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CRAG visit Preston

Posted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:15 am
by Ian Everett
Now we know why there were two railway unions - ASLEF for the drivers and firemen and NUR for signalmen and the rest. It must sometimes have felt that they were at war with each other rather than cooperating to run a train service.

At one point yesterday I was about to explode in rage, completely overloaded by the simultaneous demands of others - at my incompetence (why could I still not remember how to set up a simple route for a train on the through lines?); at the driver of a train waiting for his “board” who, “ever so politely”, was asking what the delay was for; at the adjoining signalbox who just would not respond to my repeated attempts to call their attention (one beat of the bell); and Mike’s constant geniality - did he not realise what torture he was putting me through?

Yes, CRAG, the Cumbrian Region Area Group, was again operating the masterpiece that is Mike Norris’ Preston. Our annual examination of railway knowledge, intelligence, cooperation skills, patience and humour was in full swing. Again, we started the timetable at midnight, and after a three hour session had still only reached 1.30 am model time.

Our admiration for the real signalmen at Preston knew no bounds. We had all the levers at our fingertips. They must have walked miles in a shift, pulling heavy levers under constant pressure to keep trains to time, enduring the sarcasm of firemen invading the sanctity of their box to obey rule 55 and ask whether they would get their road this century, and all done with the confidence of absolute familiarity with the timetable, the myriad of rules, the layout of the station and the function of each of their 160 or so levers.

Here, to give a feel of the scope of our challenge, is the layout of the cabin I was trying to operate - just one of the five signal boxes in our charge:

Preston No 4.jpg

Mike’s achievement is really awesome. Everything works without a glitch. The only problems were of our own making - the shunter left forgotten on the main line and run into by an express (the shunter driver forgot rule 55!) and a couple of trains wrongly routed - but otherwise Mike’s forward planning, attention to detail and thorough craftsmanship was proving its worth.

The annual visit to Preston is a real highlight of CRAG’s year, not just for the experience of operating possibly the most ambitious of P4 layouts, but also for the enjoyment of Mike and Elaine’s wonderful hospitality, making us feel really welcome and providing refreshments before during and after the session, culminating in a generous meal of pie, peas and pud. We had come from Carlisle, Leeds, Liverpool and Wensleydale, reflecting the widespread catchment area of CRAG (five members of the party) and its friends (three members) and, hopefully, we’ll be back for another dose of frustration and exhilaration next year.

Re: CRAG visit Preston

Posted: Wed Oct 30, 2013 10:43 pm
by Ian Everett
David Dredge, my fellow signalman in Preston No 5, has sent me this report of a very similar accident to Saturday's, caused by a signalman forgetting a light engine on the main line and the fireman failing to carry out Rule 55. It is an extract from the excellent L&Y Focus No 73 (the journal of the L&Y Society), edited by Roger Mellor.


Shades of Quintinshill, Settle Junction, Garsdale and so many more!