Fog and Level Crossings

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stut

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Was caught up in some sizeable (30m+) delays into KGX early this morning, through dense fog in the Cambs/Beds flatlands. Most announcements attributed the delay to fog.

However, one announcement was rather more forthright, suggesting there were severe speed restrictions in place over level crossings (of which there are plenty on this stretch of line) due to the relatively poor visibility (and, presumably, the sheer volume of numpties choosing to ignore the signals).

Is this correct? And if so, is it standard procedure in terms of poor visibility, or something new?
 
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Cherry_Picker

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It wouldnt surprise me, but I think it is a decision that would have been made locally. It has been extremely foggy across the home counties and the Midlands over the past twenty four hours and on the last train I drove I would say that the visibility was down to ten or twenty yards (which is fun at 100mph I can tell you!) but I still drove the train at full speed. The only level crossings I encountered were full barrier crossings though and I guess once you start hitting half barrier crossings then the risk increases hugely. I'm not too familiar with the area, but I guess the flatness of that part of the country means there are more level crossings than there would be in hillier parts of the country where bridges over cuttings are more commonplace. Somebody would have the authority to make the call to impose a temporary speed restriction due to weather conditions. I'm guessing it is the regional control centre for Network Rail.
 

westcoaster

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Was caught up in some sizeable (30m+) delays into KGX early this morning, through dense fog in the Cambs/Beds flatlands. Most announcements attributed the delay to fog.

However, one announcement was rather more forthright, suggesting there were severe speed restrictions in place over level crossings (of which there are plenty on this stretch of line) due to the relatively poor visibility (and, presumably, the sheer volume of numpties choosing to ignore the signals).

Is this correct? And if so, is it standard procedure in terms of poor visibility, or something new?




Read that they needed fogmen at the cctv crossings, as one would assume the signallers could not see the crossings due to the thick fog, thus not enableing the cctv crossings to operate in a safe manner. Hope that helps.
 

stut

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Ah, that makes sense.

There's a lot of manually operated farm and bridlepath crossings along this section, too - I don't know if that makes a difference. They do have signals on each side.
 

Kokpit

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There are also foot crossings without any signalling equipment, such as the one at Abbots Ripton. They spook me at the best of times with 4 lines to get across, but with care are safe, but in this mornings weather, never!
 

michael769

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I would have thought that if the fog prevents signalers for checking if the crossing is clear trains would need to slow or even stop whilst the driver confirms it is clear by sight?
 

FGWman

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I would have thought that if the fog prevents signalers for checking if the crossing is clear trains would need to slow or even stop whilst the driver confirms it is clear by sight?
As would seem to be the case as the OP said there were severe speed restrictions passing the crossings.
 

Mike C

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My train arrived at KGX this morning spot on time having not backed off anywhere. Although I did hear some announcements at Huntingdon regarding visibilty and level crossings. It just didnt affect me despite very thick fog. Going over the Welwyn Viaduct, you couldnt see the treetops let alone the ground. It was like flying in clouds.
 

dk1

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We only lose time on routes such as the East Suffolk with so many locally monitored AOCL & ABCL level crossings. No issues on the main lines & we where early into Liverpool Street this morning from Norwich, 100mph most of the way & couldnt see a hand in front of my face. Praise the Lord for the AWS :D
 

Welshman

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We only lose time on routes such as the East Suffolk with so many locally monitored AOCL & ABCL level crossings. No issues on the main lines & we where early into Liverpool Street this morning from Norwich, 100mph most of the way & couldnt see a hand in front of my face. Praise the Lord for the AWS :D
I realise the AWS makes it possible and safe to run normally in thick fog, but it must be difficult, psychologically, though, isn't it? I would have thought the normal inclination would be to slow right down.
 

Yew

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I realise the AWS makes it possible and safe to run normally in thick fog, but it must be difficult, psychologically, though, isn't it? I would have thought the normal inclination would be to slow right down.
You probably cant see much more at night though
 

O L Leigh

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Driving in fog is no biggy provided you stay alert. Once you lose your place you have no alternative but to slow right down until you get your bearings.

However, slowing down in fog can actually make things harder. You know roughly how long it should take to get from A to B, so you're expecting to be further along than you actually are. This makes picking out landmarks even harder and you need to be certain of exactly where you are before opening up the taps again. This is OK on most lines, but the route down to Kings Lynn is almost devoid of landmarks anyway and can be hard enough to negotiate at night never mind in the fog.

I am aware of no special instructions regarding fog and level crossings. We have quite a few footpath crossings with no whistle boards or warning equipment and I have never been cautioned over them when it gets soupy.

O L Leigh
 

Bedpan

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That's why services can run fast in fog. In the past steam trains must have suffered nasty delays!
In those days there was a fog signalman by the track who put a detonator on the line if the signal was at danger, and removed it when it was cleared. A sort of manual AWS.
 

lincolnshire

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With CCTV crossings when the signal person can no longer see to make sure the crossing is down and clear because of the fog he will request a barrier attendant from Fault Control. He will be sent out to act as the signal persons eyes locally to see that the barriers are down and the crossing is clear so that the signal person can pull off for the train.
The person who acts as barrier attendant in this case is usually a member of the P. Way staff who will be sent out to site. So if you have a few crossings that need attendents in the area, you then need a few staff to man them. If the fog last all day then you are looking for relief staff too,
 

Rugd1022

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I've spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night this week working 2,000 ton freight trains on the MML to London in dense fog at full pelt most of the way, the only 'blip' being a couple of occasions when I've caught up with the stopper in front of me, therefore seeing double yellows looming out of the mist which under normal circumstances I'd have sighted much earlier. You just have to put your faith in the signalling system (and those who operate it) and the braking you have at your disposal.

