The Great Forum Railway Inspection

What is your latest project?
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Mr. Bond of the DVLR
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Post by Mr. Bond of the DVLR » Sun May 18, 2014 9:06 pm

Good to see the Mr. Isle arrived safely. The orange outfit serves him right!
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Post by Andrew » Sun May 18, 2014 9:34 pm

Mr. Bond of the DVLR:100756 wrote:Good to see the Mr. Isle arrived safely. The orange outfit serves him right!
I recently purchased an unused ex-BR hi-vis orange all-in-one boiler suit, complete with double arrow logo - I don't actually need such a garment, but at £2 it was so much of a bargain I just couldn't resist. Maybe I could take up railway inspection? Looking good Mr I...

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Post by kandnwlr » Sun May 18, 2014 10:18 pm

I would advise the inspector that Heidi has been using the totally unacceptable informal "du" form for her communication with him ("möchtest du mit mir schlafen?" / du you want to sleep with me), when for a man in his position the formal "Sie" would be far more appropriate (Möchten Sie mit mir schlafen?". I suggest a disciplinary reprimand would be appropriate for grammatically unacceptable forms of behaviour.

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Post by Victor Isle » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:26 am

I am pleased to report that since my arrival I have been gainfully occupied, having inspected two garden railways, several main line locations and even engaged in a little overseas consultancy work. Two further visits to garden railways took place but inspection proved impossible due to adverse weather conditions, and these will be revisited later if time permits. Obviously writing all these reports up at once would be both impracticable to do and indigestible to read, so I therefore propose to submit a series of individual reports at suitable intervals.

My first inspection was on a standard gauge main line and concerned an item of equipment I had not previously encountered, namely the newly-installed MCB-OD level crossing at Bonemill lane, Sleaford North Junction, on the GN&GE Joint line. Until two months ago this location was under the control of a signalbox of Great Eastern Railway design, and as such naturally superior. At the time of my visit this was still standing, albeit out of use and with all electrical equipment stripped, though the frame remains.



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Whilst it is true that I have an unmatched reputation for probity, and cannot be deflected from my professional opinion by bribery, flattery. persuasion, intimidation, argument or logic, I would say that any railway that provides a second home for this fine example of Great Eastern architecture would by doing so demonstrate sound judgement and best practice, two qualities I look for when inspecting a railway.

From the box steps the crossing is (naturally) easily visible, and all the new equipment can be seen to best advantage. There are four skirted barrier booms that completely close the road as with MCB and CCTV crossings, but there is neither staffing nor a camera mast here now.


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Instead the crossing normally operates in an automatic mode. Once a route is set in the signalling centre, no further manual action is required. When a train reaches the strike-in point a radar scanner contained in the plastic housing (eerily reminiscent of a mint tictac) sweeps the crossing and if clear, permits the barriers to lower. Once down, a further radar sweep proves the crossing clear and permits the signals to be cleared, locking the crossing until the train is safely past.

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In the event of failure, the crossing can be operated manually in one of two modes, Local Crossing Clear (for radar failures) and Local Control (for signalling failures) and separate control cabinets are provided for each. I cannot honestly say whether the verbose signage is a welcome move towards error prevention or a sad commentary on the diligence of those called upon to use this equipment.


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Compared to timber gates, box and semaphores this new setup operates with brisk efficiency, at the price of being somewhat soulless and plastic, and meets all the latest standards. I approve of this latest step in the march of progress (though I do hope the old box finds a good home).

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Post by laalratty » Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:42 pm

I imagine this must seem like a world away from most of the lines encountered whilst you were up here....
Good to see that your position is being respected in high authorities nowadays and you can inspect the national network as well as our pokey little garden lines!
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Post by jim@NAL » Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:43 pm

very good I do like the high vis outfit.

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Post by Mr. Bond of the DVLR » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:33 pm

Finally something Mr. Isle and I see eye to eye on - GER equipment... mmmmmmm
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Post by Victor Isle » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:18 am

I am pleased to report that my continuing activities in Lincolnshire and beyond proceed to my satisfaction, so much so that reporting has fallen behind. I have however taken steps to put this right and can now report on my latest inspection, that of the Claremont Light Railway.

