Clement Edwin Stretton.

The history of the Midland railway online

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locking with the points, so that they must act in perfect unison. It
is a remarkable fact that, notwithstanding the number of signals and
the complication of signal-boxes, scarcely any accidents are caused
by errors in signalling, and it may be said there are none due to
signals being out of order. The signals are so constructed that if
they do fail or get out of order through any cause they automatically
fly to " danger " and stop all traffic, so that the safety of the travelling
public is absolutely assured. In olden days one post with a pair of
arms controlled both lines ; now the smallest station has three signals
all on separate posts for each direction ; and at many places where
there were formerly only three signals there are now at least ten or
twelve signal-posts.

In fact, every mechanical device has been brought into use to
minimise risk and to eliminate as far as possible the element of
human frailty.


The signal works are situated at the North End at Derby. They
deal with the construction of signal-boxes, signals, and the interlocking
apparatus and fittings. There are ever 1,800 signal-boxes in operation,
and their size and importance vary largely. On single lines there are
small cabins which contain simply one point lever, and on the other
hand some of the great signal-boxes at important junctions or stations
have as many as 240 levers to be manipulated. These signal-boxes
contain most elaborate and intricate mechanical appliances, which are
maintained in the most perfect order. The interlocking of the various
levers to ensure harmonious action so that no conflicting signal can be


exhibited to a driver is of the most complex character ; and of course
the greater the number of levers involves a corresponding increase
in the number of inter-locks. For example, to show the great practical
value of interlocking points and signals, take the simple case of say two
main lines (up and down) which are joined by a double-line branch.
Eliminating the distant signals, there would be four "home" signals
placed to " open " or " close " each of the four lines for traffic. There
would thus be four levers to move any of these four signals one for
each signal and also two levers to move the two pairs of points one
lever for each pair. These four signals could be shown in the old days
before interlocking by means of error on the part of the signalman in
no less than sixteen different combinations; and of these only ten
are safe working signals, and six would lead to serious accidents.
While as regards the two pairs of points they can be placed in
four positions irrespective of how the signals stand only three of
which are safe and one highly dangerous. Thus with sixteen different
positions of signals and four different positions of points there are
no less than sixty-four possible combinations of points and signals.
But of these sixty-four combinations only thirteen are safe, and fifty-one
are absolutely dangerous. The function of the interlocking apparatus
is to make these fifty-one dangerous combinations impossible, and
thereby avoid the possibility of an accident due to human fallibility
in the manipulating of point and signal levers.

Electrical apparatus is also brought largely into use in signal-boxes.
Above the interlocking frame, but in no way connected with it, a shelf
is fixed, upon which the block telegraph instruments and electric bells
stand. The most simple box situated on a double line of railway has
two electric bells and four block telegraph instruments. One bell and
two instruments communicate with the next signal-box (say) north ;
another bell and two instruments communicating with the next signal-
box, which we will call south. Each box is practically the end of one
section and the beginning of another ; and the instruments constitute a
continuous record of the state of the line on the respective sections
north or south, to which they refer. The outdoor signals are raised or
lowered by the signalman in exact accordance with the position indicated
b y the needle of the block telegraph instrument. This simple arrange
ment becomes immensely increased and more complicated with every-
additional junction, as each pair of lines requires its own bell and two
block instruments; and where there are four lines of rails forming a
junction with four other lines the number of instruments and bells
is, of course, doubled.

All the important lines in the kingdom are worked upon the " abso-


lute " block system, and the object thereof is to maintain and secure
an actual interval of space or distance between all trains, in place of an
uncertain interval of time ; consequently, although it is quite out of the
question to alter the name now, still " space system " would have been
much more appropriate, more especially as in these days we know that


the system is not a block to the traffic, but that it permits an enormous
number of trains to be safely passed over a railway.

In order that the practical working of the " absolute " block system
may be clearly understood the annexed illustration is given.

The line of railway is divided into lengths or sections by the erection
of signal-boxes at convenient distances ; the greater the traffic, naturally,
the greater must be the number of sections.








The permission or otherwise for a train to approach, as indicated
upon the block instruments, is, of course, communicated to the engine-
drivers by means of the usual distant, home, and starting signals.

The diagram shows an up train as having left the starting signal
at " A," and approaching the distant from " B," with signals off.
Also a down train is shown as passing the home signal " B," with all
signals off to "A."


When a train passes the first signal-box the line is considered
" blocked," and if a second train arrives before the first has arrived
at the next signal-box it is stopped and detained at the starting signal,
until the telegraphic signals have been duly received, showing that the
first train has arrived, and that the section is " clear " ; it therefore
follows that no two trains are ever permitted to be in the same
" section," and that collisions should be impossible.

