Light Engine movements / shunts at stations

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Bald Rick

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Moderator note - Posts #1 - #5 originally in this thread:

When was the final cull of sleeper services down to their current scope? | RailUK Forums (railforums.co.uk)

This is a really fascinating thread to read, thanks to everyone who is contributing to it. London Euston must have been a fascinating place to watch the morning and evening operations, considering all the loco-release, shunting and Motorail ops that will have been going on pretty continuously for several hours twice each day.

I remember my one and only time watching trains at Euston as a kid - my Dad took me up there for a look, stationing ourselves on the parcel deck entry road off Barnby St. Must have been about 1981, evening peak. I think he was more interested in the trains than me to be honest. However what I do remember is a never ending procession of locos following departing trains off the blocks, hanging about in the throat and then dropping back onto the front of other services for departure. It remains the only time I have seen that type of loco release operation in a major terminus, and thinking about the logistics of it still fascinates me now.
 
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Wilts Wanderer

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I remember my one and only time watching trains at Euston as a kid - my Dad took me up there for a look, stationing ourselves on the parcel deck entry road off Barnby St. Must have been about 1981, evening peak. I think he was more interested in the trains than me to be honest. However what I do remember is a never ending procession of locos following departing trains off the blocks, hanging about in the throat and then dropping back onto the front of other services for departure. It remains the only time I have seen that type of loco release operation in a major terminus, and thinking about the logistics of it still fascinates me now.

I imagine a significant number of the shunt moves did not appear in the Working Timetable - its only relatively recently that all such moves are fully timed - so I wonder how on earth the panel would have kept track of it all in real time.
 

Gloster

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I imagine a significant number of the shunt moves did not appear in the Working Timetable - its only relatively recently that all such moves are fully timed - so I wonder how on earth the panel would have kept track of it all in real time.
Probably a mixture of telephone calls and putting the departing trains light engine number in at the first opportunity. If the loco that brought 1M25 is to be used for 1L44, as soon as 1M25’s coaches have left the platform you put 0L44 in the train-describer for the engine that is still in the platform. As long as everything is track-circuited, you can keep track of where it is. If the panel won’t accept this sort of thing, then it is carefully keeping notes on a sheet of paper in front of the signaller. With signalling technology changing fairly fast when Euston was rebuilt, the exact method would depend on the quirks and fittings of its panel. I think that there are people on this forum who may have specific knowledge of Euston and can fill in the details; my experience was at another panel.
 

Cheshire Scot

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I imagine a significant number of the shunt moves did not appear in the Working Timetable - its only relatively recently that all such moves are fully timed - so I wonder how on earth the panel would have kept track of it all in real time.
There would have been a station working / platform arrangements book.

I have one for Glasgow Central 1974 and shows loco workings e.g. loco off 1S09 postal to no.3 loop then works 1M27 08.00 Manchester.
 

Helvellyn

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I imagine a significant number of the shunt moves did not appear in the Working Timetable - its only relatively recently that all such moves are fully timed - so I wonder how on earth the panel would have kept track of it all in real time.
All those shunt moves also help explain the business case for the 52 Mk 3B DVTs. No more requirement for all those shunt moves, or a small pool of locos to haul ECS between Euston and Wembley.

I've a recollection that introducing push-pull working on the WCML saved a dozen locomotives!
 

Ianno87

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I remember the remnants of such operations in the 1990s, particularly Cross Country services at Manchester Piccadilly. The loco on an arriving train would be released after departure, and would then go to the loco siding in the throat, ready to go on top of the next arrival.
 

Cheshire Scot

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I remember the remnants of such operations in the 1990s, particularly Cross Country services at Manchester Piccadilly. The loco on an arriving train would be released after departure, and would then go to the loco siding in the throat, ready to go on top of the next arrival.
Prior to the introduction of DVTs the same method applied to Euston services at Piccadilly.
 

Andy R. A.

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Worked in the PSB at Euston 1974-79, busy times. There was a Station 'Simplifier' sheet laying out all of the workings In and Out. The booked Loco workings were all shown as to what they were programmed to do next. When a train arrived the Description in the Train Describer at the Buffer stops end was changed from the Incoming Train, to show the next working of the Inward Loco, 0G44, to work 1G44 etc. The Train Description at the country end would be put in for the outgoing train. All these numbers were put in manually. There would be frequent changes to the booked engine workings if they needed to be put on different workings, or visit Willesden DED, these alterations notified to the Box by the 'Engine Arranger' sat in the Yard Supervisors Office in the Parcels Dock. There would also be a Station Daily Orders sheet listing additional services or alterations to programmed movements.
 

