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Uk Study Tour 2010 No. 2 - Dawlish

July 22nd to July 26th 2010

BR Cl. 8 Pacific Duke of Gloucester passing Dawlish on its way from Bristol to Kingswear with the Torbay Express 25th July 2010.

There were two main events of particular note during this glorious long weekend.

On Friday 23rd July a group of nine members were met by Chris McGowan, and made its way up to the main Exeter Signal Box control room, noting a wonderful mural of a former Exeter signal gantry in the stairwell.

Exeter panel box controls 92 route miles from north of Bridgewater on the line to Bristol and from Curry Rivel on the Westbury line to Totnes and Paignton plus a section to St James's Park just beyond Exeter Central on the Southern line to Waterloo. There are signalled connections to the West Somerset Railway, the South Devon Railway and the Dartmouth railway.

The routes are indicated on the huge panel that stretches across the room with white lights showing that a route has been set up. There is a change to red to tell where a train actually is. Signal aspects appear as either red or green. A flashing light indicates the the train has passed the route section set up and the said route is then reset by the signaller.

Headcodes still appear in the panel describer boxes and as an example we observed the approach of 1C77, the down Cornish Riviera Express, to Exeter. Future technology may allow the signallers in the panel box to talk directly to train passengers; apparently this can already be done in Scotland and has been used to pass on football results!

In essence, almost all the signalling operations are automatically controlled, with active intervention by the signallers only when there is a significant problem. One of the most problematical sections of route controlled by this panel is that of the sea wall stretch past Dawlish and Teignmouth. This not so much in a delightful english summer but when winter south east gales and high tides cause havoc with waves breaking over the track.

The track circuits have been replaced by axle counters and the up line is also signalled as a down line to allow trains to avoid the some of the worst of the winter disruption. Another small computer display screen showed a Google earth-type view of the high cliffs between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth where rock-fall detectors are in constant operation to avoid a possible serious derailment. This section of the coastal route also has high fences adjacent to, and netting over, the cliff face.

During our visit the group observed the constant quiet passage of trains, also written down in chronological order in a manual, across the panel and chatted with the three signallers who were happy to explain what was going on.

The Club is deeply grateful to Network Rail for permission to make this fascinating visit and thanks Chris and his team for answering our questions and generally making our visit so enjoyable.

On Saturday evening 24th July the Club party plus some of the local enthusiasts were royally entertained in The Laffin Pig pub in Dawlish by Colin Marsden. After the usual first class evening meal, courtesy of Nicky's home cooking, Colin presented an excellent digital picture show of freight train operation, with trains of up to about half a dozen locomotives at the head end, two in the middle and two at the rear plus loads of up to 40,000 tons worked over the Tehachapi summit lines in California.

As a complete contrast, Colin showed urban passenger services with diesel locomotive and electric multiple unit operation in and around San Diego. Clearly there has been much investment in rail services in this part of the USA.

BR Cl. 8 Pacific Duke of Gloucester passes Dawlish Warren on the return run to Bristol with the Torbay Express 25th July 2010.

On Sunday 25th July the group members each chose their own locations to record the passage of 71000 Duke of Gloucester, standing in for the scheduled 60163 Tornado, on the Sundays-only Torbay Express from Bristol Temple Meads to Kingswear. The train was slightly delayed by the preceeding FGW HST but the writer, situated on the footbridge next to the entrance to Kennoway tunnel, watched the unique BR Class 8 Pacific spread a magnificent smoke screen over Dawlish!!
The return run, again slightly delayed by a preceding service train, looked marvellous in the evening sunshine as it passed Dawlish Warren.

The writer also made a visit to Barnstaple noting that the station has received new signage, not in standard FGW font but with BR-style lettering on a Southern green background! Paintwork on the station building is new, in green and cream with the overall result that the busy station looks magnificent.

The 15.17 to Exmouth awaiting departure from Barnstaple, 25th July 2010. The platforms and track bed on the far left appear to be in good condition.

The disused island platforms opposite the currently used one appear to have been cleared of much vegetation since the writer's last visit and one trackbed looks neat, clear and tidy. This disused platform includes another new large name board also in Southern green. There is a stub of track in good order leading to this platform and there is a loop in the yard with overgrown track but it appears to be still useable. The main platform in constant use is much longer than is normally required for the service of Pacers, it is in good condition and has received a new fence. The writer wonders if Barnstaple is being groomed for better things, such as receiving locomotive-hauled trains (with steam?) and/or longer service trains!

To add to the fun the writer and others noted two vehicles, one of which is a Pullman car, under wraps at Portsmouth Arms. They are privately owned but their purpose is not clear; perhaps a restaurant is planned. Can a Bulletin reader oblige with the necessary information?

Thus ended another superb Dawlish UK study tour which enjoyed much better weather than last year. The writer wishes to thank Ian and Nikki at the Lyme Bay House Hotel for the comfortable accommodation and superb breakfasts, Nicky and John for the home cooking, excellent ale and general hospitality at The Laffin Pig, Colin Marsden, whose support, friendship and generosity are much appreciated and last but by no means least all the participants for their support for this Club venture. Details of further proposed UK Study tours will appear in the Bulletin and on the Club website in due course.

Bob Stonehouse, 28th July 2010.