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DFR Telecoms Diary

2018

January 2018

1 January :

Welcome to 2018

This promises to be a very different year. We have a new leader in Sam Bolingbroke and the telecoms growth at the railway will now be largely via datacoms links.

We still have three major faults on our cable network to deal with. The Town Crossing fault will be dealt with by replacing the cable in the next couple of weeks. The downed cabinet at Parkend will temporarily be replaced by a small cabinet that Bob Hawker is fettling at the moment. It will later be further replaced by a larger cabinet when the railway can obtain supplies of suitable concrete posts. The cable fault at Whitecroft, still not yet located, will be an urgent job.

Meanwhile the provision of a major data link to Parkend continues and we hope to see some Asterisk phones on the desks in the first quarter of the year.

Coming up during the year we have the replacement of the level crossing at the bypass. This will be a contract job and will provide a new 20 pair cable between St Mary's Halt and Lydney Junction signal box. This will probably spur us into completing a complete rewire of the box with a decent new DP being provided where we can get at it. No more lurking under the sink to check pairs!

We will have to decide how, where and by whom we keep our records now that we have a new leader and I aim to reduce my role in Telecoms.

Welcome aboard, Sam.

3 January :

Jean and I went to the railway to have a bit of breakfast. I checked the exchange at Norchard to find the ringer running constantly. It looks as though both outlets from the Asterisk were permanently held. I knocked out the first selectors to give the ringer a rest. The junctions went PG. I left them like that. The Asterisk system has become a bit of a nuisance rather than a help. The alarm to Lydney Junction is showing "dis". Neither outgoing junction is working, so it seems that we have no internal phone service to the Junction, Whitecroft, Parkend or via the Asterisk. I told the General Manager of our position. I also went on to check the position of the cable renewal at the Town Crossing with Jason. Eventually I was told by Lynne that the account for the cable supplier had been set up but that Roger had told her not to order cable yet. Jason and I cancelled Saturday and now wait for Roger to come up with a date for the cable purchase. A brilliant start to the year, it can only get better!

4 January : I got the keys and charger from Norchard and went to the Junction signal box to see how the exchange was. The battery volts were down to 33. I did the usual, I felt all the uniselectors and sure enough an incoming selector was stuck and quite warm. I think an intermittent fault on the cable had been driving the uniselector off normal and home continually until the volts reached the point where the uniselector stuck on. I disconnected both incoming junctions and homed the uniselector manually. The volts promptly went up into the forties and was still climbing when I left.

6 January : Peter, Roger, Sam and I met at Parkend mostly for a look at progress on the work there and a bit of a general discussion on future jobs and procedures. It looks as though we will get the cable for the Town Crossing job next week. Peter, Roger met Jean and I for lunch at Kaplan's.

Note from Roger :Good news on the Hook Flash issue that was locking up the DAHDI links from the Asterisk to the Strowger. When you make a call from Parkend 485 and then replace the handset, it takes about 3 seconds for the Linksys ATA to decide that the call has finished and to terminate the call. If you pick the handset back up before those 3 seconds have elapsed the ATA keeps the old call alive, gives you a fresh dial tone and is getting ready to do a call transfer between the original call and this new call. The new call is set up via the strowger. When 485 clears down properly, the transferred call remains connected. The Asterisk now maintains this second call permanently, thus taking both junctions to the strowger out of action.
Roger had to turn off some settings on the Linksys and now Hook Flash is disabled on the ATA and the staff cannot initiate a second call from the ATA.
One bug on the Asterisk has been found and dealt with and demonstrates the need for an experimental period before we start a general introduction of the digital phone system.

10 January : Sam, Rick, Martin and I were going to have a go at finding the DP3Y to DP3X cable fault. Both 301C testers refused to switch on. Perhaps they hate the cold. In the end we got the 301B going and went to Whitecroft to try that. Useless. We could hardly make out the cursor on the CRT screen, it's too small and if the sun shines it makes it extremely difficult. I walked the length but could not find an obvious disturbance. The only thing that might be a pointer was a bit of a signal pointing to 70 metres away where there is sound whistle sign. Could it have been moved? Sam will enquire. So we have ended up really no wiser after a day tramping the lineside. The 301Cs are now in my home waiting for me to check inside but are no better after a night in the warm. Peter and Charles carried on with the Parkend job. Martin and Rick had a bit of a go at some maintenance.

