THE SIGNAL BOX

BRANCH LINES

THE PUNNYSIDE OF RAILWAYS

by Bob Wright

What follows is a little light banter I passed on by email to Russell Ashmore (yes, he of Teacup fame) whilst doing the Midland Railway Trust [MRSA] Signalling course — which Russell, as The Inspector, is administering. It went something like this …

Yes, the good old days when Bullhead was in his Chair and long before Flat Bottom with Pandrol was some kind of remedy for a Sleeper; when Creosote on a hot day in the summer really was good for the Axles and could forestall a Hot Box - and a Tablet was not medicinal. When Up & Down wasn't Reversible and you could still go from Fast to Slow without looking both ways to cross the Road, and, getting the Goods could still be a Relief. When a White, Red Lamp, sometimes a Red, Red Lamp, or even a Black, Red Lamp, was All Clear and a Green Light waved rapidly could be Danger(ous). At a time when a Crow wasn't what the kids called the lady across the street! When they did paint the finials other than White and Targets were something you didn't shoot at; they're easy to see in Fog & Falling Snow. When a Signalman was a Policeman called Bobby who still knew his Beat(s) and when a Line Blocked wasn't and a Fireman didn't put out fires

The days when the Back Board wasn't for backs and to Peg-on-Line had nothing to do with hanging out the washing. A Trap wasn't for mice and the Pilot had no connection with planes - we're on the Level. A Banker wasn't with National which was then the phone and it was tuppence to be On Line as long as you wanted. You didn't have to answer the door when you heard a Chime and Blocking Back wasn't cutting up firewood outside the back door. Catch Points had nothing to do with the Football Pools and to be Home didn't mean you were Distant. A Starter was not a part of a car and nobody had to be quick on the uptake to get the Point. A Frame had nothing to do with snooker and Interlocking was not a Swiss town. A Detonator was not used with Dynamite and a Fireman's Call Plunger didn't unblock drains or bring out the Fire Brigade. A Track Circuit wasn't circular and Relays were not races. Intermediate Block was not a US football term and a Sand Drag was not a boring beach game. A Detector was not in the Police force and since we live in a Permissive society in which an Arm has no blood vessels to Shoot, we're in the Clear. You won't be Put Inside for that. This is supposed to be Light banter.

Then there was a Break in the Telegraph for a couple of days while Steam was Raised again. Russell was Given Permission for he and his colleagues to Proceed and enter the Section, but, before he could AcceptTwo Beats and we're Away again …

(I then said) You must continue On so that the next additions can be an Advanced Starter to the first attempt. Some of your colleagues you might want to call on the Blower, but don't shout as you might get a Frog in your throat. Take Stock of the situation and don’t Rail against it. Once you folks get Flange(d) up, it'll take you Through and you'll have it Cutting as sharp as a knife Blade. As I've been sitting on my Rear for a few hours, I hear the Call Attention and Register the fact that I must Advance for my dinner. If I don't go now I shall be Screech(ed) at and get it in the Neck, fall down and otherwise cause an Obstruction, and I don't want to be Shunted out of the way or have to Tunnel my way out. I know my Station but am Master in my own house. After dinner I might watch Elmer Gantry again, or have a drop of Porter which shouldn't be too much Ballast to take on. After all, I am Six Foot but will need to take a reCess as it's too early to (be) Re Tire(d) I and don't want to look like a GANNET* aGANE* . I had better be Off now and will continue later after acknowledging the Special Stop Order for dinner. I hope that you are not getting Board.

Then there was another Pause for a couple of days while I thought again and tried to get Possession Of (my) Line(s), Control even, and without Running Around any more continued …

Well, at least the past couple of funnies were not a Set Back, but, as we have to look Ahead I shall Disconnect myself from this subject now so as to let others Proceed, and so that I don't make a Spectacle of myself. Its been a good Buffer from reality for a short while but I should not hog the Platform. I shall do this Right Away, and after a short Brake, have a drink at the Trough and get Buckeyed! This is definitely the end of the Line and not a Token gesture, not even a Miniature Token gesture, as I have a meeting with the Staff later and I don't want them to tell me to get Slotted. That's the Ticket, I hear you say. Well, I have been known to Run Off at the mouth on occasion and accused of being Spring Worked at times. The Inspector (sorry Russell) is a bit of a Driver so I don't want to get a Form B and go in the Wrong Direction. You have to Guard against this otherwise it’s a Form A and the day I get to give him a Form D will be a Slip, a Double Slip even. Who would ever be a Wichita Lineman? Not a way to Express oneself. Such Cant. I'm not a Gang(st)er and I have never told anyone to get Fogged !?. I shall Halt now and shall not Return to this subject other than to say it has been a nice Excursion from the Normal and I shall not Reverse myself ! Is it Tennis where they have Catch point? Stop!

And that's where I left it with Russell. You folks out there must have something to Offer if you Marshall your thoughts. It's not a matter of Train(ing) - you can write your own Instructions if you want to be in the Van. So I'll 1 crow 1 short after a 1-5-5 (not forgetting a 2-4), before 7-5-5 (or 5-5-7 in this electronic age) and Switch Out.

Oh, and don't forget to sing the little ones a 4-5-5 over the summit and into the next section before bed tonight and mind the cat named 6 beats when you put the milk bottles out, otherwise you'll be a 3-3-2 through the front door and into the neighbours Back Platform Road! Then the wife will want to know why you've been a 6-2? - and mind the Detonator left by the dog on your way in ! ! ! (notice the gaps in between the exclamation marks - they're 20 yds. apart, really).

This can go 2 beats, and 2 beats, and 2 beats forever . . . so 2-1 for now.

* - Standard Code for Telegrams:
GANNET - 25 ton ballast hopper, and GANE - 40 ton bogie rail wagon

Comments about this article should be addressed to Bob Wright