DFR Telecoms Diary


My Stars for the Year, Leo :
"Postpone decisions, streamline your routine and take each situation as it comes. You may have ambitious plans on your agenda, but you could create more problems than you solve if you take on more than you can handle. Slow down and concentrate on what you can achieve instead".

I think I should just "chill out" this year


January 2010

DP Cabinet, not our best

3 January : Sunday was lovely and sunny. The works train was out with the lineside clearance gang and Jean and I supplied them with rolls, sausages, bacon and fried onions as usual. I took the opportunity to do a bit of surveying and planning ahead of terminating the new cable alongside the Park. The two existing cabinets we will be using are in a bit of a mess and we will take the chance to bring them up to a better standard.

20 January : January turned nasty, with snow, ice and weather that kept us indoors. We did not meet as a group until the 20th when we decided that it was still an indoor day. How many electricians does it take to fit an emergency light? Four, as we all held each other's hands in the cold. Brrrh!

February 2010

3 February : Mike Sewell joined us. He has returned to the Forest from the west country and is getting back into the DFR after a spell with the West Somerset. Martin, Mike and I worked in the museum on the installation of a new ring main which should allow for better illumination of the exhibits.

New CB phone at signal post 12

10 February : Rick, Bob Hawker and myself spent a day cabling along to signal post 12, fitting the new phone and connecting it up to the concentrator. It tested fine and worked straight away and gave such good transmission that we wonder how long it will be before the Ops people want all the D phone circuits replaced with connections from the concentrator. We also recovered the leaning cabinet housing the old D phone, leaving the site looking almost smart.
Martin and Tony concentrated on finishing the new ring main in the museum. It is now up and running having been tested and accepted by Richard, our qualified contract electrician

11February : Rick and I are both away for the last two weeks in February, but before going we had a break in at Norchard and a full drum of cable was stolen. Luckily the thieves were disturbed before they could take a second drum, which had been rolled into position ready for loading onto a lorry.

March 2010

3 March : Rick, Tony and I walked up the line from Upper Forge and planted the new small cabinet so that we could return and joint through the cut cable. We also sorted out the heap of scrap cable that we had outside our caboosh and took it to the scrap yard for sale. We now have a reasonable float.

6 March : I fitted the baseboard in the new cabinet by the Park.

10 March : Rick, Mike and I terminated the new 50 pair cable in the cabinet at the Town Crossing. It took three of us an hour to strip the sheath from three feet of cable. Later I learnt that it is best to heat the cable before stripping the sheath if the weather is cold. But we have the 50 pair terminated and ready to change over later. The token machine is giving trouble at the Junction so we changed the 36 volt dry battery at Norchard. It may help but we suspect something mechanical in the machine. S&T will sort that when they next attend.

13 March : Rick and I met two likely Electrical and Telecom recruits and gave them the tour of Norchard facilities. We are to meet again next Saturday and try to terminate some of the 50 pair cable. That will give them a better of idea of day to day telecoms work.

14 March : I went to the Park DP and fitted the terminations and cut the holes in the basebords.

17 March : Rick, Mike and I got a couple more 50 pair cable ends stripped ready for terminating. On the Saturday, the rains came and so our recruits, Ian and Paul, and I spent a training morning at Norchard and after lunch attempted to terminate one of the 50 pair cables. The rain returned to defeat us. We need a good old GPO jointer's tent.

20 March : A training day for our new recruits, Ian and Paul.

24 March : Rick, Mike and Bob got cables terminated, despite the continuous drizzle. After putting in the backboard to the new DP at the Town Station, I cleared up much of our room and took a very full car load to the dump. The room will now be much easier to leave clear for the next Thomas the Tank event when the room will become the booking office. We were pleased with the performance of our new walkie talkies, we could converse clearly between Norchard and the Town station.

26 March : Paul and I were at Cheltenham at a telecom equipment disposal event. It rained hard while we picked over the equipment to see what we would like to take away. I picked up several relay sets for the parts.

Ian Stubbs, Paul Seward, John Bathgate, Rick Gillingham, the Saturday Team

27 March : We finally got in our first proper Saturday session to finish the month off. Rick, Paul, Ian and I walked the line from Whitecroft to Upper Forge noting that Jason Shirley had now got nearly all of the cable buried. Some really soft spots where the digger could not operate still remain. Our recruits, Ian and Paul, terminated the cable break in the new DP5EA. We went to my home for a hot dog and chips, apple pie and cream lunch. Not bad.

When we got back to the DFR we tested the circuits via Whitecroft to see that one had one wire "dis", quite near to Norchard. We started to trace the problem to find that the rats are back in the duct. We cannot see a really good answer to this. Digging on the top of a bank might not be a good idea. It looks as though we will have to get the cable out of the duct, repair it and then fix it to the fence where possible and lay it on the ground again elsewhere. Such a pity after a promising start to the day.