13 January : I went to the railway to see if the town crossing cable was going to be laid. The answer - no! It's still not been ordered. I had a chat with Bob Hawker trying to persuade him to find us a decent cabinet for parkend DP1E. He will have a go and he also hopes to find concrete posts at Middle Forge where S and T are to replace a cabinet with another box.

17 January : Sam and I went to the Whitecroft area to continue looking for the cable fault. Rick and Martin stayed in the exchange to test with us. After a lot of wandering up and down the line, the 301C leads us to believe that the fault is in the section DP3Y to DP3Z and about 12 m from DP3Y. We either have to dig and find the fault for confirmation or assume the 301C is right and dig further along to find the cable, insert a cabinet and lay a new cable over the faulty length. We shall be glad to see the back of this cable fault. The token is now not working so the cable is all faulty except possibly for one pair. Sam put the token out of use. Rick and Martin did some maintenance in Norchard and Peter and Charles continued work on the Parkend rewire.

19 January : Sam and Peter agreed to meet in the cafe at Norchard at 11:30, Peter had an early lunch and after meeting with Sam who had to attend a meeting arranged to meet Sam at Parkend at 2:30 PM. Peter proceeded to Parkend with a view to removing DP 3 cable from the old MDF and reconnecting it to the new MDF by way of one of the newly provided Box Conn 254's. Recovery of cable proceeded well until it came to removing it from behind the bench / chest of drawers in the exchange, it would not budge and was stuck fast. Peter cleared all of the items currently on the bench with the thought of how to move the chest of drawers beneath to release the cable stuck behind. After laying on the floor the problem was found to be that the cable retaining clips were acting as a lock every time the cable was pulled. Fortunately when the cable clips were fixed some one had used cross point screws, at arms length with a 150mm cross point drill bit Peter was able to remove the offending cable clips and the cable was recovered, coiled up so as to retain spare length and terminated. Literately within minutes of Peter finishing Sam arrived and it was decided this was a good point to stop for the day.

20 January : Peter, Sam and Roger worked at Parkend today. The goal was to sort out the cable between the Exchange and the Station and to start extend the broadband internet connection from the station building to the exchange and signal box. With the aid of 3 different drills (including the 110v hammer drill) and several visits to the loft by Roger and Sam, we had the BT master socket moved, the external bell on the BT line re-cabled, the 10 pair from the exchange re-routed via the loft and some old cabling stripped out.
We did some data network trials using the the equipment we had handy. Some IP over Twisted Pair adapters gave us a 3 Mbps connection. This is plenty for VoIP data for the Asterisk PBX. The Patton CopperLink adapters we used are one of their old models. Newer models give much higher throughput. The IP over Mains gave us 25 Mbps between the Station and the Exchange and 37 Mbps between the Station and the Signal Box. This was really good and it worked well with the 3 phase power as the Neutral is common to all sites. We used TP Link PA-411 adapters and just plugged them into the nearest mains socket. When the warmer weather arrives we'll have the full 100 Mbps when the duct grade ethernet cables go in.But for now the we have enough for the next stage of the VoIP trials.

24 January : As the day was continually rainy, there was no chance of working on our cable network problems. Consequently we all had quite a good and productive day. Rick and Martin cleared a long standing fault on a final at Norchard. In the end it was silver migration between U9 and 11 preventing the selector from releasing. They are fitting another tubular heater to that rack as all the migration faults have been on that equipment. Peter, Sam and Charles worked on the Parkend recabling job. It's approaching completion. I made a start on simplifying the Parkend ringer control arrangements but could not finish phase 1 as I was unable to obtain access to the back of the rack due to the large amount of gear hanging around in the exchange. First job will be to start on clearance of the stores in the exchange. Roger P says that the town crossing cable will be here in a fortnight.