This undertaking, while classed as a light railway, appears to be more in the style of a local estate or industrial line. Certainy some locomotives were observed bearing "Caistor Estates" numberplates. The estate owners are clearly sensitive to having their view spoilt by trains so the line, despite its relatively large size and complexity (with triple track in places) in a comparatively small plot. Railway promoters experiencing difficulties with planning permission would do well to study this line's careful planting scheme and unobtrusive appearance. Not even the most ardent ferroequinophobe could object to such a project.


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The line is built from commercially available permanent way components, consisting of panels of nickel-silver rail in a moulded sleeper base, curved to fit and pinned to an exterior plywood base. Some sections are exposed to the weather while others have been covered in roofing felt for additional weatherproofing and a simulated appearance of ballast. The value of this is open to question as without heat-sealing this can trap moisture in the wood rather than keep it out, accelerating rather than retarding decay.


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It also has a limited lifespan and is prone to both weathering and damage eliminating its protective qualities, as can clearly be seen here.


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Had I any doubt about the efficiency of this company's inspection and repair programme I would have grave concerns about the safety of this method of construction, but I am pleased to report that I saw evidence of regular inspection and a sensible maintenance programme, with both emergency spot repairs and complete replacement sections of track-base clearly visible. There is a good deal of maintenance work associated with this style of construction, but the company at least seems to be up to the challenge so I have no concerns.


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Civil engineering is to a high standard, with two substantial metal bridges of very hiqh quality. The largest is of welded steel construction, with a semicircular catenary strut and downrods extending from it giving (from a distance) the appearance of a suspension bridge. I am told this was built in one piece before transport and erection, and the design can be built either way up depending on local needs- remarkable! Less remarkable is the complete absence of railings and the large gaps between the walkway and the structure- adequate for trained, qualified staff with a head for heights but frightening and dangerous for passengers should evacuation from a failed train be required. Since there are no scheduled passenger services operating at present this is barely acceptable, but should be borne in mind if the company (which does own station buildings) decides to enter the passenger business.


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The smaller bridge is of riveted girder construction and spans a small body of open water. The same remarks concerning lack of a safe walkway apply in this case, though once again the construction is sound and firmly in place.


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The track layout is a unidirectional circuit, folded back on itself into what is colloquially known as a "dog bone". Trains proceed on line of sight, all in the same direction, thus obviating the need for staffs or tokens. The restricted visibility caused by the dense vegetation mentioned in my opening remarks make this a problematic undertaking, but due to the tight curves speeds are necessarily low so sufficient braking distance is present if drivers remain alert. There are some very awkward locations where sighting is very restricted, which would benefit from "No Stopping (except in emergency)" marker boards as used by the Manx Electric Railway- a necessity if passenger services are contemplated but for now merely a recommendation. Points are the usual preformed units with locking limited to over-centre springs, adequate only for light axle-loads and low speeds as found on this line. Unusually, some steps have been taken to positively indicate the route set, with the obverse and reverse faces of point lever counterweights being painted in contrasting colours as a visual aid to train crews- something some lines I have visited would do well to emulate.

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Two buildings resembling stations were observed, though in the absence of scheduled services it can only be assumed that they are offices and public access is limited to collection and delivery of parcels and sundry goods. The first is of timber construction, sound and of reasonable size with adequate facilities, lacking only nameboard and clock (requirements if a passenger service is contemplated).

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The other station is considerably smaller, almost cramped, though more stoutly constructed of masonry. Again this lack both clock and nameboard, along with sundry other facilities (those I was photograhped inspecting when my back was turned!). I am very concerned about the far platform, which gives onto a sheer drop and is will be unacceptably dangerous to passengers until such time as fencing is provided.


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One other facility was visited, a terminus with run-round, loop, turntable, siding and lead to a (closed and lifted) indoor rolling stock storage facility. Given the poor and overgrown condition of this area it is to be profoundly hoped that this is out of use, though if that is the case the company really should lock and disconnect the points leading to it (though since they trail to the normal direction of running they at least do not constitute a hazard).


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The turntable lacks any form of locking mechanism to check and hold its alignment- clearly inadequate.


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The use of retired goods stock as storage facilites is not unknown on impecunious railways. However, even after running gear is removed, some maintenance is still necessary. This grounded van provides neither weatherproof nor safe storage.