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Prior to the introduction of DVTs the same method applied to Euston services at Piccadilly.
I remember seeing this in the 1970s. What some people might not appreciate is that the loco actually followed the back of the moving train down the platform, pulling up at the starter signal. This always seemed pretty dangerous to me but I don't believe it ever caused an accidents. If for some reason the loco couldn't move off directly behind the train, it would have to wait at the stops until the starter signal was cleared for a second time (or possibly the signaller could have authorised the move verbally). This was to protect against a head-on collision if a second train was signalled into the platform.

Sometime after locomotive haulage was almost totally limited to push-pulls, this practice was banned. I guess if it was done on one of the very few workings where it would still have been useful, there was a risk of staff losing familiarity and getting it wrong.
 

306024

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I remember my one and only time watching trains at Euston as a kid - my Dad took me up there for a look, stationing ourselves on the parcel deck entry road off Barnby St. Must have been about 1981, evening peak. I think he was more interested in the trains than me to be honest. However what I do remember is a never ending procession of locos following departing trains off the blocks, hanging about in the throat and then dropping back onto the front of other services for departure. It remains the only time I have seen that type of loco release operation in a major terminus, and thinking about the logistics of it still fascinates me now.

The logistics are indeed fascinating. I used to enjoy diagramming the locomotives at Liverpool St in the early 1980s for that very reason. Air and vacuum brake stock, steam and electric heat, you had to match the right locomotives to the right stock. Then add in the daily changes such as extra boat trains it was better than any puzzle book.
 

Mag_seven

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I remember the remnants of such operations in the 1990s, particularly Cross Country services at Manchester Piccadilly. The loco on an arriving train would be released after departure, and would then go to the loco siding in the throat, ready to go on top of the next arrival.

Prior to the introduction of DVTs the same method applied to Euston services at Piccadilly.

The practice of a loco following the train it was detached from down the platform also took place at Glasgow Central.
 

Bald Rick

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The logistics are indeed fascinating. I used to enjoy diagramming the locomotives at Liverpool St in the early 1980s for that very reason. Air and vacuum brake stock, steam and electric heat, you had to match the right locomotives to the right stock. Then add in the daily changes such as extra boat trains it was better than any puzzle book.

Must have been a bit easier than Euston though? Even at the height of the peak it would have been, I guess, two from Cambridge / Lynn, two from Ipswich / Norwich, and possibly a boat train in the busiest hour?
 

306024

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Must have been a bit easier than Euston though? Even at the height of the peak it would have been, I guess, two from Cambridge / Lynn, two from Ipswich / Norwich, and possibly a boat train in the busiest hour?
Not when you add in fuel calculations, and the very different types of locos. These were all diesels of course. Off peak was just as interesting, with parcels trains and the newspaper workings overnight. Euston would have had more loco moves, but arguably that also gives you more choices. Everything on the Cambridge line was loco hauled, and for the peaks you also had ECS to and from Thornton Field CS. You had to get the right loco on those so that when released they could drop correctly onto next working. Just one additional (or one less) train can throw all that out, these were the days when sometimes there was a relief to the relief to the Hook Continental, yes three boat trains for the night sailing, all unimaginable today.
 
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Often spent half an hour or so at King's Cross in the late 70s on my way home in the evening, watching the loco movements. Always raised one spirits listening to a Deltic start up its engines on being realised from its inward working. Sounded like a box of nuts and bolts being shaken about.
 

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Euston also had the "Backing Out Roads" on the Down side adjacent to the Down Carriage Shed. So it was regular procedure to propel an incoming train out to those roads, run round it, then propel back in again.
 

Andy R. A.

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I remember seeing this in the 1970s. What some people might not appreciate is that the loco actually followed the back of the moving train down the platform, pulling up at the starter signal. This always seemed pretty dangerous to me but I don't believe it ever caused an accidents. If for some reason the loco couldn't move off directly behind the train, it would have to wait at the stops until the starter signal was cleared for a second time (or possibly the signaller could have authorised the move verbally). This was to protect against a head-on collision if a second train was signalled into the platform.

