Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The 'Breakdown' at Bloomfield

After the commissioning of Wolverhampton Power Box, Bloomfield Junction signal box remained for a time as Bloomfield Junction Shunting Frame. I made a few visits but, of course, the working was a pale reflection of earlier times. However, 2nd October 1965 was a bit out of the ordinary.

Area around Bloomfield Junction Shunting Frame in the 1960s. The Stour Valley line runs from top left to bottom right. The 'Western' sidings are the two groups of sidings which diverge from the Stour Valley top left and curve towards the canal basins bottom right (Map: Old-Maps).

Bloomfield Shunting Frame, Saturday 2nd October 1965

I arrive at 07:10 and discover a little bit of excitement - there's three wagons 'Off the Road' down the 'Western' (these are the two fans of sidings leading to Tipton Five Ways Goods Depot). The 'Breakdown' has been summoned from Bescot.

Bloomfield Junction Shunting Frame, as detailed in Special Notice 745G.

The locking has been completely re-arranged and a lot of levers are now 'Spare' and painted white. There are now three release levers electrically controlled from Wolverhampton Power Box. Number 7 controls the trailing connection from the Down Main to the Down Sidings at the Wolverhampton end. The 4-aspect colour light for the Down Line (WN282 mounted on the signal gantry) is held 'On' (Red) whilst the release is given but the Ground Frame now controls the 'Cat's Eyes' (two diagonal white lights normally out) forming a subsidiary 'Shunt Ahead' signal mounted underneath the main signal. Numbers 27 and 28 control the crossover outside the box and the trailing connection to South Staffs Wagon Company.

There's not a lot to do now Bloomfield is demoted to a 'Shunting Frame' so I make my way through the overgrown sidings to inspect the damage. The derailed vehicles are DE190839, DM741097 and DB458080. It looks as if they came off whilst being propelled into the curving siding, possibly as a result of 'buffer-locking'.

Just before 11:00, a Ballast train arrives on the down with 60 wagons, mainly 'SOLES'. 8366 is the locomotive and it's reputedly Target 28. When we get release lever 7 from the Power Box, 8366 draws the whole train past the trailing connection with the Down Main. I made a note that Lever 12 failed to give an 'Off' indication (I think that was the 'Cat's Eyes'). We set the points for the 'Back Road' (number 2 Down siding) and clear the (semaphore) shunting signal for the move. The train cautiously sets back, controlled by handsignals from the Guard hanging out of his brake - when setting back 60 wagons towards a stop block, caution is good. While this is going on, the Down Parcels is standing at Tipton and the Breakdown Train is waiting at Princes End. Once the Ballast is safely 'Inside Clear' we restore the release at 11:32, allowing the Power Box to run the Parcels. Then he gives us all three releases so that we can turn out 8366 off the Ballast onto the Up Main, light engine to Bescot. We restore all the releases at 11:37.

The Power Box now looses the Breakdown (travelling as 1Z99 since he's on the way to an incident) 'Off the Top' and he arrives at 11:37, 8659 tender first, the Bescot Steam Crane, two Tool Vans, a Mess Van and another Tool Van. We get lever 7 released at 11:42, the breakdown draws clear of the trailing points, we set the road and he starts to back in. After a pause (perhaps whilst the Guard and Foreman decide which road down the Western to use), the train moves inside clear and we restore the release at 11:50. Whilst this is going on, 1S61 has come to a stand at Tipton and there's a train of Empty Stock behind that.

We're needed again when T54 comes 'Off the Top' with 8754, because he has "Three to put off at Bloomfield". He comes to a stand on the Down at 12:06, we get Lever 7 released at 12:10 and the engine goes inside on the 'Front Road' with the three wagons to detach. He doesn't hang about - we restore the release at 12:18 and T54 disappears towards Spring Vale.

The three derailed wagons are back on the track by 12:35 - apparently it was just a 'Jacking Job'. I'm not quite sure how we 'got rid of' the breakdown because there's a note about "reversing the train on 1 to get the crane next to the engine" which I don't understand (remember, we'd got 60 Ballast on 2 and three wagons on 1). There's also no note in my train register about getting releases to despatch 2Z99 back to Bescot. However, by 13:20, it was all done and we closed the Shunting Frame.

A copy of the Train Register entries covering these movements appears below:-