On a line such as the Midland, where the traffic is very varied in
character, an elaborate and complicated code of block signals is
necessary to indicate what class of train is approaching.

In addition to this signal light indicators are introduced in all boxes
where there are signals which cannot be seen by the signalman owing
to obstructions ; while there are several ordinary single needle telegraph
instruments and one or more telephones in nearly all boxes, and there
are special electric bells for long distances or for communicating with
adjacent stations. The ordinary telegraph instruments are for service
messages in connection with the working and running of trains, and at
specified stations for postal telegraph work.

This department have not only to construct all the signal and other
apparatus, but they have also to consider in conjunction with repre-
sentatives of the Locomotive and Traffic Departments the best posi-
tions for signal posts, in order to give the best sight to the drivers
of trains. Where there are curves and buildings and numerous other
signals this is a matter which requires very grave consideration, for
upon the clearness and absolute correctness of signalling very much
depends. When these officials have decided what signals are neces-
sary at any junction or siding a plan is prepared and the necessary
posts, counter weights, rods, and levers are obtained from the stores,
where large supplies are always available. Gales of wind frequently
necessitate very rapid repairs, and every provision is made for this
purpose. In addition to the complicated work inside a signal-box,
there has also to be provided long lengths of rods to work the points,
which have to be placed in some cases at considerable distances from
the signal-box. A signal post varies in height from fifteen to sixty feet.

When an old signal-box has to be replaced by a new one, the new
one is built and conveyed in sections to the desired site ; and the old
arrangements are not disturbed till everything is completely ready for
a quick change. This work is usually performed at a fixed hour on
Sundays, when the traffic is light ; and information as to the day and
hour of the change is published beforehand to all concerned.

The Midland line is in the very first rank as regards its signal
arrangements, and the whole is being constantly watched, inspected,


and tested, every signalman when he comes on duty and when he
leaves off having to satisfy himself that everything is in perfect working
order. Rule 58 reads : "The signalman must frequently examine and
try his fixed signals to see that they work well, are kept clean, and
stand properly. Great care must be used in putting on a signal ; it is
not sufficient merely to move the lever, but the signalman must at the
same time watch the signal so as to ascertain that it obeys the lever
and goes fully to danger. When a fixed signal is out of the signal-
man's sight, and its working is indicated by a repeater in the signal-
box, he must satisfy himself by observation of the repeater that the
fixed signal is working properly. He must take care that the signal
wires are kept properly adjusted by means of the regulating screws or
links so as to compensate for the expansion and contraction caused by
variations of temperature."

In olden times the signals were "off" in their normal condition
that is, the arms were straight down within the posts out of the sight
of the line, and the light shown at night was white. Thus the "All
right " signal was practically the absence of anything to the contrary ;
in fact, it was purely negative. After a train had passed a signal cabin
the arm was put in a horizontal position, with a red light for danger
at night, and the signals were maintained in that position for five
minutes. At the end of that time the signal arm was lowered to an
angle of forty-five degrees and a green light shown, intimating to the
driver of a succeeding train that he could proceed cautiously, as there
might be another train a few minutes in front of him. At the expira-
tion of ten minutes the arm was again lowered to a vertical position, and
a white light or " Line clear " exhibited.

The Midland Company tried a very ingenious appliance in 1863,
which consisted of a clock which mechanically showed the time at
which the previous train had passed up to a quarter of an hour, and
the driver of a following train knew exactly how long it was since the
train in front of him had passed. Two of these mechanically regulated
clocks were fixed one at Kegworth and the other at Kibworth. They
were started by the passing train depressing a lever attached to the
rails and communicating with the clockwork, and at the expiration
of fifteen minutes the indicator returned to zero. They worked
remarkably well for a time, but, like some other complicated mechanical
arrangements, they were not to be relied upon. Besides, the informa-
tion conveyed was of little value, as a train might have broken down
as soon as it had passed out of sight ; and this actually did

The absolute block system has altered all this, and the traffic has



now to be worked by absolute positive knowledge, and there is now no
such thing as " Caution "; it is either " Go " or " Stop."

The " Stop " signal is as before the horizontal arm and a red light ;
while a green light and the arm at an angle of forty-five degrees is the
" All right " signal. A white light now means that the signal is out of
order, and has to be treated as " Danger " accordingly, as a white light
can only mean that the red or green glass has been broken, or fallen
out of place. The green light is also less liable to be mistaken for
ordinary lights adjoining the line.

There are 84,317 electric batteries in use in the Midland system,
19,500 telegraph instruments, and
about 30,000 miles of telegraph
wire. There are 1,800 signal cabins,
with 24,500 levers in use, while
there are 14,500 signals.