31 March : It rained on our last working day of March so Rick and I changed the phone in the signal box and connected the PA switch to it so that signalmen can use the PA from their phone. We also looked at the cable network at Lydney Junction to see if we have spare pairs from the box to the station. It looks as though we have but any DP is likely to be in the station loft and we will need to transport a ladder to site to get up and find out. Who put it up there? The signallers want the PA there to be available from the box.

April 2010

3 April : Rick, Ian, Paul and I pulled our rat damaged cable out of its duct and repaired the fault. Luckily Mr Rat had only had one real go at the cable. The cable now lies beside the track waiting to be reconnected at one end. The rain came and stopped us from finishing the job. We now have quite a pile of duct which can be reused somewhere away from the rodents.

4 April : Chris Bull, Bob Jones etc and I travelled down to Middle Forge on the DMU to have a look at the stream running into our ballast. I need to talk to Steve Harris to arrange for the telecoms and signals cables and ducts to be moved to a position alongside the running track so that the digger can get in and do some ditching. The wagons on the siding will need to be moved before we can start on the job.

6 April : Adrian Copley and Bob Hawker ran out the loop cable between the Crossing Hut and the Signal Box, thanks lads, much appreciated.

7 April : Rick and Tony continued with stripping cables at the cabinets at the Town station and Parkside, I fanned out the cable at St Mary's and after lunch Mike and I clipped and tied the loop cable along the fence etc at the Crossing Hut.

9 April : I completed the terminations in DPs 3KA and 3L and the pairs are now through ready for changeover.

The THG swapmeet at Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove

11 April : I attended the Telephone Heritage Group (THG) swapmeet at Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove to stock up on 300 type tele parts for the museum. Ian and Paul were there loaded down with goodies.

12 April : I went to the Mid Hants railway to pick up a load of spare joints which will be useful to us. Chris Hall offered them to us, thanks Chris.

13 April : I was called in by Lynne to look at a faulty phone on the bypass crossing. I had a feeling that I would not be able to help and sure enough I do not have the keys to get into the bypass equipment. I need a short course on Lydney Junction Signal Box equipment as it seems complicated and not recorded anywhere. Eventually I found that David Collins has already asked Peter Woods to look at the problem.

Parkend Cabinet DP1E

14 April : Rick and I spent the morning tapping out the pairs between the town crossing and St Mary's. All OK, and we now have 15 pairs waiting for a non running day for changeover from the old cable. Tony and Mike spent the morning cleating the loop cable to the platform wall near the signal box and stripping off the sheath ready for terminating. After an early lunch Bob, Rick, Tony, Mike and I got temporary possesion of the line south of Parkend and moved the new cabinet DP1E into place using the railtrolley. We had to move fast as we had to get the line clear for the return of the train. Then between us we got the cabinet erected. The short ends left by the cable laying gang are going to give us a problem when terminating.
On return to Norchard I was asked to see why the trips had come out on the supply to the Forester coaches. Eventually Lynne and I tracked it down to a faulty UV light filter in the water supply.

New joint replacing Cabinet DP5B

17 April : A lovely hot summer like day. Just the two of us. Ian and I sorted out the cables along the top of the banking and got rid of most of the ducting that was left. Ian then took over the terminations in cabinet DP5A where we are changing the arrangements to the current standard. I used one of the joints obtained from the Mid Hants Railway to remove the cables from cabinet DP5B and put them straight through in a joint attached to the sound whistle notice. The joint makes a very good job. The very wobbly cabinet can now be recovered by Bob Hawker for reuse elsewhere. We are now ready to tap out the connections to the signal box DP and put through three signalling pairs. Jean turned up with hot dogs for the line clearance gang so we had ours sat picnicing in the sun.

21 April : Martin and Mike did PAT work. Rick and I went to the town crossing and sorted out some of the circuits and connected them to the new parkside cable in readiness for changeover. We found errors in the records which need following up. After an early lunch Rick and Mike went on to tap out the loop cable between the crossing hut and the signal box.

23 April : A quiet day at the railway so I went in to move the answering machine and phone in the shop office in order to make space for a new key cabinet.

24 April : Paul and Ian completed putting circuits through DPs 3R, T and 5A. When we tested the circuits, they seem to be OK to Whitecroft. A big relief that nothing else seems to have gone wrong with the cable. During the afternoon we surveyed the Parkend DPs to see what needs to be done there. There is quite a bit of work to catch up with, but at least we can each take a DP and get the job going next Saturday. We also looked at the Whitecroft end of the new cable. Still a fair bit to be dug in and in total we need at least four more cabinets erected. Bob Hawker expects the phone cabinet to be erected by the Parkend stop board in the near future so this circuit is becoming urgent. Ian and Paul each took home "D" phones to wipe up and test. We finished the day with ice creams on the platform whilst watching the 08 shunting.

27 April : I put the backboard into Parkend DP1D and stripped the cables.

28 April : Mike got on with clipping the cable to DP5C to the fence line. Rick and I changed over the circuits alongside the Park to the new cable. The phones went well but we are not sure of the token or the D phones. I have asked the operational people to check the circuits before the next running day if possible.

