Monday, 20 June 2011

Traffic Movements on the Stour Valley, 1961-1962 (Part 3)

There's an introduction to each of the signal boxes (with a signalling diagram):-
Watery Lane.
Mond Gas.
Dudley Port.

Watery Lane Thursday 16th November 1961

6.45 a,m, finds me at Wolverhampton High Level Station buying ticket number 5199 to travel on the 6.55 a.m. Wolverhampton - Birmingham to Tipton. But a board proclaims 'Passengers for Dudleyport travel by bus'.

'They're off the road at Spring Vale' explains the booking clerk. Outside, a dimly-lit 'Midland Red' double-decker is waiting. The usual passengers climb, bewildered, on board. At 6.55 we move off, by a most unusual route and eventually stop about a quarter of a mile from Ettingshall Road station. The driver, whilst waiting for his extra passengers, says 'I've been on all night. I should be off at six'. A somewhat nightmare ride to Deepfields betrays his fatigue and then a final dash to Tipton, where he parks on the canal bridge. From here, a short walk takes me to Watery Lane box.

A shuttle service is provided from Tipton - diesel multiple units and a single coach corridor brake end hauled by a 2-6-4 tank. However, the down local at 8.44 a.m. gets the distants at Tipton and normal working is resumed. That is, until Mond Gas opens, when the Indian porter-signalman there gets a little confused.

Trip 206, a 'Jinty' hauling an open wagon and brake van has already gone up the goods line to stand outside the box to await its opening. The engine requires water so it's detached, leaving its train inside the home signal, and proceeds to the water column at Dudley Port. But Dudley Port has a '3' [pick up freight] on the block, so he can't 'knock out' out' [give train out of section] and Mond Gas cannot acknowledge a '2-3-3' [wrong road movement] if he wanted to.

Dudleyport sends the watered engine back to Watery Lane on the Down Main and we can offer a '2-3' [light engine] to Mond Gas on the Up Loop. He can accept it permissively, to proceed as far as the waiting wagon and brake. The engine then drags its train outside the home signal where it is 'screwed down' and the engine returns to Watery Lane. It should have been cancelled but Mond Gas was still not quite 'with it'. However, acting on instructions, he managed to put a '3-3' [blocking back outside home signal] on the Up Goods to protect the two vehicles. Watery Lane sent the light engine up the main to Dudley Port, whence it returned 'bang road' [wrong road] on the Up Goods to re-unite with its train. After carry out the shunt, 206 returned wrong road to Watery Lane under a '2-3-3'. How mad can you get?

Things are no better when we offer Mond Gas a '2-3-3' wrong road movement on the Down Goods for the first steam-hauled parcels heading for Dudley Port, having completed his duties at Tipton. Mond Gas acknowledges '2-2-2-3' and gives 'Line Clear' on the Up Goods.

A little later, we have the diesel parcels unit which also requires to travel wrong road to Dudley Port. At first, Mond Gas refuses our offered '2-3-3' and, whilst we straighten this out on the telephone, the DPU, unused to these delays, doesn't wait for our hand signal to proceed and has every intention of just carrying on, until halted by a swift red flag. At last, Mond Gas takes the wrong road movement and we're able to get the DPU moving with a green flag. However, we later learn that Mond Gas didn't bother with the tiresome formality of offering the DPU as a wrong road movement to Dudley Port and the unexpected arrival nearly ran through the traps at Dudley Port!

Watery Lane Saturday 2nd December 1961

Up Main Home Signal failed 7.00 a.m. Could it be detectors? If we have much more of this, they'll substitute electrical detection here! Corrected with hammer, 7.30 a.m.

Tipton Monday 29th January 1962

Second-hand story, this. At 8.00 a.m. trip 312, the steam-hauled Parcels, arrives at Tipton from Wolverhampton. T. Evans, signalman, blocks back on the Down and reverses the crossover road, to allow the parcels to back into the Down platform. The lever is then replaced normal, so that the train can move along the platform in the wrong direction to place the parcels van right alongside the station building for unloading. The train chugs along the platform and drops straight on the floor at the crossover points. The points are standing open! Very tragedial. Services are in chaos. A bus service is instituted between Wolverhampton and Tipton. Then Single Line Working is set up, with Relief Signalman T. Toombes as pilotman,

The coloured guard of 312 claims he looked at the points. Last time I was at Tipton, these points were standing open about 3/4 inch but fortunately the guard noticed them on that occasion.

Wolverhampton – Dudley Port Saturday 3rd February 1962

En route to Sedgeley Jn., I catch the 6.43 to London to its first booked stop, Dudley Port.

The Edinburgh – Birmingham train, including Sleepers, departs just before my diesel-hauled London, putting our departure back to 6.45 a.m. We are brought almost to a dead stand at Wolverhampton No. 1 box. The driver then coasts up to the starter (recently moved towards Birmingham, a short tubular post signal replacing the old, tall lattice post affair) which is ‘Off’, encouraging a burst of high speed, although Catchems’ motor distant is ‘On’. Rushing past Monmore Green (now closed), I still couldn’t see Catchems’ home and I thought our speed a trifle excessive.

Red! The diesel’s horn moans plaintively and the driver slams on the anchors. Sparks fly up from the brake blocks. The driver might have just managed to stop but, fortunately, the bobby pulls off the Home as soon as we hit the track and we coast to a halt just short of the wooden platform at Ettingshall Road & Bilston. As soon as we are at a dead stand, the Starter clears and Spring Vale’s distant comes off as well. Seems to indicate that perhaps Catchem’s had shoved a freight out main line in front of us. Certainly, there was something in the loop at Spring Vale.

Our driver has had enough and really opens up. We roar up the bank through Coseley in the morning gloom. As we approach, the colour light changes from Double Yellow to Green. Over the top at full throttle and then shut right off and race downhill towards Bloomfield Jn. A hasty application of the brakes precedes the 15 m.p.h. slack this side of the junction at Tipton. The driver keeps the train moving and is accellerating well before the train is past the ‘T’ board [Termination of Slack] and hooting for the level crossing. A few more minutes and we are drawing into Dudley Port. Then, I spent a happy morning at Sedgeley Jn.

Wolverhampton – Dudley Port Sunday 4th February 1962

Up to Dudley Port on the 7.3 a.m. with ‘Byron’.

Down on the 9.30 a.m. with ‘Kitchener’, whistling like mad for the distants and continuing to sound off having got them. Obviously a driver who likes the sirens on the ‘Standards’!

Wolverhampton – Dudley Port Saturday 17th February 1962

Once again, I catch the 6.43 to London as far as Dudley Port.

The 6.43 a.m. stands in Platform 3 at Wolverhampton High Level, headed by a whining diesel electric. We have to wait for 1M16, the Glasgow Sleeper, which precedes us along the Stour Valley. We miss Catchems’ distant but he’s got the road before we reach his home signal. Spring Vale’s distants are ‘On’ and we are brought very nearly to a stand at his home but, once moving, his starter clears. ‘Two Yellows’ on the colour light at Deepfields and we rumble down the bank to Bloomfields, finding Tipton’s distants already off. A curt slowing over the slack just before the junction with the Princes End Line and we are soon approaching Dudley Port. Then on foot to Sedgeley Jn.