26 January : Peter and Sam surveyed the state of telecoms along the line and upcoming projects. This included the new MDF at Lydney Junction, as well as having a quick look at Whitecroft (which needs documenting properly).

27 January : Peter and Sam ran in most of the cables into the signal box, with the concentrator rack-head cable, cables to telephones along the back wall and cables to the S&T racking. A little more work is needed for this before they are all terminated. Steve Harris then constructed some "Heritage" wooden trunking around where they rise out of the floor in the signal box. Peter and Sam then went to Caerphilly to collect an eBay purchase described as 130 sip phones, as a job lot (which turned out to be 170!), before depositing them into the telecoms office to await sorting. A quick sift through revealed several types, and a number of them were sorted into a box, which was delivered to Roger for testing/evaluation.

28 January : Peter and Sam met about 09.30 to start sifting through the new SIP telephones, cleaning and testing them before they were boxed up ready for storage. Peter left to do other things, and Sam was joined by Jane Bambridge, who had come in to help. By the end of the day, all 170 phones were cleaned, boxed and two thirds of them were put away in the attic of the shop office.

31 January : Peter, Sam, Rick, Charles and Martin met in the telecoms office, and we were joined by Pete Hyneman, ex-BT, who was interested in joining the team. Rick and Martin returned to their maintenance jobs in the Norchard exchange, while Sam, Peter, Charles and Pete went to Parkend to work on various tasks. Sam showed Pete around the site, to look at what wiring needed completing. On arrival, Peter joined us in the exchange, while Charles went to complete the earthing in DP3.
Peter, Pete and Sam then set about looking at the reported fault in the BT line, which did not appear to be present any more. They then set about looking at why the ringer was being held on, even though there were no junctions or people on site. After working out which line was open, they pulled the fuses out for it, however, this did not release the linefinder. They then went walking to survey DP1, before looking at the jumpering on the new MDF for the BT lines.
After breaking for lunch Rick came to look at the fault with the exchange, and managed to put it right by cleaning some solder splashes and moving wires around, but not actually doing anything to it. Most perplexing! He then returned to Norchard to continue with the strowger maintenance with Martin, while Charles changed a plug face in the office at Norchard. Sam, Pete and Peter then proceeded to terminate the exchange end of the cable to DP1, and clean out the tag blocks.

February 2018

4 February : Sam, Peter, Roger, myself and Alan met in the cafe. Alan is a possible new recruit, ex BT but radio trained rather than telephones. He joined us for the morning to get an idea of our work. We all went off to Parkend. Sam and Roger spent the day sorting out the programming side of the Asterisk with the SIP phones we have obtained. Peter did several small jobs at Parkend towards the rewiring job. I completed the work changing over to the new ringer control relays. I installed the new clock/NU Spare Levels relay set and got it wired in and tested. It worked. I also recovered the relay strip of the old ringer control though the wiring has to come out later. We had lunch at Kaplan's.

7 February : Sam and Charles reorganised the E side pairs at Parkend DP1 with Peter in the exchange. I walked the line to check on the plastic bag DP1E, it seems OK for now. I also got three temporary floodlights fitted to enable us to work on the Parkend North exchange. Ray had a go at a puzzling fault on a Parkend linefinder. He has got so far in determining where the intermittent fault is but it still needs further investigation. Rick and Martin changed the ringer in Norchard. The spare works OK but doesn't sound as good as the regular ringer. This now needs new brushes, which we should have somewhere.

Unloading the digger at Whitecroft

10 February : A miserable day with rain on and off. Jason and I started at Whitecroft. Jason got the spare cable from his container and pulled it down to DP3Y. We laid it out and determined where the new DP3YA would be. Adam Williams and Keith unloaded the digger from the works train and dug the new trench.

Whitecroft replacement cableWhitecroft replacement cable

It was a deep trench.

Meanwhile Jason and I went to the Town crossing to survey the job. The two DPs are tidy and the changeover job will be straightforward. The route for the cable needs Jason to clear some spare rail out of the way. He is also considering removing unused telephone poles along the route. He hopes to start this part of the work during next week. I finished at lunch, but expect the cable termination work at Whitecroft to be completed over the next week. The steel post is on site marking the end of the cable and the cabinet has been completed ready for installation.