29 April : Rick and I went back to check the token having had some telephoned instructions on its operation. It didn't work. We chased the circuit through the network to find that pairs 6 and 10 had been reversed somewhere between Norchard and the Town Crossing. We reversed the pairs at the Town Crossing to compensate and all was well.

May 2010

1 May : Ian, Paul and I spent the day working on three of the cabinets at Parkend, one each with many hands making light work. The walkie talkies came in very useful for pair identification and just keeping in touch. None of the cabinets were completed but we have broken the back of the job at that end of the line.

The DFR stall at the Bristol Model Railway Show 2010, Thornbury

2 May : Jean and I attended the Bristol Model Railway Show at Thornbury Leisure Centre to man the DFR stall for the morning. It got quite busy and although we did not break any records for selling items we did hand out a huge number of leaflets.

3 May : I spent the morning chasing round finding keys for the Town station office and the crossing hut and getting duplicates cut ready for use on Wednesday.

5 May : Rick and I got the treadle changed over to the new cable so that the old cable by the Park is now ready to be recovered whenever we can get a big enough group together. We then sorted out the stores and planning for a switched PA speaker in the new booking office. Mike took all our PA mikes and leads and went through them so that we have a good spare available for use by the stationmaster, particularly for Thomas events.

8 May : Ian and Paul fitted an extra PA speaker in the new booking office while I cleared up several faults in Norchard exchange. After lunch we went to look at Parkend exchange and decide what jobs need to be done there. Ian and Paul tidied the common service blocks which have been hanging loose since the exchange was moved into the building.

10 May : The diagrams for the Parkend line testing arrangements have been found and are available via the main menu

Parkend DP1E interior

12 May : We completed the interior wirng in DP1E and have managed to get things sorted out OK despite the very short cable ends left by the cabling gang.

The new equipment cabinet at the Parkend Ground Frame

We also erected the equipment cabinet at the Parkend Ground Frame. Digging the holes for the supports is a big job in the very stony ground.

15 May : Ian, Paul and I worked with S&T to get the circuits through from the ground frame to the stop board. We have now virtually completed all the work in the DPs close to Parkend station.

18 May : I fitted the "D" phone at the Parkend stop board but need to go back to put the batteries etc in the lower compartment and extend the telephone cable from the adjacent small cabinet. I also changed the dial on the phone on Lydney Junction platform.

19 May : Mike and I spent the day at Parkend commissioning the "D" phone circuit between the ground frame and the stop board and fitting exchange line phone 320 at the ground frame. Both circuits worked first time. Congrats to Ian and Paul for getting the pairs through the DP complex so accurately. A bit of a red letter day as these are the first circuits requested by the operational people to be provided at Parkend. Things went so well that we left a bit early before anything could come up to ruin the day.

22 May : I was not very well and did not go in but Ian went in and changed the batteries in the Lydney Junction west loop D phone and got it tested with the signal box.

29 May : I was well enough to go in for an hour or so, particularly as I had my minder, Jean, ensuring that I did not get involved in actual work. In any case it was pouring with rain. Ian and I updated the cable diagrams that we hold, now that we have added so many DPs and upped the sizes of some of the cables. Ian took them home to see if they could somehow be computerised using Visio. I came home to start recording the operations of the Parkend equipment. I need to get the operate and release charts of the equipment onto the computer before I start on some sort of learning course for Ian and Paul. It seems sensible that they should, in the longer term, become experts at Parkend while Rick can look after Norchard. It's a theory.

June 2010

2 June : The day did not go as expected as we were required to clear up around the caboosh. We took the resultant scrap cable to Bendall's. It all helps the fund. The Norchard site is beginning to show signs of becoming tidy at long last. Mike, Rick and I then went to look at terminating the 50 pair cable at Whitecroft. Of course it is not long enough to reach the Norchard DP so we need yet another cabinet. We also need some duct dug in, which seems to be difficult at present. We have to organise a train to get the digger there and back and find the necessary crew, easier just to do it the hard way I feel. Then we tried to use the strapping tool to mount a phone on a metal pole to find that it will not do the job. Back to the drawing board.

Digging in the duct at Whitecroft

5 June : Ian, Paul and I spent the day digging the trench across the gate at Whitecroft, installing a pair of ducts and pulling the 50 pair cable in. We had some help from David Churton, the crossing keeper for the day. Hard work, paticularly for Ian on the pick axe. Nice to see the cable tucked away. We must do something more technical next. (photo by Paul Seward)

9 June : An interesting day as it started with Mike Sewell telling us that he has been appointed Office Manager. At the moment he only has a room full of junk which he needs to clear out somehow, but then he has to organise the office staff, procedures, filing systems etc. This will need a review of, and some changes to our BT telephone lines, maybe even a small PABX. At the moment I am pressing him to get the office up and running with perhaps one or two of the BT lines making their appearance in the office. This at least will not cost anything. Once he has some system and procedures worked out, perhaps then we can get a reasonably accurate picture of the final facilities the railway will require.
Rick and I then went to Parkend with Martin to extend the BT line to the ground frame cabinet. This went well, dial tone appearing at the cabinet first time, until we realised that we had not brought the cabinet key with us so that we were unable to fit the actual phone. Rick went back after lunch to finish off the job. I recovered the demo phone on the line concentrator at Norchard and then tested all the mike leads in the stationmaster's office. Two were faulty, having had the cables ripped away from the sockets, one was brand new. I shall have to buy more. Thomas weekends always seem to produce faulty mike leads.