In the department of the Estate
Agent (Mr. P. S. M'Callum), all the
purchases of land are dealt with;
and the delicacy and importance of
these negotiations in many cases,
and especially in large towns, is

The Electrical Department (under
Mr. W. Langdon) has the control
of the electric lighting of stations,
hotels, etc., the provision of tele-
phones between all signal boxes,
in hotels, at stations, and wherever
required, and he is responsible for
all the telegraphic instruments used
in connection with the block system

of signalling. He has also the construction and maintenance of the
electrical repeaters, the use of which is to show the signalmen whether
the lights at distant signal-posts, it may be three-quarters of a mile
away, are burning or are gone out. When the light is burning the
apparatus shows "Light in"; when the lamp becomes extinguished
an electric bell rings and the indicator shows " Light out." This is a
very valuable adjunct for signalmen at night time, especially when the
signalman in his cabin is unable, from curves, obstructions, or other
causes, to have a view of the distant signal. The whole of the work
of the department is of a delicate but most valuable character, and
forms a very interesting link in the great combination of devices which
the Midland have ever been foremost to adopt to give knowledge and
security in running.




This department (under Mr. T. G. Clayton), being the fifth division,
is under the Carriage and Wagon Committee, which consists of four
directors. Since 1873, on the death of Mr. Kirtley, this has been
an independent branch. The Superintendent has associated with him
an assistant superintendent for indoor work and another assistant
superintendent for outdoor work; there are also district assistant
superintendents, who have the charge of the carriage shops at the
local centres, foremen, workmen, carriage and wagon examiners,
carriage washers, etc.


This department has the construction, renewal, care, and mainten-
ance of over 5,000 carriages, vans, horse-boxes, and vehicles running
on passenger trains; in addition there are 119,000 wagons, cattle
trucks, and brake vans for goods and mineral traffic ; whilst there
are also the very extensive carriage and wagon works at Derby, filled
with very valuable machinery for the construction and repair of all
rolling stock belonging to the Company.

The present carriage and wagon works at Derby have been entirely
formed since Mr. Clayton took the position in 1873. These works and
their special machinery are dealt with in a separate chapter.

Every carriage, wagon, or other vehicle travelling on the line is
examined and tested in running on being sent out new, and all stock
is also examined many times every day all. over the system. Every
train that runs, whether passenger, goods, or mineral, and whether it


consists of private wagons or of stock belonging to the Company,
is examined before it starts on its journey or when it enters on the
Midland system, and at fixed stopping-places en route. These stop-
pages many of them for examination purposes are very valuable
in preventing accidents, as heated axle-boxes, disturbance of load,
defects in the covering by sheets, damaged springs or other parts are
at once detected, and the necessary repair is effected on the spot;
or if it is anything of a character likely to become more serious the


vehicle is shunted out of the train till it can be put once more
into running condition.

MR. T. G. CLAYTON, Superintendent of the Carriage Department,
is the son of an engineer and boiler maker, and was born at Madeley,
Shropshire, early in 1831. He began his railway career under remark-
able circumstances in 1850, when, after having the run of his father's
pattern shops, foundry, etc., he elected to expand his ideas and enlarge
his experience by entering the Locomotive Department of the Shrewsbury
and Birmingham line. The condition of that line at this period may
be understood by the statement of one fact, namely, that the Company
were conveying passengers from Wellington to Shrewsbury, a distance
of eleven miles, for one penny. Of course, such a state of affairs could


not pay, and was only rendered possible by the support of the Great
Western, who "held up" the Shrewsbury line till the Great Western
could get through from Oxford to Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
These were very lively times, and the officials had often to seek the
protection of the police, and even the "red -coats," for there were
constant troubles and outbreaks of one kind and another. Having
spent several years on this line, Mr. Clayton was in 1854 "absorbed"
into the Great Western, who took over the smaller company, in whose
service he remained altogether for about fifteen years. But this was
not continuous, for at various periods he was engaged in important under-
takings under Fox and Hender-
son, the Horseley Company (who
built Paddington Station); he was
also in the service of the Royal
Mail Steam Company on two occa-
sions at their marine engine works,
and had service in thirteen engineers'
shops in London. The building of
lighthouses before they were sent
out to their allotted sites also came
within the scope of his engineering
experiences, so that all sides and
phases of engineering and construc-
tion came within his range, and
proved invaluable to him in after
years in determining how best to
accomplish the objects desired.
During the larger portion of the
fifteen years covering his service
with the Great Western Mr. Clayton
had charge of the Carriage and Wagon Department under Mr.
Armstrong. When the Great Western, in 1863, absorbed a number
of other railways at the time of their great scheme of amalgamation,
that Company came into possession of all their various carriage and
wagon works at Paddington, in South Wales, at Worcester, and at
Shrewsbury; and it was then seen that new and greater works must
be constructed so as to concentrate the whole. Oxford was at first
selected as the site of these works, but while the concentration was
in embryo the Oxford site was abandoned and the erection at Swindon
determined upon. The designing and construction of these great
works was accordingly entrusted to Mr. Clayton, and he carried this
vast and important undertaking through with very great success. Soon