14 February : Rainy, cold and a chill wind. We met in the cafe as we can hardly get into our office at the moment with stores all over the place. Ray and Martin went off to spend their day at Parkend trying to locate a fault on a first selector. In the end it seems to be silver migration again. This will be the first instance of this at Parkend. The selector is now working well but we will keep an eye on it.

DP3YADP3YA

Sam, Charles and I spent our day getting the cabinet for the new DP3YA mounted ready for terminating. A metal bar would not make a steady enough base. In the end we had to buy a wooden post, fashion the end, dig a hole, plant it and backfill with stone and earth pounded with a 10lb sledge for compaction. It may be the old fashioned way but it seems to be working. We also found several pinholes in the faulty length over a metre or so of cable. Goodness knows what was buried next to the cable to do that. But good to actually find the fault at last.

17 February : Sam, Roger and I worked on terminating the replacement cable between DP3Y and DP3Z. We got everything terminated. Sam and I had a disagreement about what constitutes pairs in the railway colour coded cable we used, and so we have ended up with split pairs in one or other of the cables each side of the new DP3YA. A first check of the circuits between Norchard and Parkend showed them all to be disconnected somewhere. Sam and Roger wandered off up the line having an initial look to see if things had gone wrong at the damaged DP1E or if the recent permanent way work at Parkend has caused further problems. I await their report.

21 February :

Rick and Martin spent the day on strowger maintenance. Peter, Ray and our new man, Alan, spent the day at Parkend.

Trench for new Town Crossing cableTrench for new Town Crossing cableTrench for new Town Crossing cable

Sam, Charles and I walked the route between the "tin can joint" near DP3F to the Town crossing to inspect the cabinets and see progress on the trenching. It's coming along nice and deep.

Ding, ding, ding went the trolley

After lunch we chased the token circuit from Norchard going north, finding corrosion in DP3S, DP3T and DP3W. By the time we had made new but temporary connections we had the circuit through. We made excellent time by using the motorised personnel carrier. In the end pressing the button in the token machine produced a deflection on the galvo. S&T need to confirm the circuit. However at the end of the day only one junction circuit worked so that will be the next job.

24 February :

Cabling into the trench

Peter, Sam and I went to Parkend with a view to sorting out the Parkend junction faults. We found a "dis" jumper on the new MDF and it took a couple of visits to Whitecroft and a walk down to DP1 before we had the four junctions available at DP3Z at Whitecroft. This leaves the circuits to be chased to Norchard, they may of course be through if we are very lucky. (Note that a subsequent check from the Norchard MDF showed only one of the circuits through, the level 5 outgoing circuit from Parkend which could be put back into service). Mean while the trench at the town crossing is finished and the cable is being installed. It was long enough to reach back beyond DP3G, allowing us to recover two cabinets at DP3GA and DP3GB and bypass the broken drain pipe DP3GC.

Peter and Sam started terminating cables on the Parkend North Krone frame. They terminated all of the operating floor cables, and the cables to the signalling rack.

28 February : Peter M and Charles worked on Parkend North, working on terminations on the frame, and a few small jobs. Rick and Martin worked in the exchange at Norchard, continuing their maintenance overhaul. Sam and Pete H went to look at the faults between Whitecroft and Norchard, testing DP3Y, 3X and 3V. In the afternoon, they reterminated several joints in DP3S, hoping that would clear the fault, which it did not.

March 2018

7 March : Peter M and Charles returned to Parkend to work on the new MDF. Rick, Ray and Martin repaired the Signal Post Telephone at Middle Forge, this turned out to be a simple case of the screw terminal block having come undone. They then went around testing and checking all of the other SPTs. They found signal 13 to have a faulty ring. Sam and Allen, with John's testing expertise helping in the Exchange, went to investigate the faults between Parkend and Whitecroft. This again started in DP3S, where we discovered that the cable between DP3S and DP3A had been terminated wrongly when installed some time ago! We were then able to reconnect a Norchard outgoing junction, so that calls can now be made across it to Parkend!
After Lunch, Rick and Ray went to Parkend to look into the Parkend outgoing junction. This wasn't successful, because the records aren't yet printed! Peter and Charles made themselves busy at Norchard on small jobs, and Sam, Allen and Martin went to continue testing SPTs, this time at Lydney Junction. Again, we discovered that one of the rings was faulty.