Rocket in the yard

Rocket was in steam in the sidings today. It has come for some small repairs to be made by the Flour Mill staff. They did not have space for it at their site in Bream.
5521 has arrived for the upcoming gala. City of Truro and 1450 are also expected in the next few days.

12 June : Paul, Ian and I spent the day at Parkend exchange. We changed out the faulty power unit we have there, though the replacement insists on pumping 2 amps into one of the two batteries continually. Looks like we may have a faulty cell. We also got on with fitting a new relay set shelf. This also meant altering and extending the fuse mountings on the rack.

City of Truro entering Norchard High Level

16 June : City of Truro spent the day looking splendid. Martin, Rick and I walked down the line to Middle Forge to look at mounting the two outstanding signal post teles. We think we have the problem sorted. We also looked at the cable shifting job at the ditch. The undergrowth has gone mad and we could not see any details at all. No sign of the crane and wagon moving so we suppose the job is now non-urgent. We also sorted out the two signal post teles and got them tested on the concentrator. They seemed to work well.

19 June : Ian and Paul went to Parkend to wire in the tester control and AT5422. When they got there they could smell the battery. It had literally blown a hole in its side. They had to isolate the wrecked battery and go back to the main battery and charger. Now it is becoming more important to change out the main battery for the larger cells that I am nurturing in my garage. They wired up the AT5422 tester etc but it needs some looking at to get it working. In the evening Paul, Rick and Janet, myself and Jean attended the working members BBQ at Parkend. A very nice innovation for the railway.

23 June : Mike and I spent the day at Parkend. We changed the phone in the ticket office and gave the exchange a good work out. We had to busy out a couple of selectors for future attention but we think we left things working better than before. The battery was down to 40 volts and the exchange was groaning a bit when we got there, someone (me?) had left the mains plug out on the standby power unit. Mike and I built a metal battery rack from a flat pack we were given and got a new set of batteries mounted, ready for cabling. In the end a useful day.

Battery Rack at Parkend

26 June : Paul, Ian and I went to Parkend to install the replacement battery, fault find and commission the AT5422 line tester and get the call sender up and running. Success. It was good to hear the calls working their way through the selectors before we left.

29 June : I have made up a set of LEDs and resistors and went to Norchard to fit them to the first selectors in unit B. They light up while the selector is in use and should help our visitors follow which switch is going to step when they use the exchange.

30 June : I finished off fitting the LEDs to unit B selectors and helped Bob drill cable entry holes in two cabinets he has nearly ready to go to site.

July 2010

3 July : Ian came in to fit a resistor bulb in the Parkend ringing lead and to measure the voltages of all the batteries making up the new set. He also documented much of the ringer output leads.

7 July : Rick started on fitting LEDs to the selectors on rack A1 at Notchard.

10 July : Ian and Paul had a good day. They tied the cable to the fence at Whitecroft, fitted a choke in the ringer motor lead, fitted battery jacks on the power rack, moved the asterisk DP to the power rack and connected the call sender through it.

14 July : Rick finished fitting the Norchard selectors with "in use" LEDs. Rick and I moved our spare drum of cable to a safer location and then got the new phone cabinet moved to Whitecroft by train. We had a go at a fault on a group selector but it beat us. What's going on?

New Phone Cabinet at Whitecroft

17 July : Ian, Paul and I got the telephone cabinet installed at Whitecroft. It took all day. The ground is very rocky and even a bar and sledge would not shift one stubborn rock. We also checked the battery at Parkend. It was fine. We seem to have a good set there.

21 July : A day on maintenance. Rick and I cleared a fault on the D phone at the Parkend Stop Board. It turned out to be a tarnished contact set. We also checked the phone at Lydney Junction platform. It was OK but the cabinet lock had come off the door. We spent the afternoon trying to sort out a new lock and then the rain stopped us from fitting it at the Junction.
Martin has told us that he will stop doing electrical work after next week and will not be attending the railway for some months. We all feel sorry that this has happened but Martin has been so messed around that it was inevitable that something would happen. Martin will be welcome to join us later in the year on telecoms work if he wishes to return.

24 Jul : Ian and Paul and Rick attended the course on Personal Track Safety. I changed over the pair I thought was the SPT13 line to the concentrator whilst they were attending. We had an early lunch and then Ian, Paul and I walked down to Middle Forge to install the new SPT in the ground frame cabinet. It didn't go well. The existing tele on the post was vandalised. We could not find the pair and spent ages trying to locate it. We found a wasp nest and I got stung on my wrist and ear. Eventually the penny clicked and I realised that I must have changed over the wrong pair at the box. I walked back to the box, found that the records were wrong, corrected the mistake and all was immediately well. A late finish.

