Deepfields, Saturday 24th October 1964
It's a cold morning with frost on the ground as Deepfields is opened up. We exchange the '5-5-5' with Bloomfield and Spring Vale and then try to replace the signals. Both the Up Distant Weight Bars are frozen 'off': Down Home 2 and Down Starter signals are also frozen off. The levers are banged around for a bit and the slack adjusters are let out but it's to no avail. So we walk to Down Home 2 and physically pull the weight bar 'on'. The Down Starter is freed-up by pulling on the signal wire at a number of places. Back in the box, the Up Inner Distant is restored by working the lever a few more times and then, with the railway brought to a standstill, we start work.
The Down Local is accepted normally but we now have a Block Failure on the Up to Spring Vale since, without our distants being proved 'on', we're unable to give a 'Line Clear'. We also have to 'Double Block' on the Up because our distant may not be correctly 'on' to warn an approaching driver (this is a rather technical point because, without a 'Line Clear' to Spring Vale to release his Up Starter, neither of our Up Distant signals should be 'off', even if the associated weight bars are 'off'. Enos, the signalman at Spring Vale, warns the Up Crewe past his starter and the driver steams past, trying to recover from his stop at Spring Vale. His train is five coaches, a 6-wheel van and the Palethorpes' van.
37's engine, rather late, coasts down to 'The Vale' to pick up his train - 4837 chimney-leading. Within 40 minutes, he is ready with his train and gingerly approaching our Up Loop Home tender first. We have to work the levers to-and-fro a few times to get the signal detectors correctly lined up to enable the signal arm to be cleared. His train is coke, coal and limestone empties (including one fitted hopper wagon marked 'HOUSE CONCENTRATION COAL' - an interesting title.
There is one Excursion today - 1Z66 to Blackpool. A 'Black 5' heads this train away from a brief stop at Coseley station and, on this cold day, I almost feel sorry for the passengers!. However, as encouragement, the sun comes out and the frost clears, although the day is still cool.
The Outer Distant on the Up can now be persuaded to go back 'on' (you can't pull it 'off', but that's hardly unusual) and so Enos is informed that normal working can be resumed.The next train is stopped at Spring Vale to pick up the official 'BLOCK RESTORATION' form for us and the train coasts towards us, a 'Type 4' with about 12 on. Tom is 'on the floor' to catch the note but the driver lets go prematurely and the form flutters away in a gentle breeze, to be retrieved by Tom. Each coach has its complement of passengers leaning out, curious at this second virtual stop in half a mile.
Another 'Type 4' heads the 'Stockport' downhill with a 'BG' and two rattling vans, passing 92111 light engine, scurrying uphill to collect the Albion tanks. By now, '55' is ready and he approaches up the Loop for Bescot. Thanks to the sun, the signal detectors do not foul on this occasion and 8007 blasts up the bank tender first with a long train of mixed empties. '61' is offered on the Down at the same time as the Up diesel parcels unit. Wise from last week, we loose the parcels only as far a as Coseley station platform which would allow us to cross '61' onto the Loop. But when the freight train hoves into view, it looks suspiciously short and Spring Vale refuses it down the Loop. He then informs us that it's actually '41' for Bushbury so all our planning was to no avail. Enos accepts the freight 'Under the Warning' down the Main, allowing me to loose the freight past the Home and put out a green flag to indicate he's 'Under the Warning'. Immediately, Spring Vale sends the '3-3-5' (now accepted under the 'Clear'. So as not to confuse the driver, I leave the flag out for a moment and wait for the cab to draw level, when I give the 'Rightaway' (hand held vertically and wrist turned left and right a few times rapidly). But the train stops and the driver starts talking animatedly. It seems that he was hit in the face by a branch of a tree overhanging the Down Main between Deepfields station and the Bridge. The freight then departs with half a dozen on.
We decide to leave the Up Starter 'on' against the Parcels, so that they will come to the Starter Telephone and we can get them to raise the station staff to carry out an investigation (the station staff never answer the box-to-box telephone as previously stated). Bloomfield has already loosed a train of Empty Stock down to his starter and he waits for the trainmen to come on his signal telephone, so that he can advise them. So nothing moves and two boxes wait for the phone. Eventually, our Parcels comes on the 'phone and the Guard agrees to get the station staff on the Box-to-Box 'phone. My faith in Guards is rather shaken when he says "Who are you?", apparently not knowing what box he's speaking to. The Parcels is allowed to proceed and the down Empty Stock is 'taken on'. Not being sure whether the Empty Stock was warned by Bloomfield, I loose him down to the box and stop him with a red 'un. The Driver and Guard are sitting in the front cab with a panoramic view of the track. "Seen any overhanging branches?" we enquire. The Guard is definite "Nothing at all" so we let the train proceed. Next, the coloured guard from Coseley station comes on the 'phone "I can see nothing at all: instruct the driver to proceed cautiously" (I don't know what driver, the Parcels was halfway to Birmingham by this time).
But Tom and I are not satisfied. Even a small branch can be quite lethal when hit at speed and the offending branch may not be obvious: it could have been knocked to one side by the last train and could swing back again. A number of morbid jokes circulate about Diesel Multiple Units speeding through Wolverhampton headed north with a decapitated driver and the Deadman's Handle jammed down! So Tom decides that we should close the box and have a walk up to see for ourselves. We didn't find anything, though.