There were a couple of times when I had to switch off the high intensity headlight briefly as it was just bouncing back off the fog and blotting and hint of a landmark, but other than that I just kept going. On Tuesday night West Hampstead Panel stopped me at Leagrave to let another stopper go by, when I got on the 'phone I was asked 'not to hang about, I've got another one knocking on the door' so I duly obliged and head off into the mist once more. Strangely, the only clear stretch of track I've seen all week is in the slight dip between the two stations at Luton, it's usually worse there than anywhere else!
 

dk1

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I realise the AWS makes it possible and safe to run normally in thick fog, but it must be difficult, psychologically, though, isn't it? I would have thought the normal inclination would be to slow right down.
Exactly as O L Leigh says. The more remote the harder it is to pick out landmarks & you often have a blonde moment & think 'where the hell am i' as although running on constant greens so relaxed you do become a tad dis-orientatein thick fog. I agree you would think slowing down is a normal inclination as i most definatley did en-route to work in my car, but driving a train it isnt & as reliant on signalling, you always expect the line ahead to be clear if on greens so continue in that way. As for psychological matters, it is quite draining after 2 hours solid driving with no let up in it as was the case yesterday.
 

tsr

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Exactly as O L Leigh says. The more remote the harder it is to pick out landmarks & you often have a blonde moment & think 'where the hell am i' as although running on constant greens so relaxed you do become a tad dis-orientatein thick fog. I agree you would think slowing down is a normal inclination as i most definatley did en-route to work in my car, but driving a train it isnt & as reliant on signalling, you always expect the line ahead to be clear if on greens so continue in that way. As for psychological matters, it is quite draining after 2 hours solid driving with no let up in it as was the case yesterday.
Presumably on lines like the Far North Line it can be very difficult, for other reasons, in events of very low visibility. There are request stops, the hazards of large wild animals in your path, locals using unmanned and uncontrolled crossings, a token signalling system and reasonably high speeds in parts. Imagine if someone needs to alight at Altnabreac* and you have to find the station, negotiate an extremely hazardous and rudimentary crossing frequented by large forestry vehicles... and then stop in the right place!

*Unlikely! ;)
 

Bald Rick

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Which was still steam days.

And it was mandated as a result of the horrific accident at Harrow on Wealdstone (in fog); there is a great article on this on the London Reconnections website.
 

Wyvern

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Yep. Soory. I've just found it. (Never thought I'd be looking through them this far on) I must have conflated it in my mind with an account of the BR system I read later., as I remember a drawing of the cab and the sunflower.
 

Mike C

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TVM is great for poor visibility too. Once the cab signals kick in, you could pull the blind down and drive the thing.*

*Don't take this literally... I just know that somebody will.
 

O L Leigh

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Presumably on lines like the Far North Line it can be very difficult, for other reasons, in events of very low visibility. There are request stops, the hazards of large wild animals in your path, locals using unmanned and uncontrolled crossings, a token signalling system and reasonably high speeds in parts. Imagine if someone needs to alight at Altnabreac* and you have to find the station, negotiate an extremely hazardous and rudimentary crossing frequented by large forestry vehicles... and then stop in the right place!
That's route knowledge. ;)

O L Leigh
 

Old Timer

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That's why services can run fast in fog. In the past steam trains must have suffered nasty delays!
Even as late as the mid to late 80s, services through Lincolnshire on the GN/GE Joint line would be running late as a result of fog, as very few distant signals had AWS. Remember that AWS on secondary routes is a relatively recent occurrence - I am talking about the last 20 years or so.

I remember being called out to a suspected collision between a train and a car, which had run into one of the level crossing gates and forced it across the track. Having put the signals back to danger and sent Obstruction Danger both ways, the signalman picked up his detonators and ran down the track but the DMU was approaching and was increasing speed after getting a clear distant and was unable to stop in time after hitting the only detonator that could be put on the rail.

The signalman heard the crash as he was running back but when he got back to the box, the gates were demolished and there was no car.

As the fog was so thick, he could not see where the DMU was so we were responding totally unaware of what we might find.

Control's initial assessment was potentially at least one fatality, with a high possibility of a derailment, and it we did not discover the actual situation until we reached the scene. Remember that this was before mobile telephones, so the only way of getting updates would be to stop at a public phone (or a station/box/crossing) and ring in. Later on we received pagers which meant that Control could alert us to call in but even then it was necessary to find a phone.

We never cautioned for UW crossings, and at those which served houses, it was generally a case that people would either leave their car the other side if fog was forecast or they took a chance.
 

D1009

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We never cautioned for UW crossings, and at those which served houses, it was generally a case that people would either leave their car the other side if fog was forecast or they took a chance.
And presumably that's still the case now. I can't help thinking that in today's H&S culture if there was a fatal accident in these circumstances now, it would lead to a whole host of new regulations which will cause widespread delays every time there's a hint of mist, and of course the delays will be attributed to Network Rail.
 

IanXC

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The GWR's "Automatic Train Control" system was different from today's AWS.
After some digging I found my copy of "The Great Western Railway: 150 Glorious Years" which describes the GWR first installing a system with differing clear and warning in cab sounds in 1905. By December 1914 they had 180 miles and 90 locos equipped with this kit, with the addition that an unacknowledged siren would automatically admit air to the breakpipe and thus apply the break.
 
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