28 Jul : Tony and I spent the day fitting a telephone at signal post 2 and then connecting it back to the concentrator. The concentrator is now complete. Martin resigned today and handed in his keys etc, we will miss him and so will the railway. Electrical is to be shared between three very busy members, we will wait to see how things progress.

29 Jul : Having done what was agreed, I now have complaints about the recovery of the phone on signal post 13. I went in to make up an external CB phone capable of being post mounted, perhaps we will be able to fit it and get it cabled back to the concentrator on Saturday.

31 Jul : Ian and I provided the replacement phone at Signal 13 connected back to the concentrator. We were watched by two lads who started by throwing bits of wood onto the line and ended by throwing stones at Ian. Then they ran off. It's in the incident book. We wonder how long the phone will last.

August 2010

1 Aug : I went in to help Jean with the garden watering but when I checked the signal post 13 line, it was faulty. I suspected vandalism but when we called at Middle Forge to check, all was well. Testing the line showed a battery condition so it looks like corrosion or similar. We will have to chase it down on Wednesday.

3 Aug : I chased the fault along the line until I was left looking at the actual phone. Funny thing was that a low voltage tester showed all was well, putting 50 volts back onto it brings the fault back. Something weird going on inside. I recovered the phone for further examination.

Ian Stubbs, Rick Gillingham, John Bathgate, Paul Seward

4 Aug : We decided to try to speed up jointing of the Whitecroft to Parkend cable by making a joint in a drainpipe in places where we would be unlikely to be asked to provide any sort of telephone or signalling facility. A length of dexion was driven into the ground and the cables were stripped and tied to the upright. We made the joints with crimps and then covered the wiring with a plastic bag. The drain pipe was lowered over the upright and wiring and attached to the upright. We packed the bottom of the pipe with paper and then filled the bottom couple of inches with builder's foam.

Drainpipe Joint

The final joint is tidy and we think can easily be replaced by a cabinet if necessary. We just hope that no one attempts to place a toilet pan on top of the pipe! It took the four of us about half a day to make a 50 pair joint in this way. Easier and much faster than erecting a cabinet. Now we just have to see how it lasts in the future.

7 Aug : Ian and Paul took off down the line to fit the replacement phone at Signal Post 13. I stayed in the Norchard box to test the line. They had trouble. The metal cased phone worked fine until the front was screwed to the base, then the line had a dirty earth on it, enough to call the concentrator permanently and to trip the ring. In the end we decided it was due to the base being fixed to the metal post via jubilee clips and thereby earthing the base. The front, we think, had protruding metal clips on the cord strap between the front and base, which contacted the base wiring when the front was put into place. Careful bending of the clips eliminated the problem. We must be careful about this in the future.

After lunch we escaped the rain by setting to and getting our stores out of the loft and sorted into "keep", "move to Parkend", "take to the next THG swapmeet", and "take home for home projects". We are now quite a bit tidier and we may even get some cash into the funds.

Missing One Post?

11 Aug : We started the day attempting to provide the next cabinet on the Whitecroft to Parkend section. However someone has removed a concrete post over the last few days so that we could not do the job. Who would take a single concrete post? We could be downhearted but I guess we had a laugh instead. We planted the remaining post to make it hard to steal.

Drainpipe Joint No.2

We went on to make another "drain pipe" joint. Rick, Ian and Paul did the whole 50 pair thing in just over the hour. If it proves to be trouble free, then we think that this is an excellent way of jointing.

After lunch we started to clear out the "caboosh" where we keep most of our electrical and telecom stores. Quite a bit more was turned out for a swapmeet and I took the scrap cable to the yard.

14 August : John from the gardening group has cut a path through the scrub between the cabinets at Whitecroft enabling Ian, Paul and me to lay some duct in the bushes between the Norchard and Parkend DPs. Our first junction cable, even if only 20 metres long. We got the cables terminated and the phone connected via the new cable. We finished late as we kept being interrupted by rain. At least we had a car to sit in when necessary. There is still some work to be done in the Parkend phone cabinet next week.

16 August : I went to Whitecroft to put a lock on the new telephone cabinet and move 597 over. The old cabinet is now empty and can be recovered.

18 August : Rick and I cleared up our office and store so that it will be OK for use as a booking office for the Thomas weekend. I took a load to the dump and some cable scrap to the yard. We also found a first selector in Norchard exchange with contacts B24 and B25 completely melted away. I must find out what happened and find a replacement spring pile.

Springs 21-25 on a group selector B relay

25 August : A very wet day and I was in on my own. I caught the train to Parkend and checked out the exchange there. All OK.
I returned to Norchard to clear a couple of faults in the exchange. The first involved changing the springset shown above. It was very burnt and must have been subject to a continuous large current. The springs affected were B24 and B25 on a group selector. After changing them, the selector worked normally and I could not find the reason for the trouble. The second fault has been giving us a problem for a few weeks now. I eventually tracked it down to a dry joint on the VMB strapping.
After lunch I gave up on telephones and started to strip the brass and copper out of some of the many scrap electrical items we hold. I now have a little pile of brass and a bigger pile of sheet metal for the skip.