after the new workshops were started an immense amount of work was
thrown upon the new department in the conversion and reconstruction
of a large portion of the broad-gauge stock into narrow-gauge carriages,
wagons, vans, etc. The great pressure thus suddenly thrown upon the
resources of Swindon was successfully met, and an exceptionally heavy
task was got through with great expedition, owing to the skill and
resourcefulness in a very great degree of Mr. Clayton, which brought his
name and his reputation into great prominence as one of the first men
in this class of work in the country. During the time he had charge of
the Swindon works he had the honour of designing and constructing the
Great Western carriage for Her Majesty the Queen, which she uses
whilst travelling on the Great Western system up to the present time,
and which has given much satisfaction to Her Majesty. This carriage
as originally designed by Mr. Clayton was 50 feet long, and was to be
carried on the bogie principle. But afterwards Sir Daniel Gooch
stepped in and cut off 7 feet, reducing the length to 43 feet. Sir
Daniel Gooch also modified the bogie principle to some extent, as he
considered that the bogie for carriages was too experimental to be
embodied in a railway coach for the Sovereign. The carriage was
constructed with independent frames, and when Mr. Clayton left the
works at Swindon for Derby it was all but finished in every detail.
Since that time, however, the vehicle has been lengthened to 50 feet,
so as to give greater accommodation to the ladies-in-waiting, more
space for the storage of provisions, and retiring rooms ; but the original
apartments were by desire of Her Majesty left intact. This carriage
was constructed in 1873, and the same year Mr. Clayton transferred his
services from the Great Western to the Midland, where he has re-
mained ever since. He found the Midland stock in a very backward
condition, and actually new carriages were being constructed from
patterns which were twenty years old, with luggage rails on the tops a
thing which had been discarded on other lines. He at once inaugur-
ated a great scheme of practical carriage reform, which the Board of
Directors found attracted traffic to the line by giving a much greater
degree of comfort to passengers. Previously the idea which seemed
to prevail generally was that it was only desirable to provide what was
more or less absolutely necessary for passengers, whereas to-day nothing
is too good in the way of space, easy riding, and luxurious appoint-
ments. The old stock was replaced as rapidly as possible, and obsolete
vehicles were discarded and broken up. Upholstered third-class
carriages, more airy, wider, the frames faced with steel to give greater
strength and rigidity, bogies to give smoother travel, lavatories, and
in fact everything has been done to beautify the stock and to add
to the enjoyment of travel ; and in all this great transformation Mr.
Clayton has played a leading and very important part.



This department is under the charge of Mr. G. Morrall, and forms
the sixth administrative division. It is controlled by a committee of
six directors, and this department deals with everything except land,
which is purchased by the Company, from thousands of tons of coal,
rails, girders, bricks, timber, and iron, down to a tin-tack or a box
of matches. In purchasing such a vast amount of materials the most
systematic arrangements are necessary to prevent waste and leakage
and to know exactly what is in stock and what is required.

The general scheme adopted is
for the Superintendent to ascertain
what is necessary to be supplied,
and to order accordingly from the
producers who have contracted with
the Company. On delivery it is
booked up as in stock. Everything
required all over the system in
every department has to be ordered
through the stores by a written
requisition, and a receipt given
on delivery. The Superintendent
thus has a receipt for all that goes
out of his department as well as
for all that enters it, and con-
sequently the difference between
the two represents the stock on

This is carried out in every detail,
and it is only by a very strict
adherence to this scheme that a proper check can be maintained over
the vast quantities of materials used. Some conception of the extensive
character of the transactions of this department may be obtained from
the fact that on January ist, 1900, the general stores had a stock of
materials on hand of the value of ,1,425,772 195. $d.

Again, in his department the materials required for the maintenance
of existing rolling stock, buildings, lines, etc., and materials required
for the execution of new works are kept entirely separate and distinct.
One of the largest items the stores has to deal with is the coal for
the locomotives, which costs about 560,000 per annum, which is
equal to over a guinea per minute night and day all the year through.
Among the items dealt with in very large quantities are rails,




sleepers, chairs, bolts, stationery, uniforms, oil, grease, hay, straw,
fodder, harness, wagon covers, timber, paint, cloth, lamps, carpets,
clocks, watches, whistles, and so on in endless variety.

Not only is it necessary to exercise the strictest scrutiny over
deliveries to and from the stores, but it is also obviously equally

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 29 of 36)