10 March : At Parkend Exchange Peter and Roger spent the day installing CAT5 cabling and terminating it in the data cabinet. This gave us 4 network sockets on the bench for testing SIP Phones and ATAs. We installed a PoE switch and rack shelf and powered up the data extenders ready for the Parkend Asterisk server. Rick was lineside testing cabling from Parkend to Whitecroft.

14 March : We met as normal in the cafe. Tea was noticeably shorter than usual, and people were keen to get out and working (wow!). Rick and Martin went fault hunting on the Parkend-Norchard Junctions, with Peter M in the exchange. Sam, Allen, Pete H and Charles went south to sort out the newly laid cable. Pete and Charles went to Lydney town and started terminating the south end of the cable, while Sam and Allen went to Goatfield to work on the north end. By lunchtime, we almost had both ends of the new cable stripped and ready to be terminated in the new cabinet. After lunch, Rick and Martin went off fault tracing again, and then onwards to Parkend with Peter M. Peter and Allen went to work on terminating the new cable in the new cabinet, while Sam and Charles went to find a suitable piece of the old 50pr to make into a temporary tie cable to the new one. By the end of the day we had both the new and the tie pair terminated, with only a few minor issues, which Pete H was kind enough to come and fix the next day. Rick, Martin and Peter managed to get a junction in each direction to Parkend working.

17 March : Sam and I decided to test our junctions, particularly to Lydney Signal Box. This required us to visit the box where we got the two outgoing junctions to Norchard working. We unplugged the incoming circuits but neither would work. We returned to Norchard to find strange conditions coming apparently from the two circuit distributor relay set. In the end I bypassed the set for the two outgoing circuits to Lydney Junction to find that there were still problems. Both junctions had been reversed in the cable work and were locking up to battery on the "wrong" leg. One junction was also "dis" on the earth leg and this fault has to remain for a later date. Rick came in to help after calling him for information. Reversing the good junction got it working. We ended with three out of four junctions back in service. We also have three out of four junctions working to Parkend, so that the only current loss of service would be for calls from Parkend to Lydney Junction. The distibutor circuit now needs to be carefully examined (perhaps for silver migration) on a non running day. Sam went to the town crossing to reconnect the phones there but could not get both to work. Again something odd for Wednesday next.

21 March : Rick and Martin went off chasing the faulty Parkend junctions. I stayed in Norchard exchange testing with them. They finished the day with all four circuits back in service. The alarm circuits from Parkend and Lydney Junction still need to be faulted. Charles went off to Lydney Junction to advise the group replacing the crossing gates about the electrical supplies available. Sam had a day exploring the loft while he, Sam, Alan and Ray got the cables in to the new PA speaker positions. We ended the day with something quite positively completed.

group lunch

23 March : The Telecoms Group held a lunch at the Forest of Dean College. Rather good.

24 March : Peter, Roger and Sam held a meeting on the train about data and Roger showed us some examples of what work hes been doing. This was followed by an early lunch. Peter then went to survey the MDF, while Roger and Sam had a quick look at the raspberry pi asterisk. Roger and Sam then went down to Lydney Junction to look at the drum of fibre there. We found it is loose tubed 32 core fibre, and about 200m. Could be interesting to use it for a test! We returned to Norchard and helped Peter identify all of the cables terminated on the frame. This was followed by some work on the emergency phone.

28 March : I spent the morning at Lydney junction sorting out the alarm/clock circuits. Eventually they worked and I got NU back on 624. Peter and Alan went to parkend to work on the data sockets. After lunch I went to Parkend with Peter to check on what I can do next week when I hope to start on the installation of Parkend North exchange. Rick and Martin chased the Parkend alarm/clock circuit and eventually got it as far as leaving DP3S. Sam and Charles got the Town station phone working again and got stores packed away in the loft.

