DFR Telecoms Diary
We are now concentrating on the move. We had to build a partial false ceiling in the old booking office mainly to hold the fluorescent tubes up out of the way although we have managed to get quite a bit of other equipment up there. The skip has received quite a bit of the stuff that lies around in workshops as we gradually make the move.
We completed the move to the old booking office and find it snug and cosy compared with the Severn and Wye room we have been using to work in. We will have to share with the Booking Office staff on Thomas days but this seems to be no problem as we seldom attend on those days.
It was cold and snowy at first and we certainly did not feel like doing outside work for a couple of weeks. I therefore went round our main building at Norchard recovering all the old disused wiring that had built up over the years and got rid of a lot of untidyness. I found old PA speakers, transformers for non existent Christmas lights, PIRs and warning bells and various boxes screwed to the walls. All now gone and no longer causing us to scratch our heads and wondering where cables went to.
We have made a start on terminating the cables around the new DP1 cabinet at Parkend. However the cabinet is close to the running line and it may be some time before we can get back to the work on a non running day.
We have another go at connecting the asterisk machine to our BT router and finally got the two to talk together and then we even managed someone on CNet to dial successfully into the UAX 13. A bit of a thrill when we heard the selectors going up in response to someone dialling in from Cheshire. However it didn't last. The BT router went dead on us the next day and has had to be replaced by another BT router. To date we have not tried to reconnect the asterisk.
May was the month in which we concentrated most of our efforts in cabling out the new office and booking office. After many changes of mind on how the office was to be laid out, we now have the walls up and can get on with things. We have fancy three way trunking to go at desk level and this took quite a time to figure out, cut and fitted into position. After that cabling was relatively simple. We are providing 240 volt mains, telephones, clocks and computer cabling to each desk etc.
Steve Harris is trying to scource a couple of line concentrators for me but I rather fancy building them instead. Chris Hall from the Mid Hants has provided me with diagrams of his system and now I am putting together a small rack of equipment for one of the concentrators. A nice design challenge. The IRSE Railway Telecommunications book outlines the requirements so perhaps we shall even be legal. I have made a start on the construction.
Not a busy month, mostly odds and ends at the railway. Our contract electrician has approved our mains cabling to the new accommodation and has connected it up and so the new offices are now ready for use so far as we are concerned.
The mark 3A sleeper coach at the Junction is likely to move up to Norchard and be used as accommodation so we have started to find out what will be necessary to connect it to the mains. This culminated in a visit to the Avon Valley Railway to be shown over the electrical side of things in their sleeper coach by their First Great Western expert, Ollie Wise. We find that it is an extremely complex piece of equipment with items using 1000 volts, 240 volts and 110 volts. Conversion to 240 volts 3 phase is not too difficult but has to start with the provision of a 110 volt battery. Sounds expensive and until you have a battery you are unable to check out whether or not the rest of the gear is OK. We were asked to check a dozen lighting solenoids and found that most of them had become sticky. We have freed them up but we wonder about the condition of the many motors driving fans and pumps.
At home the line concentrator for Norchard Box is well under way. The relay sets have been built.
I visited Parkend to check the exchange only to find it completely dead. The batteries were flat. The standby PU184 had been connected and has obviously given up the ghost. We have not taken the PU to bits to see what has gone wrong but somehow it blew the charging fuse and then stopped providing power. Back to the old power unit while the battery tries to recover.
The S&T Group have arranged with me to start the cable laying jobs necessary. They will lay the cable and erect the cabinets and we will terminate the cables and sort out the circuits. But first we need to know where the cable lengths that we have are to go. To this end Rick and I have spent a day with a surveyor's measuring wheel checking the section lengths. That made our feet ache but at least the weather was just right for walking the railway. And we got to wave at the trains.
The concentrator for Norchard has got to the point where it is working on my bench in the garage. It seems to be doing a good job. I have made a start on building a wooden rack on which to mount the relay sets, batteries, power unit and a small tubular heater to keep it happy in the winter. The lower room in the signal box is not the kindest of environments for a relay based piece of apparatus.
The rack has now been built and the batteries and power unit etc temporarily installed in my garage to test the whole concentrator as it will be when installed. It worked well on the 55 volts that the battery supplied after I had changed one relay armature to an adjustable residual type to stop it sticking on. Very satisfactory.
I have started to wipe up and modify some internal 700 type phones for use as CB teles connected to the line concentrator. They are phones that were 6 volt "D" phones but seem to be OK when stripped out and turned into very basic CB phones.
We have fixed the head in the box in its final resting place and cabled down into the rack with two 20 pair cables plus battery and earth.