It is interesting that the Inward Locos were always still referred to as 'Bankers', even though the practice of banking trains out of Euston had long been discontinued. The signalling still retained the facility for banking up to Camden as the signals on the Down Fast/Down Slow and Down Departure/Carriage Lines were all of the 'Last Wheel' replacement type, so the whole train would have to clear the signal before they returned to danger. The Local Instruction on Locos on Inward Trains is shown below. Normally the programmed amount of time between a Departing train and Arriving train in the same platform (other than EMU trains) was 10 minutes, although in busy times when things weren't running to plan it was possible for this to be reduced to around five minutes, quite good going for Train Out, Banker Out, Train In.

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In my time at Euston I had never come across of an instance of the Loco following the train out colliding with the train, even though there were a number of occasions when the train was brought to a stand half out of the platform when the communication cord was pulled. Speeds were quite low. However there were a number of occasions when the Local Instruction wasn't followed, and Drivers had started up the platform to be confronted by a train coming in on top of them. Luckily coming in on authority of the Calling On signal the trains were coming in cautiously. The Driver of the Loco reversed quickly onto the Stops with the inward train following at a safe distance !!!!
 

Bald Rick

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Not when you add in fuel calculations, and the very different types of locos. These were all diesels of course. Off peak was just as interesting, with parcels trains and the newspaper workings overnight. Euston would have had more loco moves, but arguably that also gives you more choices. Everything on the Cambridge line was loco hauled, and for the peaks you also had ECS to and from Thornton Field CS. You had to get the right loco on those so that when released they could drop correctly onto next working. Just one additional (or one less) train can throw all that out, these were the days when sometimes there was a relief to the relief to the Hook Continental, yes three boat trains for the night sailing, all unimaginable today.

Ah. Thank you. Another lesson learned!
 

306024

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Ah. Thank you. Another lesson learned!

And no computer to ‘help’ you either! :D

Interesting @Andy R. A. to see the Euston local instructions. They must be similar for all terminal stations for obvious reasons. We always used to release the loco immediately, some platforms at Liverpool St were so short you couldn’t usually leave the loco on the stops as the next train due in wouldn’t then fit when the loco was added to the other end.
 
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Andy R. A.

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Interesting @Andy R. A. to see the Euston local instructions. They must be similar for all terminal stations for obvious reasons. We always used to release the loco immediately, some platforms at Liverpool St were so short you couldn’t usually leave the loco on the stops as the next train due in wouldn’t then fit when the loco was added to the other end.
I think most Terminal stations had similar instructions for the swift removal of incoming Locos. The Instruction at St. Pancras (worked there 1972-74) is similar for the same period, although with the added bits regarding the Shutting Down and Starting Up of Diesel Locos while at the Buffer Stops to prevent un-necessary noise and nuisance.
 

AndrewE

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I worked on LMR traincrew programmes (now renamed diagrams- again) in the 1970s/early 80s and they - or the loco programmes that we were covering - used to show "released" times. We had to ensure that a loco was either manned continuously and moved by someone (a driver and an assistant or maybe a guard) programmed to do it at its release time, or if it was an electric loco, it could be "parked." I can't remember the proper name on the programme, maybe "Stable," but after that you could "PC," i.e. part-prepare in 10 mins before the movement rather than the full 20.
On the Special Programmes (weekly alterations) when we were diesel-hauling pan-down into Piccadilly on a Sunday I would sometimes need to programme an extra man just to relieve incoming diesel drivers while they had their PNBs so that they could take their next train out. I usually put the DA role onto drivers hanging around at the end of a short programme. Just occasionally we had to book out an extra DA just to assist the drivers we had on all the shunts.
 

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From the 60s onwards, loco-hauled workings at Liverpool Street were almost always in the longer middle platforms, which were provided with at least one short siding right at the platform end so the loco could be parked until its next working without affecting other platform moves. This wouldn't have been practicable at Euston because there were so many more loco-hauled workings.

In about 1989 I was involved in some tests on a positioning system fitted experimentally to a class 87. Every morning a colleague would ring Control to find out what that loco's duties were for the day, and as soon as we got a day when it was due out of Euston late morning we jumped on the next train from Derby. The loco was parked in a siding against the retaining wall on the Down side I think, and we rode in the back cab to Manchester monitoring the equipment (which didn't work). While waiting for the train home there was a freight train failure on the Castlefield curve which stopped everything going in that direction for an hour or so, until "our" loco was sent wrong line towards Oxford Road to rescue it.
 