28 March : Sam, Roger and Peter had a day in the office trying out various data equipment and fibre optic patch leads.

April 2018

4 April : We had a large group to start the day with tea and cakes in the cafe. Rick and Martin went to do maintenance work on Norchard exchange. Paul and I went to Parkend and started on the job of bringing Parkend North into service. By the end of the day the equipment was functioning and the cables to the MDF tied in and stripped ready for terminating on the exchange rack. Peter, Sam and Pete worked on various jobs around Parkend. Charles went off to be a gatekeeper at the Town crossing for the day. Some of us finished the day at the Parkend Postage Stamp cafe.

7 April : Paul popped in to spend the afternoon with his head in the back of the 10+50, working out how far the restoration project had got, and identifying the next steps. Most of the hard work has already been done, it's mostly tidying left to do now. Paul left a copy of the to-do list in the back of the 10+50 in case someone else gets to it before he has a chance to. Sam and Roger were working on their data project creating a digital PABX in the Telecoms office using Asterisk on a Raspberry Pi computer. The digital PABX has 2 normal phones (via a Grandstream ATA) and 1 digital phone (from Avaya) and can make calls to (and receive from) the Strowger. I was in briefly for a cup of tea and having a look at the caboosh to see what we may need at the next THG swapmeet.

11 April : Sam and I sorted clocks in the caboosh. We may have six that could clean up nicely. We tried for lunch in the cafe but they could not accommodate us as they had a party coming in. We tried the Fountain only to get the same response. We ended up in the Royal Oak who were happy to see us but they had to go and find a chef. Eventually after a too long wait we got a set of very good lunches. I took the clocks home to do them on my bench. I cleaned the best looking two first. They came up nicely but I then found that one of them had an intermittently short circuit coil that needs to be changed. We still have a couple of clocks in the caboosh with broken cases. Hopefully I will get a coil from one of those. Martin and Paul did a bit of strowger maintenance and then went off looking for our "dis" circuits between Norchard and Parkend. Peter and Charles went to Parkend where Charles was looking to provide an extra 13 amp socket for S&T. Sam recovered two wall phones and bell from the original gateside cabinet at Whitecroft, 318 and 597. Peter and Sam, once Peter had refreshed himself in the cafe and Sam had finished serving in the shop, then found the fault preventing the emergency phone from working. They tested that the only level allowed to the phone is level 9.

14 April : Peter and I were at Parkend. Sam joined us for a coffee in the Bike Hire cafe and stayed for a while. Peter was sorting the cables going to the S and T rack and upstairs. I got the cables from the MDF terminated on the exchange rack. Rick looked in to discuss cable records with Peter.

18 April : Rick and Martin set about another attempt to trace the clock and alarm pair. They successfully proved the pair to Whitecroft, and then all the way from there to the Parkend MDF. Peter M assisted with this, alongside updating the labels on the MDF. Allan and Ray rewired 512 to run via DP17. Sam and Pete H connected the newly installed Lydney Town treadle, and tested it. Pete H and Allan had to leave after lunch, so Peter, Rick and Martin went to Parkend to attempt to trace the alarm/clock pair fault from the MDF to the relay set without success as the records of the IDF were not up to date.. Ray and Sam tested that 512 was working, spoke about digital phones and did some wipe-ups.

20 April : It was another visit by the Telecoms Group and their partners to the Forest of Dean student's lunch. This time it was a very substantial Italian meal we enjoyed.

21 April : Nice to see the STARS display at Norchard showing all green for the first time for months. Rick and I sorted out the clock circuit so that the clocks are now working at Parkend but then discovered that two junctions between Norchard and Parkend are not working. Rick checked that it was not more trouble in DP3S but then had to leave to go home, and then away on holiday. The junctions remain busied out. Sam and Pter worked on the cabling in the signal box. We all had lunch at Kaplan's and then went home.


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This page was last updated on
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