DFR Telecoms Diary


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.


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.

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This page was last updated on
17th February 2018