Sunday, March 30, 2008

Regional non-fast rail - Part 1

Went for a drive today up to Bradford and back home again via Wallan. I decided to stop in at the stations of both these towns and was rewarded at each by a train within 10 minutes of arrival. It was interesting to note that V/Line is using the latest VLocity railcars on this line at weekends despite the fact that this line was not part of the regional fast rail project. During the week it is a mix of older Sprinter railmotors (railcars) and locomotive hauled carriages. Anyway at Broadford I took some photos of this Melbourne bound train, it appeared to have a full seated load which surely is a good sign.

VLocity 1131-1231 approaching Broadford station while on
route from Seymour to Melbourne Southern Cross.

This section of track between Craigieburn and Seymour is notable in that it is the last remaining section of double line block safe working in Victoria (if not in Australia). What this means is that the line is divided into sections or blocks. In total there are 5* blocks, these being:
  • Craigieburn - Donnybrook*
  • Donnybrook - Wallan
  • Wallan - Kilmore East
  • Kilmore East - Broadford
  • Broadford - Seymour
* Until the extension of suburban trains to Craigieburn last year there was a block between Broadmeadows and Somerton and another between Somerton and Donnybrook. When the suburban extension to Craigieburn opened the block instruments from Somerton were moved to Craigieburn.

At each station mentioned above there are machines known as Winter's Block Instruments (Winter being the inventor), one for each section of each line. These allow the signaller to communicate with the signaller at the next or previous station using bell codes and indicator needles to negotiate the progress of a train along the line. The signals are sent along the telegraph wires or other communications lines beside the railway. The system is explained in much better detail at Vicsig.

VLocity 1131-1231 loading/unloading passengers at Broadford.

Anyway the point is that the infrastructure required for Double Line Block can be seen in the photo above. There is the signal box on the right which houses the signaller, signal levers and block instruments. Further down the line you can see the down starting signal in front of the train, which allows a train into the next block. On the right of the other line is the down home signal which accepts trains in to the station. These arrangements are reversed at the other end of the station (somewhat visible in the first photo). These are both lower quadrant semaphore signals. There is also a crossover which at a guess is only used in case of emergency under special instructions from the signaller and train control (Centrol) in Melbourne.

I should also mention Double Line Block allows stations to be "switched in" and "switched out" as needed. So for busy times all the stations can be switched in to allow a maximum number of trains through, while at quieter times some of the stations can be "switched out" . Today was one of those quieter times, and I believe it was operating as a single block from Craigieburn to Seymour.

VLocity 1131-1231 disappearing towards Melbourne.

In this final photo you can clearly see the standard gauge line from Melbourne to Albury to the left of the double track broad gauge line. This line has recently been re-laid with concrete sleepers for it's length and longer passing loops known as passing lanes are under construction. The concrete sleepers allow for higher speeds, particularly on curves, and have a longer life span that wooden sleepers (not to mention that we are running out of good quality red gum that is needed for environmental reasons to remain as trees). The existing passing loops are about 2 km at most, which defines the maximum length of the trains that can run on this line (to I believe about 1.8 km), and require many trains to be "put away" or stopped in the loops in order to cross (rail term for trains passing each other in opposite directions) a train in the opposing direction or be overtaken by a faster train . The new passing lanes in contrast will be many kilometres in length (perhaps 5 to 10 I'm not sure on the specifics) which will allow trains to simply pass each other while moving, which make for even faster travel times. All this work is being undertaken by the ARTC (Australian Rail Track Corporation) a federally funded corporation which manages the interstate standard gauge rail network.


sueglossy said...

Some spectacular shots here Ben. You should open up a DeviantART account like I have.

Check it out if you'd like. Some transport shots there.

Ben said...

Thanks for the complement.

Yes I've been visiting DeviantArt for a few years now. I clicked on your DeviantArt link a few weeks ago, you have some good photos.

I already have flickr account where I try to put some of my more artistic photos, although I don't update it very often.