DFR Telecoms Diary


January 2008
A wet month preventing us from getting much done outside. Martin and I did manage to get duct laid to the Chairman's wagon in readiness for supplying him with telephone service. That was hard digging in the ballast and the duct is only just under the ground, but we did provide a duct within the duct for extra strength. During the digging, Martin and I went off to lunch to come back to find that the trench fairies had been at work finishing off the digging. Thanks, Ian and David.

The DFR got a big BT bill this month. It included two occasions when BT repaired reported faults and then charged us for work on our equipment. We have to get this sorted so that it does not happen again.

February 2008
The Chairman's phones are now working in his wagon.
The duct along the park has now been laid and we await authority to buy the necessary cable. The existing cable is now above ground and has been cut twice more by the duct laying activities. The cable to Whitecroft has also been cut twice by the gang clearing the undergrowth back to the fence line. This may be a blessing in disguise as we look as though we may get the opportunity to tie the cable back on the fence and thereby keep it out of the way of future tidying activities.

We seem to be losing Mike Sewell who is moving away from the area. We are advertising for more volunteers to help out with the Electrical and Telecom Group.

March 2008
Not a good month, Mike Sewell has left the area and then we lost Norman Alder from the Electrical and Telecoms Group. Norman has been poorly for some time and has only appeared on odd occasions, but in the end he succumbed to cancer and died on the 17th March. At least Martin Lunn and I were able to visit him a few days before he went. There will be a short obituary in the News Sheet.

The group is now down to Martin Lunn, myself and Tony Macey who helps when he can. We have not been able to tackle telecom jobs as we have been completely tied up with sorting the electrics out in the cafe coach for the new occupants. We are still involved in the provision as the month ends. If any spare time appears we have used it to sort our store, the "Caboosh". The contents have grown hugely and we cannot move in there, so we are being strict and getting rid of stuff for which we cannot see a use. We may make some money for the railway with the scrap metal we are accumulating.

April 2008
Electrical work, sorting our store and holidays meant that virtually no telecom work was undertaken. However I went to the Avoncroft Telecom Swapmeet and bought various items to keep us going and whilst there met Ian Jolly. We were talking about the cabling difficulties in getting junctions between Norchard and Parkend when he dropped a small bomb in front of me and told me that it is now possible to interconnect Strowger exchanges via the net. I need a computer running Linux, a programme called Asterisk to turn it into a tandem exchange and bits and pieces to interconnect it to the Strowgers ( and a phone at home apparently). I will also need to have broadband installed at Parkend. Wow!!!

May 2008
Back from holiday means that I can start thinking seriously about Asterisk and can start on the minor works necessary at Norchard to get an Asterisk installed there.
Rick Gillingham, ex BT, popped in to see us. We hope he will stay and become a regular on the Electrical and Telecoms Group.
We have started to get a section of the Whitecroft cable pulled back and cable tied to the fence. However even this one section was too much for a full gang of four to cope with more than a couple of hours pulling on what seemed to be a ton of cable.

June 2008
Mostly a month of wet Wednesdays so the cabling at Whitecroft has not been finished. The cable is back along the fence but the fixing to the fencing needs to be completed along with the installation of a new piece where the cable is now too short to reach.
We did install CAT 5 cables from our BT router to the exchange room in readiness for an Asterisk installation and the junctions to the Asterisk are jumpered up and taken to a DP at the proposed Asterisk location. Similar work has started at Parkend but is in its early stages at present.
We did manage to help out with electrical work in the cafe installing new fly zapper circuits.
Rick has stayed with us and now has a set of keys to the electrical world. He has made a start on checking and lubricating our Norchard selectors. Welcome aboard.

July 2008
Ian Jolly visited bringing an Asterisk exchange with him. However although the Asterisk talks to the exchange, it will not be accepted by the BT router. It may be that the router will not talk to a Linux machine.
The work at Parkend to connect the exchange to the Asterisk system is now well ahead, though we have found that we need to modify all the finals so that the P wire testing battery resistance is lowered to operate to the UAX13 group selectors we are using as incoming selectors from the Asterisk.
We have attached all the cable we can to the fence line south of Whitecroft and we have surveyed the rest of the route for damage. We now know that we have three joints to make plus the retermination of the cable in one of the DPs. Not too bad.
Chris Hall from the Mid Hants dropped off some MDF bits for which we have been scouting around . Thanks Chris.

August 2008
Our Asterisk is still not talking to the BT router we have but Ian Jolly is returning shortly with fresh ideas. We have finished the exchange work at Parkend. In the end we did not modify the PABX4 finals, we changed the HX relays in the UAX13 incoming group selectors to hi speed types. They work a treat. We have also managed to make the three joints on the damaged cable south of Whitecroft, though at the cost of losing a mobile phone in the undergrowth. We still have to reterminate one length of cable in its DP.
We had arranged for cable to be delivered to Parkend for the Whitecroft-Parkend section. It was to be laid along the trackside. However we now have an offer to get it trenched and ducted if we wait for the winter when the lineside vegetation reduces. In the end a much better solution.
At the same time we have nine spans of aerial cable that need to come down as the trees along the route and the banking are going to be removed to allow the railway to double its track over that section.

September/October 2008
A time for holidays and not too much work got done on the telecoms side. We have managed some UAX13 maintenance and the replacement of a damaged length of cable at Norchard. We also finished the jointing of the cable to Whitecroft and the phone there is now back on line with a louder bell.
The Asterisk has not made any real progress as we debate how to get it to talk to our BT router. However the BT router will not talk to a new Vista machine so it may get changed for something more versatile in any case. At the moment we wait to see what happens, if not we will need to have a separate broadband connection on one of our other lines, not the most cost effective solution.
The Electrical and Telecoms Group 2008
We did manage to get a group photo at the end of October. The members are Tony Macey, John Bathgate, Martin Lunn and Rick Gillingham. John and Rick concentrate on telecom work as they are both ex PO/BT.

November 2008
We spent considerable time chasing a low insulation fault on our Whitecroft cable. In the end we employed two of us to walk the track disconnecting pairs at intervals while Rick stayed in the exchange to test with us. Doing the job properly gave us a quick result and we found an old cut in the cable sheath from last year's flail of the lineside. We do still have to make a repair at that point but that will now be a December job.
We also altered the BT line at Parkend so that pulling out a plug on the master socket disconnects all our site wiring. We extended the site wiring to the exchange and the Goods Office. Now we are ready for broadband to be provided on the line.
Trevor Nicholson has had experts in trying to make the BT router work properly but all attempts have failed. Now that the Santa season is upon us we have to abandon work on the broadband at Norchard as the computer is having to be used to take bookings. Back to fighting or replacing the router in the new year.
We fitted a CD player that was doing very little in my garage to the music channel on the PA system, it's doing well.
Rick is working through the Norchard exchange selectors and relay sets, cleaning, checking and adjusting, something that has not been done for around ten years.

December 2008
epoxy filled repair

We repaired the flail cut in the cable at Tuft's Bridge using an epoxy filled jointing sleeve. The day was frosty so it was a question of warming up the epoxy by stuffing the bag down the trouser front. All that tape prevents the resin from oozing out while it is still curing. Of course, the flail is going to work its way over the same area in the next few days!
We also provided a plan 1A extension in the shop office for our shop manager, Lynn.
We were asked to vacate our office/workshop in the main building and move to the present booking office. There are to be major changes in the layout of our main building. We have started work on making the transfer.

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