Paul and Ian and the drainpipe joint opposite Whitecroft Signal Post

28 August : Paul, Ian and I spent a quick two hours in the morning making another drainpipe joint at Whitecroft. Very rocky ground and very wet clay underneath. We later spent some time with Bob Hawker looking unsuccessfully for a concrete post. I left a bit early to get ready for the evening's jaunt on the DMU which was celebrating its fiftieth birthday. Ian and Paul went back to Whitecroft and made a resin filled repair to the cable where it had been attacked by the digger. In the evening I viewed the result from the passing DMU.

The DMU celebrates its 50th with an evening buffet train

The DMU celebrates its 50th with an evening buffet train. Here it is shown waiting at Parkend before its final run back to Norchard.

September 2010

1 September : Ian and I had a quiet day. We sorted out a wooden post for the new Whitecroft cabinet and half a dozen lengths of dexion for drainpipe joints. We got one of the lengths in the ground at Whitecroft in readiness for Saturday. We also searched Parkend for the channel lengths for the new Whitecroft cabinet without success.

4 September : Paul, Ian and I got the last cabinet up to site at Whitecroft using the DMU, whose crew were very helpful. We then completed the last of the Whitecroft drainpipe joints. Just the final cabinet to go now to get the pairs through between the exchanges. We went to the Fountain for a late lunch. Afterwards we sorted out what needs to be done to get the clock system working at Parkend.

8 September : We got in early to help with clearing the scrap area into skips. Two skips went off to Bendall's and we have two more on site partially filled. The area around the skip and our headquarters is now looking very tidy especially as the gardeners have put new chippings down around our sitting out patio. We went to lunch early and then Bob Hawker, Rick and I went to DP1G at Whitecroft and got the cabinet erected. This will be the final DP between Norchard and Parkend so we are looking forward to getting the junctions etc in service between the exchanges.

11 September : Ian and Paul went to a telecoms swapmeet, mostly to get rid of stuff that was cluttering up our space. They were pretty successful.

12 September : I went in for a couple of hours in the sun reorganising DP1L at Whitecroft. The pairs are now kept straight between the Norchard and Parkend cables and this keeps the records nice and tidy.

14 September : The flail has been in action south of Parkend but the cables seem to have survived so far. I jumpered up 318, 319 and the four Norchard junctions in Parkend exchange ready for the final joint to be made tomorrow.

The final DP between Whitecroft and Parkend

15 September : A Red Letter Day. Rick and I terminated the cables in DP1G and got the pairs through between Norchard and Parkend. The two circuits outgoing from Parkend to Norchard worked immediately, rather gratifyingly as they used the auto-auto relay sets designed and built by myself. The two circuits outgoing from Norchard to Parkend needed some sorting, but eventually we got one connected OK whilst the second circuit needs a new A relay coil in the incoming final at Parkend.
We returned to Norchard to get the main users to have a go. It works. This should move traffic from the BT lines to the internal network and give us perhaps quite a reasonable cost saving. For instance, all credit card transactions at Parkend required a BT call to the shop, now the shop can be dialled directly.
A really good day for us, one we have looked forward to for years. All thanks to the staff who helped on this project, Ian, Paul, Rick on telecoms, Bob Hawker from S&T for his cabinet work and Jason Shirley for his work on trenching etc. Others have helped at odd times. Thanks.

18 September : Ian and Paul had a go at the Parkend clock and at least got it ticking and cabled back to a block. However it is not in good health and Paul, who is also a clock enthusiast, is to try to find the instructions for cleaning and adjustment.

25 September : Ian went to Parkend to change the faulty relay in the incoming selector while I stayed at Norchard to be available for testing. We now have two junctions in each direction between our exchanges. After lunch Ian went to fit the Parkend phone in the Whitecroft phone cabinet. We have designed the miscellaneous relay sets for Norchard and Parkend which will extend the Parkend alarms to Norchard and the clock pulses from Norchard to Parkend. The operational staff seem pleased with the full opening of Parkend exchange.

29 September : A terrible rainy day. We were going to chase dial tone down through the network to Lydney Junction Signal Box but gave up on that idea. Rick adjusted the clock face in the hall that had somehow got five minutes fast and then we decided to pack in and go home. I came back to make up the new directories for distribution.

October 2010

2 October : A quiet day at the railway, just a branch line experience loco and brake van meandering up and down. Ian and I also meandered around the railway delivering new copies of the telephone directory where possible. We also checked out the connections to the proposed relay sets that Ian and Paul are to wire up so that they can get on with the work at home. At lunchtime we picked up Jean and her hot dogs and delivered them to the lineside clearance gang at the Junction. A pleasant day.

3 October : Paul went in to Parkend to clean and adjust the master clock and get it running. It is now swinging seven times to a power stroke which is quite good.

