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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)

Electric Transport in the London Suburban Area

Electric Transport in the London Suburban Area

Electrification is now recognised as the most satisfactory method of meeting operating problems associated with the working of passenger traffic over busy city and suburban railway routes. Intensive steam-operated services, such as are, for example, employed at the Liverpool Street terminal in London of the London and North Eastern Railway, meet modern requirements up to a point, but in every growing city it is only a matter of time before electric working becomes standard practice. London, Paris, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and other European centres have their extensive systems of electric lines, the Southern Railway of England actually operating in the London area, the largest individual electric suburban railway system in the world.

Ever since the introduction of grouping in 1921, the Southern Railway has been working steadily towards the complete electrification of its tracks in and around London. Already some 750 track miles have been converted from steam to electric traction, and, by about next June, extensions recently put in hand will give this Company an electrified trackage of 800 miles. The new routes to be electrified are those between Hounslow and Windsor; Dartford and Gravesend, and Wimbledon and West Croydon. Direct current at 1,500 volts, with third rail transmission, is the system employed, trains composed of motor and trailer cars being worked on the familiar multiple unit arrangement. The new developments will provide for a service of trains in each direction every twenty minutes. Last year the Southern Railway handled 6,500,000 more passengers than in 1927, and in 1927 there was an increase of 11,500,000 passengers over 1926. In securing this increased passenger business, electrification has played an important part. At this stage in electrification's development it is unnecessary to dwell upon the rare appreciation of electric working, displayed by almost every traveller. In electrifying their Otira and Lyttelton-Christchurch tunnel sections, the New Zealand Government Railways have done much to earn the goodwill of the public.

The Education of Railwaymen.

While New Zealanders have been experiencing the varied joys and discomforts of winter, railwaymen in the Homeland have been enjoying the most delightful summer weather. Winter time is essentially the period of the year when greatest attention can be turned to the subject of the education of the railwayman, and during the winter months classes and lecture courses on railway topics are conducted at leading Home centres for the benefit of railwaymen of all grades. In the summer time, however, education is not altogether forgotten here in England. The regular winter meetings of the various railway educational organisations and engineering societies are supplemented page 19 in summer by conventions which are often held on the Continent, where opportunity is afforded members to study at first hand, working ways and methods of foreign railway systems. Recently the members of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers paid an educational visit to the railways of Holland, and the Institute of Transport arranged a conducted tour of Switzerland for the benefit of members. The Dutch railways offer an interesting study. In all, there are about 2,400 miles of railway track in the land, and of this mileage, about one-half is Government-owned.
A British Railway Road Motor Unit. Cross-London Motor Bus operated by the L. and N.E. and Southern Railway.

A British Railway Road Motor Unit.
Cross-London Motor Bus operated by the L. and N.E. and Southern Railway.

Leases of Stateowned lines are held by two private undertakings —the Holland Iron Railway, and the Company for the Exploitation of the State Railways, both of which themselves also own and operate long stretches of track. As regards signalling in Holland, every danger point is protected at a distance of 110 yards by a home signal. The semaphore has a bulbous arm, and is placed on the right of the post. In a horizontal position, displaying a red light by night, the indication is “stop.” When inclined at 45 degrees upwards, with a white light at night, the indication is “all clear.” The distant signal has a square-ended semaphore, and is situated 770 yards in advance of the home signal. It gives two indications additional to the ordinary horizontal or “danger” indication. At an angle of 45 degrees downwards, with a green light at night, the indication given is “slacken speed—home signal at danger.” When inclined upwards at an angle of 45 degrees, with a white light at night, the indication is “line clear—home signal at clear.” Points and signals in Holland are worked on the double wire arrangement, and by this means points are operated up to a distance of 437 yards.

Train Control Systems in Germany.

Railway working in Holland has, to a considerable degree been influenced by Germany, but there are many clever devices employed in German railway operation that are as yet untried in the Netherlands. In automatic train control, Germany has, for example, made far greater progress than any other European land. Three methods of train control are favoured by the Berlin authorities. Mechanical control of the Van Braam type is employed, with track elements placed between the rails, giving a repetition of signal movements in the cab of the locomotive and automatically applying the engine brakes. Recently an improvement of this page 20 type of control has been introduced in the Berlin and Hamburg electrified areas. Here the track element is situated at the side of the track, some two feet above rail level. As yet the new apparatus serves only as an absolute stop device at the home signal, but, by degrees, the usefulness of the device will be increased so that it effects a partial application of the locomotive brakes when desired, and also, to make it effective for steam working on the main lines.

Another system of train control utilised in Germany is the “Indulor” magnetic arrangement. Two magnets are employed, one being placed on the Berlin authorities give every encouragement to the staff to bring forward ideas and suggestions calculated to improve train signalling and operation generally.
Modern Railway Signalling. The extension of the Munich Passenger Station in Germany.

Modern Railway Signalling.
The extension of the Munich Passenger Station in Germany.

Here at Home, probably the Underground Railways of London come closest to the German railways in this respect, and many innovations in train working in use on the London Underground system have emanated from the rank and file.