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Most alarming, however, was the former connection to the indoor sidings. The hatch in the large warehouse can clearly be seen, as can the stub connection, which ends abruptly with only a "stop" sign separating train movements from a sheer drop. Before this facility can be re-opened, a substantial stop-block must be provided at this location, or the stub connection removed altogether.


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Moving from the Civil to the Mechanical Engineering department, a step-change in the quality of workmanship is clearly apparent. All locomotives were in sound condition, both as constructed by the suppliers and as modified to meet local conditions. Despite its small size, this line has built several locomotives to suit its own needs (at least eight). The first and oldest steam locomotive was supplied knocked-down and assembled on site with modifications, and remains a good example of this large and popular class. The presence of the water-lifting pipe on the rear bunker is however a clear indication of the basic lineside facilities to be found at this line, and one can only conclude that the motive power is in both quality and quantity altogether disproportionate to the needs of this small light railway. It is as if the line exists to support the endeavours of the CME's department rather than the other way round.

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Despite the large, well engineered fleet, further locomotive construction continues. This is believed to be an example of the "Victory" class approaching completion.


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Even the diesel fleet, frequently neglected handmaidens, is in sound condition and more than adequate to the tasks before it.


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Despite my earlier comments concerning the uneven division of resources between the various department, it is pleasing to see that some of the CME's time and effort has been devoted to labour saving devices for the use of the CCE's department. Examples seen here include a "dribbler" wagon, designed to apply paraffin to the railhead and effect the removal of "gunk" (the oily residue built up by regular steam operation).


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Also seen was this rather ferocious machine, built to clear plant debris from the running line. I would very much like to see the rules governing its use, with particular attention to preventing anyone being allowed near or drawn into its exposed machinery when operating. I also note with concern the lack of conspicuity aids such as flashing lights or warning panels to alert people to its approach.


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Overall, the line is adequate for its present role, with some excellence to be found and a careful attitude to safety generally apparent (with some glaring omissions). I am happy to permit continued operation "as is", provided it is understood that the terminal station remains out of operational use until its shortcomings are rectified, and that no passenger services can be permitted with the line in its present state. The necessary improvements are all mentioned above, and all must be met for this to be allowed.

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Post by kandnwlr » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:04 am

Good show Mr Isle. Balanced reporting and an excellent hand with the camera.

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Post by laalratty » Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:48 pm

Mr Isle has certainly come up with the goods there when it comes to an interesting and informative report!
"What the hell is that?"
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Post by philipy » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:12 am

Victor Isle:102673 wrote:



Also seen was this rather ferocious machine, built to clear plant debris from the running line.


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I wonder if Mr Isle, or his hosts, would care to publish some technical details of the 'ferocious machine'? I have been contemplating something along these lines myself and there is no point in reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

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Post by PeachBottom » Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:26 pm

The gentleman who made this doesn't do online forums, but next time I see him at a steam-up I can ask him about it! Looks like the rail cleaner is a round hairbrush if that helps.
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Post by philipy » Fri Jul 18, 2014 6:48 am

PeachBottom:102728 wrote:The gentleman who made this doesn't do online forums, but next time I see him at a steam-up I can ask him about it! Looks like the rail cleaner is a round hairbrush if that helps.
Actually, it does, thanks :)

I've been pondering where to get a circular brush from and all I could think of was an old fashioned bottlebrush - duh!! However now you've said that, I think I recognize it in the picture. My wife has ( "had", now!) heated hair roller brush which has a perforated metal cylinder with bristles sticking through!

Which way does the brush rotate? I assume that it spins so that the bottom is moving forward to flick stuff free, not the other way so that it pushes it under the train?

Is the brush square to the track or at an angle to throw it off to one side?

Thanks

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Post by PeachBottom » Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:49 pm

It rotates away to fling the stuff off the front and it is square to the track, but raised by about 3-4mm so it doesn't snag. It's a very stiff nylon hairbrush he asked his wife to get him and he chopped off the handle and ran a rod through it.

I'm pretty sure I've seen those types of brushes at Wilkos!
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Post by philipy » Fri Aug 01, 2014 7:12 am

Thanks.
I will now de-hijack this thread and apologise to Mr Isles and the other members!

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