Welshman

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I think most Terminal stations had similar instructions for the swift removal of incoming Locos. The Instruction at St. Pancras (worked there 1972-74) is similar for the same period, although with the added bits regarding the Shutting Down and Starting Up of Diesel Locos while at the Buffer Stops to prevent un-necessary noise and nuisance.
I remember at Bradford Exchange, where there was a rising gradient immediately at the end of the platform, the uncoupled incoming loco, used to bank the train out until near the starting signal, where it would then stop awaiting the road to be set.

So a necessary move was used to give the train engine a helpful push.
 

xotGD

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At Birmingham New Street, the electric loco that had brought in a cross country service would trundle along behind the departing service to the end of the platform in similar manner to that described for Euston, etc. Then it would park up in one of the loco sidings before its next turn.
 

edwin_m

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I remember at Bradford Exchange, where there was a rising gradient immediately at the end of the platform, the uncoupled incoming loco, used to bank the train out until near the starting signal, where it would then stop awaiting the road to be set.

So a necessary move was used to give the train engine a helpful push.
At Glasgow Queen Street it would act as a banker for the departing train all the way to Cowlairs.
 

AndrewE

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At Glasgow Queen Street it would act as a banker for the departing train all the way to Cowlairs.
Did these combined banking/release moves persist into diesel days, or was it only steam trains which were banked?
 

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Kings Cross in loco hauled days was the most cumbersome. Main line locos appeared unable to do a full day's work without refuelling, which was done at a small facility on the west side of the station. With the platform ends pretty hard up against the entrances to Gasworks Tunnel, it was not possible to even get there in one shunt from most of the platforms in the centre/east side of the station, from platform 1 say it was out into just inside one of the eastern tunnels, back into a convenient platform end, out to just inside one of the western tunnels, back into the loco spur, and to the fuel point. For the return train the reverse then applied. Class 31 pilots on stock also did the forward-back-forward-back to get between bringing one set of stock in, and then taking another out. Went on all day.
 

edwin_m

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Did these combined banking/release moves persist into diesel days, or was it only steam trains which were banked?
As far as I know yes, though only when required and as an occasional visitor in 1978-81 I never saw one.
 

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As far as I know yes, though only when required and as an occasional visitor in 1978-81 I never saw one.
In the 70s most trains were banked, exceptions generally being where the loco on the blocks was booked to work another train very soon after being released. Obviously there was a crew on the loco so it probably made little difference to push up the hill then come back down light engine as against just shunting into the tunnel and back to another platform, plus it gave the departing train a good start. In those times Queen St High Level was only handling typically four or five arrivals and departures per hour so there were no issues pathing light engine moves. EDIT: (In many cases the loco would be going either to Eastfield Depot or to Cowlairs to collect ECS for a later working so would need to go up the hill anyway).
A few trains would have been banked because of weight (there was a table of maximum unassisted loads) and in a few cases because the rear vehicle was not a brake vehicle - e.g. the overnight to Inverness conveyed a TSO on rear for detachment at Perth - which was a requirement for any unassisted departures.
I don't know when the practice ceased but obviously into the eighties more trains were push pull before switching over to Sprinter operation.
 
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ac6000cw

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At Birmingham New Street, the electric loco that had brought in a cross country service would trundle along behind the departing service to the end of the platform in similar manner to that described for Euston, etc. Then it would park up in one of the loco sidings before its next turn.
Same thing happened with the diesels on cross country trains that reversed e.g. Newcastle/Leeds - Poole services (except that they ended up in the east end loco siding or went off to Saltley depot).

Then add the loco run-arounds for the terminating trains from London (both Euston and Paddington) which needed a clear nearby platform line to run the light loco through.

All good fun to watch in the 1970s :)
 

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From the 60s onwards, loco-hauled workings at Liverpool Street were almost always in the longer middle platforms, which were provided with at least one short siding right at the platform end so the loco could be parked until its next working without affecting other platform moves. This wouldn't have been practicable at Euston because there were so many more loco-hauled workings.

Part of the skill of planning the platforms at Liverpool St was to ensure locos didn’t have to shunt out via the station throat. You didn’t want a loco released from platform 14 to have to work something out of platform 7. Wasn’t always possible to avoid though.

1985 to 1987 was interesting at Ipswich, when the Norwich trains used to change traction. Replacing Ely Cathedral with Dudley Castle made me smile. If you watch it through YouTube instead of just clicking on the link there are some interesting comments from the Norwich Area Manager at the time who will be well known to some.

 
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