Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Traffic Movements at Tipton Curve, 1965

There's an introduction to Tipton Curve box here.

Tipton Curve, Saturday 10th July 1965

All the signalling staff in the area have received redundancy notices and Wolverhampton Power Box is scheduled for commissioning on August 13th and 14th.

At 06:50 hours (the 24-hour clock was introduced with the summer timetables) I board the London in Platform 3 at Wolverhampton High Level. We depart on time and make a good start. We pass the new Monmore Green freight yard, with its access to both LM and GW routes, and slow for the slack at Catchem's. The remaining crossover and the Tip Siding is coming out tomorrow and most of the ballast is already removed in preparation. Spring Vales's new motor distant is 'on' but his mechanical distant is well 'off' and we roar past Stewarts and Lloyds. No freights in Spring Vale yet this morning. A burst of speed past Deepfields followed by a brief stop at Coseley station. A swift run down the bank to Bloomfield, passing under the colour light gantry, and we are soon slowing for Tipton. The signals show that the Curve box is open, and Tom is at the top of the box steps to wave in recognition.

I leave the station and take a brisk walk round to the Curve. A freight stands at the down home and the young fireman is just making his way to the box to sign the book. But the train has a long wait: by the time Hawkin Davies at Bloomfield takes him, the freight has chalked up 50 minutes standing time. The train was wired as Spring Vale but as 5288 finally blasts past, the driver mouths "Bloomfield" and he has a dozen loaded stone wagons at the front of his train. Bloomfield is advised and fortunately he has a margin to shunt the train, otherwise it would have been embarrassing. The train is shown as '55' but I think this is wrong. All the trip numbers have been altered again but trips are no longer shown in the Freight Book [Working Timetable of Freight Trains] but only in the Local Trip Notice, which I have only just got hold of. People seem to be using a mixture of old and new numbers.

We close the box and return to Tipton station by car. Tom wants his breakfast but hardly has he started to make arrangements than it's "Round the Curve". So I am presented with the key while Tom makes food arrangements. I take a gentle walk round to Tipton Curve box, being passed by 1D25. I notice the diesel had a cab door open at the rear - getting to be a habit! When I give a '1' to Bloomfield, prior to opening, he's so anxious, he immediately slaps a '4-1'. Apparently, Deepfields has turned out '37' in front of the up local! The freight makes rather painful progress towards me, 5090 tender first with a grim-faced driver and a long train of ore empties and coke empties. The up local is delayed - oh well! A telephone conversation confirms that there's nothing else about, so I close, check with Princes End that they're tested through and walk back to Tipton Station.

Before we can finish the bacon sandwiches Tom's obtained, George Lewis (at Tipton signal box) gives three rings on the station bell and tells Tom "Round the Curve". I walk out onto the platform and '23' is just going down to Bloomfield. Des leads on his brake van and he confirms that he's going round the curve. The 350 h.p. diesel grinds past - no tail lamp - oh well.

Tom and I walk round the Curve and find that '23' is the only reason for our curtailed refreshments. In due course, '23' comes round from Bloomfield - D3089, cab leading, very dirty and still carrying the old lion-astride-a-mangle-wheel motif (no headlamp, of course), 5 minerals, a loaded sludge tender, 1 mineral and the B.R. brake. The driver stops a bit sharp and the brake van, which has been cut loose by Des working from the van footboard, stops well outside the home signal. The rest of the train is drawn forward and reversed into the Tip Siding. All the mineral wagons are empty, apparently, and we have no idea what they are for. "Engine and Brake Princes End then back to Bloomfield" calls Des. I get the road and pull off, deliberately pulling the starter before the home. Tipton Curve is unusual in lacking the sophistication of sequential locking. As the train pulls rapidly away, Tom says "I think I'll have a ride to Princes End". He dashes down the steps and leaps onto the speeding brake van, much to the amusement of Des.

After '23' has departed, I forget to 'knock out' [give 'Train out of Section'] to Bloomfield, who comes on the phone rather concerned and very confused. When I 'clear back', he offers a '4-1' and I realise he's got '55' which he wants to clear before the express. 'T23' returns from Princes End and comes to a stand at our home because Bloomfield won't take the E&B. '55' storms past with his usual train from Ettingshall Road, after pausing at a very poor branch starter at Bloomfield. Bloomfield manipulates the starter for some time before putting it back and pulling off up the main - he's apparently in some trouble, one way and another. He's already stopped most down trains at his home, for some reason. At last, Bloomfield accepts '23' and he scoots off. As soon as Bloomfield gives 'Train Out Of Section', we close the box.

A copy of the Train Register enties is below:-



For variety, we walk round to Bloomfield Junction, rather than back to Tipton. '23' has finished whatever he was doing there and is ready to return to Watery Lane, so we 'blag' a lift. On arrival, Watery Lane puts us 'inside' on the Up. There's a large bridge girder on wagons stabled there, awaiting installation (I don't know where) so we take the opportunity to clamber over it, examining its construction.

Then, it's a short walk to a friendly reception at Tipton Station box, where I spend a few hours working the box. But that's another story.

[Text and Train Register entries added 5-Jan-2012].