It now looks as though the new lineside cables will be laid in early October with trenching and burying later in October. We are to hire in a trencher for the work using our digger to assist in the backfilling. However both Rick and myself will be away for most of October so we will miss the fun! However we start to get involved when the cabinets have been erected by S&T and we can terminate. This looks like a difficult job as the cable is heavily armoured and is extremely stiff to work with.
On the electrical front, a new 3 phase cable is to be taken to the toilet block area for connection to the sleeper coach when it arrives and to replace the present connections out to the caravan and wagon areas. It should cope with any development of that area. The toilet block is to be completely refurbished during November but at the moment we do not know who will be responsible for the electrical work.
October was a month when we went on holiday and hardly had any time for the DFR. However work went on as S&T laid out all the cable that we had alongside the rails and Jason Shirley made a great start on burying it. However the flail has been in use cutting back the lineside growth and has again managed to quite badly damage the Norchard to Whitecroft cable.
On returning to work, Rick and I walked the line to see what had been done in our absence. Most of the Whitecroft to Parkend section has been buried and now awaits cabinet erection and jointing.
We have another problem, the flail has been in use again. Despite walking the length of the cable we could not see the damage so we may now have to resort to testing to find the cable faults etc. Autumn has managed to cover the cable in most places very completely with leaves.
The position with our Asterisk exchange has not altered. We are still not connected via the router to the internet and are not able to use the equipment. Our computer expert is completely tied up with getting a coach ready for the Christmas season, the new office is just a very expensive storeroom and so the new server cannot be installed, and in any case when the new computer goes in we want to change our ISP and router. Lots of reasons for the lack of progress on this front. At least one job, the toilet block refurbishment, has started on time. Nice to see a bit of progress.
18 Nov 09 Ever had one of those days? Arriving with the hope of eating into our work load, we found a cable strung between our office and the signing on room. We decided to get it moved back out of the way of the proposed staff toilet hut and onto the existing catenary. This meant bringing an old lighting fitting into use, mostly as a jointing point for extending the shifted cable onto the existing exterior lighting fitting. Everything went wrong. Earthing the neutral accidentally brought out a main trip. There were a few volts floating around on the neutral from somewhere. The existing light did not work as we had not connected the wires properly. Then nothing worked, it was a fuse feeding the PIR. The existing lighting fitting was now short circuit. I had to go and buy some small value fuses as we were all out. Then the bulb blew in the existing fitting and we could not obtain a spare. The light in the signing on room stopped working. Bob H thought it was a faulty wall switch, it was, though replacing the switch did not clear the fault. Replacing the tube did. At one point we were called upon to shift a couple of night storage heaters and the associated bricks. During all this it drizzled and the leaky gutter poured water down our necks. We were not the happiest of groups especially as we were constantly beseiged by others demanding attention. At 3.30 we decided to quit and go home before anything else happened.
I have got the line concentrator all wired up and Rick and I gave it a good work out and testing. All seems well, so we have left a temporary phone connected to it in the box so that the signalmen can play with it.
Rick and I have now got the concentrator into service, just! We have changed out the "D" phone circuit to the Crossing Hut and connected it to the concentrator. We noted a huge improvement in transmission quality. The signal men seemed to like it. This was an easy changeover as we only needed to fit an internal CB phone, now we have the more awkward job of changing out the post phones. This involves getting external type CB phones mounted onto signal posts etc. Bob Hawker is helping with this. S&T and Operations have agreed to our proposals for the new SPTs.
Our S&T helper, Bob, has got the first Parkend cabinet mounted into position. Bob, Martin and I have also put in the duct track crossing and laid the extra cable to link the new cable to the existing network. I have been back and stripped off the cables in the new cabinet ready for terminating. Stripping the armoured cable was interesting. I thought I was getting nowhere as the outer sheath was bonded to the armouring, but I found that the armouring is just a tube over the top of the cable inside. A bit of delicate hacksawing and the outer simply slides off and the wires are very clearly colour coded inside. Great.
Norchard in the snow, December 23rd 2009
Jason Shirley has restarted cable burying and has finished the lengths beside the Park, however the snow has made it impossible to continue and the work has been suspended until the ground reappears.
I have also managed to repair three of the breaks in the Whitecroft cable, the last two repairs with crisp snow on the ground. Hope I have not trapped too much moisture inside the cable. Walking up the line in the snow was great. Everywhere there were animal tracks.
I helped out in the cafe for the last Santa train. The water was frozen so we could not wash up, the trains were an hour late and in the end it was announced that the cafe would serve free hot drinks. The place was jammed with humanity and dirty crockery. Not our best day, though the customers seemed to appreciate that at least we had trains running in the snow.
We finished the year wondering what to do in the cold. In the end we opted to stay indoors. Rick and Martin went off to install a new heater in the museum and I built a small cabinet to use where the flail has cut the cable. We had lunch and went home as the place was still freezing.
All the Best for the New Year
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