4 October : I checked the Parkend master clock in case all had gone wrong. It's fine.

5 October : I went to Parkend to check on what work was needed to be done this weekend and before leaving I thought to check the junctions to Norchard. Nothing!! At Norchard I tested the outgoing junctions there to find them "dis" as well, and "dis" not far away from the exchange. I looked outside to see that the trackside had been strimmed or flailed. After having a fit of "Why do I bother" I went home to find the phone ringing with apologies from the lineside strimmer. Oh well, back to jointing tomorrow. I also heard that the tractor flail is operating south of Norchard, I hope they are keeping their eyes peeled as there is plenty of cable above ground along that part of the railway.

A well strimmed bank and only ten pairs to joint

6 October : Rick and I found the cut cable and made a joint using one of the closures we had obtained from the Mid Hants, thanks Chris. That got the circuits back working. We had a report that the signal box BT phone was not working but it was RWT (right when tested). We went to Lydney Junction box to look at changing over the platform and diesel depot phones to the Norchard exchange, but could only get the platform phone dial tone. We will need to chase the pairs at a later date. Whilst there we were told the D phone circuit to Norchard was so quiet that you could not be heard. Again it was RWT.

9 October : Rick, Paul and Ian took and passed their personal track safety test. Ian, Paul and I then went to Parkend to shift the battery rack, fit clock faces, sort out the cabling for the new alarm relay set and move the shelf of spares to the back wall. I had to go back to Norchard to find out why one of the junctions was not working. The incoming switch had not restored properly. I lubricated the switch but could not reproduce the fault.

Parkend  Switching Rack Parkend Power, Ringing, Tones and Misc Equipment Rack

10 October : Parkend Exchange working well and reducing our BT call charges. It is very pleasant to work in the exchange and hear the calls rattling through.

11 October : Following meetings with the Chairman and Martin Lunn, it is now expected that the Telecoms Group will take on the responsibility for PAT testing and minor electrical repairs on the railway. Martin will rejoin the group in November, mainly as an electrician, when we will start to organise the new arrangements. It is hoped that Tony Macey will also be available during the non running season to assist Martin.

16 October : Ian and Paul had quite a productive day and managed to find the DC/DC converter, mount it at Parkend, mount the dial speed tester at Parkend and wire it in to the linetester, mount the min/max voltmeter and designed and built a temporary clock circuit. They didn't leave it running though as the 30sec contacts on the clock were a bit sparky. Also, Final Selector 4 was playing up again, so it was busied out. When the FS distributor gets around to using FS4, the group selector skips past it and drops out.

23 October : Paul was in on his own for most of the day. He fixed the 30sec contacts problem from last week by adding some spark suppression to the clock circuit and then cleaning the clock contacts. The slave dial is now running nicely! Next job is to make the pendulum the right length. Rick popped in for a visit, I mentioned the FS4 problem from last week and he fiddled with it but couldn't reproduce it. About 10 minutes after he left, it went faulty again. It's now busied out.
PaulI went to the new members day, and three people expressed an interest in electrical/telecomms. Paul followed the new members day down to Lydney in the afternoon as they were going to have a nose around the signal box. Paul now at least knows where the signal box is, and has some idea of what phones are in it!

30 October : Paul, Ian and I ran out some cable between DP5C and the new DPR at the new signal post. Ian and Paul terminated the cable in DP5C. We also recovered the cabinet at Whitecroft, though it was falling to pieces as we carried it to the car.

November 2010

3 November : Martin rejoined us to do telecoms, PAT testing and minor electrical repair work. Martin, Rick and I terminated the cable at DPR and then jumpered through the plunger circuit for S&T. I left early to leave Martin and Rick to PAT test a couple of new C&W tools.

6 November : Ian and Paul attended a swapmeet at Milton Keynes and sold more of our surplus gear. Quite successful.

8 November : I went in and installed the computer from the exchange into the Telecoms Office. It's somewhat ancient as it uses Windows ME and Office 97 but seems to run a spreadsheet OK and at least the printer now works having deep cleaned the head about ten times. We are considering keeping our PAT test records on it and if we can connect it to the router, get our records from the website when required.

10 November : Martin, Rick, Tony and I attended today, the full Wednesday gang for the first time for many months. We fitted a new Norchard line in the shop near to the credit card machine for use on card enquiries from Parkend. We renewed the cable on a 24 volt inspection lamp lead for the loco dept. and got the two faulty hand dryers at Parkend running again. I tried to get to DP3Q to test the pair from the signal box only to be defeated by the excessive growth behind the platform. It's going to take some ladder work for S&T to connect their new plunger to the DP. Putting the PAT test results on the Office computer appears to be working OK.

13 November : Ian, Paul and I recovered some of the damaged cable at the Town Station today and got the new 50 pair cable installed into the troughing that we have there. We checked Parkend exchange and had the final selector 4 problem turn up again. It's busied out for a quiet day for faulting. We sorted out what we need to do to get CAT5 cables to the right places at Norchard.

17 November : Rick made a start on connecting the museum pre payment coinbox to the 10+50 switchboard. Martin and I had a look at the non functioning heater in the new office to find that a couple of thermal cut outs had been burning. We must get them replaced. We then moved on to PAT testing quite a few extension leads for the DMU Group.

