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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6 (October 2, 1933)

A Railway Point — “Bill” And “Charlie” Discuss The Signals. — “You Can't Have it Both Ways.”

page 31

A Railway Point
“Bill” And “Charlie” Discuss The Signals.
“You Can't Have it Both Ways.”

(Snap, courtesy Chas. Lindegran, Railways, Waiotira.) On Duty!—An interesting animal study from the North Auckland District.

(Snap, courtesy Chas. Lindegran, Railways, Waiotira.)
On Duty!—An interesting animal study from the North Auckland District.

Now, if you told Bill that the railways carried millions of passengers every year without accident, Bill would merely grunt. How or why, wouldn't interest him. Yet a little safety arrangement in his local railway yard made a great impression on him. This is how it came about.

I was spending the week-end with Bill in the quiet little country town where he lives, and in the course of a Sunday afternoon stroll, just atthe level crossing beside the station, we met Charlie.

Charlie is one of the two men who make up the railway staff of the town, fulfilling every duty, from stationmaster to lamp-lighter. The station is not important—just one of those places which expresses acknowledge with a bored sort of whistle, and at which other trains merely pause. There are only four signals, two “up” and two “down,” operated from levers set in the station platform, whilst all points are worked by those white throw-over gadgets one sees alongside the lines in all railway yards.

One set of points, switching from the main line to a siding, was just inside the cattle stops of the crossing. Noting these points, Bill suddenly said: “You'll have a pretty mess here one night, Charlie. You'll have everything set for a train to tear right through, and while your back is turned some of the local lads will shift those points. It'll be a miracle if she takes the siding.”

“You can't have it both ways,” replied Charlie, “either the points will be closed or the signal will stop her.”

“But anyone is liable to get caught,” Bill argued. “I know you're careful and all that, but you must admit that some time you might be caught napping.”

I was about to air my scanty knowledge of the subject when Charlie winked at me. Turning to Bill, he said: “Maybe. Anyway we'll see how it would work.”

Under Charlie's instructions Bill set the points for the siding, and we walked to the signal levers on the station platform. “Pull the two left-hand levers, and set the line for a train to tear through,” Charlie further instructed. Bill did his best, but he couldn't shift either lever. Back to the points we went, and there Bill was enlightened. A key which could only be removed from the points when they are set for the main line was still in the lock, and as this key unlocks the lever working the signals the lever could not be pulled. In addition to this, the wire to the nearest signal was connected to a small slide, which in turn was connected to the points. With the points set for the siding it was impossible to set the signal at clear. Likewise, if the points were set for the main line with the signal at clear, it was impossible to shift the points whilst the signal remained down, as the key was in the signal lever and not in the points lock. It was all very simply arranged, but it was always assured that points and signal worked in conjunction.

Apparently Bill had been under the impression that the signalman had a free hand with points and signals, and that the safety of the trains depended on his checking everything before a train was due. Certainly, if he had ever heard of interlocking signals he had never thought that they were to be found in his “onehorse” town.

At the evening meal, Bill held forth on railway safety. He didn't mention the number of passengers carried without fatality, perhaps he doesn't know it, but he certainly impressed with his enthusiasm for the little safety device which precludes the signalman “having it both ways.”