The remaining section proved to be in excellent condition and fortunately, it had spare loops in the ends, so we uncoiled them and then terminated one end inside the relay location by the beck.

The ground frame itself operates the points into the C&W sidings and sits on a heavy timber base made from old point timbers. It looked to be in good condition. Checking it was to hit it with the pointed end of a crowbar and it should just bounce off it if all is well. But bounce it did not. The bar went straight into the timber. We then checked other sections of the base and dug the legs out as well. It turned out that the out of sight legs were very poor, along with the top of the ground frame base. There was no point in terminating the cable back onto the ground frame this time as it was obvious we now needed to dig out and remove the old base and construct a new one. New timber was ordered and delivered in about a week. The ground frame itself was also worn and corroding in places, in particular the fixing bolts, turn pinholes and various studs.

Fortunately, where the ground frame is situated adjacent to the C&W concrete pad we could use their forklift truck to do the heavy lifting for us. The holding down bolts for the ground frame were then burnt off and the heavy metal frame was lifted away from the timber base and put to one side.

The timber was dug out a bit to allow lifting chains to be inserted under it and that item was also lifted out and put to one side as well. The old bench could now be used to work out where bolts and other fittings needed to be on the new one, so we kept it as intact as possible for a few weeks.

The ground frame was quite worn after years of hard work. It would normally be difficult to fix the wear in situ, but we now had the chance to strip it down to every individual component. Some of the lever to point rodding connections were badly worn but by swapping the levers around into different positions we could drill new holes and make a fresh start on assembling the frame again with no wear to cause problems in the future.

The new timber bench was constructed on the concrete pad next to where it would be positioned when installed later on. This bench was made from new cut down point timbers. I am not sure what the weight was when it was completed, but it was a lot. The weight is necessary to prevent the ground frame from moving when the levers are operated. The next job was to dig the bench hole out as it had collapsed when the old bench was lifted out.

Once the timber bench was completed, we partially assembled the ground frame on it so we could mark out and accurately drill the bolt holes in the timber top. The frame was then removed again.

The next job was for the forklift to lift the timber bench out and lower it down into the muddy hole in the ground. Rather than build the heavy metal ground frame up on the pad we assembled it bit by bit on the now installed timber benchtop.

Once installed the bench was barred around and lifted slightly to get the correct alignment with the track. Some of the timbers on the adjacent point were also starting to rot, so with help from some of the P Way team, we dug out and changed them for new ones as well.

It was then a case of reconnecting the point rodding and the cable, test the points and adjust them slightly as needed. Once all adjusted and working correctly, the ground frame then received a coat of paint to complete this project.

Initially, we had not planned to do all this work but just to test and repair the cables only, but one thing always leads to another on the S&T. 

As this project was being completed, we were moving on to the next project almost without pausing for breath.

If you like the sound of volunteering alongside our S & T Team, please consider submitting a Volunteer Expression of Interest