20 November : Ian spent the day on CAT5 cables etc around the shop office. Rick and I attended a safety course covering the duties of the "Person in Charge of Work" (PICOW), "Controller of Site Safety" (COSS) and "Look out". We will have to organise lineside work much more tightly, identifying dangers etc and getting all such work recorded. Probably a half hour's paperwork before we can get on with a lineside job. In theory, the PICOW, the COSS and the Lookout should all be separate people with the COSS and the Lookout not doing any actual work. Difficult for such a small group as us, particularly if the work involves testing between distant work sites. I now have to turn the training documents we have into a workable set of procedures. Interesting.

December 2010

1 December : An extremely cold day, only suitable for indoor jobs. Rick got on with connecting the museum prepayment box to the 10+50. However not one of the eyeballs on the 10+50 would work properly so a fair bit of time was expended on them. The job continues next week. Martin and Tony got the new office heater repaired and working again. Later Martin, Tony and I formed a production line and got a lot of portable leads PAT tested.

4 December : Ian, Paul and I spent the morning putting up Christmas lights in the main hall and replacing failed bulbs in various light fittings. We repaired to my house for a cooked lunch and then set to wiring in the alarm and clock extension relay set at Norchard. We also fitted a switch to the PA speaker in the museum.

8 December : I went to check up at Parkend, all OK but very cold. Rick fettled the relays in the set we are putting in at Parkend for the alarm extension etc. We had a problem with the U13, all the linefinders in unit A1 went berserk for a while and then stopped with one group selector hung on level 1. After much thinking and testing we dropped the connection out and all was well. Goodness knows what was going on. We did find an error in the records though. Martin, Tony and I also got on with PAT testing so that we are beginning to get into the backlog.

11 December :

Santa train at Norchard
The Santa Special getting warm at Norchard, and trying to warm the Forest of Dean at the same time!

Celebrations at Parkend
Christmas celebrations at Parkend

Paul, Ian and I spent most of the day at Parkend wiring in the alarm extension and clock pulse receiver relay set. It all worked first time and we can now monitor the Parkend alarms at Norchard. I took some time off to go home and cook the hot dogs for the lineside clearance gang. The diagrams for the alarm extension, clock pulse and test number for Parkend are now available on this web site

14 December : I had a meeting with David Nicholson to discuss the preparation of a risk assessment and the associated procedures and paperwork required whenever we work as a group on the lineside. We now need to survey all cabinets and the walkways between them to assess the risk of working in any particular spot. The results will become a register of locations to which we can refer before going to site.

15 December :

Damage to Power Unit 184

Just Martin and myself in today. We had a look at a signal post phone reported as not working. We eventually found the concentrator 50 volt battery was down to 15 volts and that the power unit 184 was not working. We disconnected it and took it back to the workshop to find that two printed circuit cards were affected by severe corrosion. It looks as though a liquid has been dribbled into the unit. There are suspicious brown stains on the relay covers so we suspect that a cup of coffee has been spilt on the rack. The unit looks to be a write off. We have a faulty spare which we have checked over and hope to fit later in the week. In the meantime we are connecting a car charger to each 12 volt battery in turn in the hope that we will be back on the air this weekend.

Damage to Power Unit 184

We also took the opportunity to survey signal post 12 as a sample for the work we will need to do to prepare risk assessments at all telecom points along the railway. Martin got the shop door bell and the Pooley van lights working again.

16 December : I went to the DFR twice to move the 12 volt charger between batteries in the signal box. I also got the signal post 12 safety survey onto the website as a test item for comment.

17 December : Not a good day. There was a light fall of snow on top of the ice at Norchard. I went to change over the battery again but got no further than signing in when I went flat on my back, knocking myself out momentarily. I came to in the shop talking to a paramedic. The ambulance then came. I had to go to Gloucester A&E for a check up. I was discharged but told not to drive or drink for a day or two. Now I ache everywhere. Martin went in to change the battery over.

18 December : Ian went in to disconnect the last recharged battery.

29 December : Our final 2010 working day. Martin, Rick, Ian,Paul and I all attended. We had a team brief about the new safety policies for the Telecoms Group in 2011. Rick then left us and Martin spent the day adding an RCD socket for the PAT testing work while Ian and Paul investigated the state of the batteries for the concentrator. We could not believe the results until we confirmed that three of the 12 volt batteries had changed potential while the last battery was low but round the right way. Goodness knows what the faulty PU184 had been up to. Luckily we have recently come into possession of some spare 12 volt batteries so we changed out the set and got a power unit charging via a 50 volt bulb. That seems to work with a permanent trickle charge going into the battery. We left the set up working and think it might be a suitable permanent arrangement, especially if we limit the charge to a couple of hours a day using a time clock in the mains lead. We also think that we should design and provide a low voltage alarm circuit that will bring up an alarm in Norchard Exchange. The faulty batteries were quite new so they now reside in my home garage where I will see if I can resuscitate them.

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This page was last updated on
31st December 2010