SIGNALLING IN AUSTRALIA 2000
by John Hinson
In the spring of 2000, my wife and I took a holiday in Australia -
spring over here being autumn on the opposite side of the equator, of
A holiday was exactly what it was, and whilst I could have spent
the entire time looking at signalling installations that was not the plan.
Nevertheless, through the kindness of two friends who I have only got to know
through the existence of this web site, we were able to spend a couple of days
sampling the delights of local signalling practice.
Signalling in Australia, as is well known, owes plenty to British
principles as McKenzie & Holland set up a branch to manufacture equipment
out there. But there is Amercian influence too, particularly in the power
installations. This group of aricles is not intended to delve deeply into the
whys and wherefores, but to give a "snapshot view" of what we saw with simple
explanations of the applicable signalling principles.
Our visit started in Western Australia, where we were met at Perth Airport
by Chris. Chris is the "main man" (and, I suspect, more or less the only
man) for the preserved Claremont signal box project. This was something
not to be missed, and we had already asked for a visit there. Chris has
written a web page about the project which can be found
on this web site, so I shan't duplicate the information myself. All I
will say is that the amount of work that has put into it is tremendous,
and it puts to shame the preservation of signalling here in the UK.
But even before we called in there, Chris sprung a surprise on us
by having arranged a visit to the last operational mechanical signal box in
Western Australia at Kwinana.
The following few days were spent away from railways, but our next
brush with signalling was in Melbourne, Victoria, where we met up with Andrew
during several day's stay. The first thing that happened was that I got totally
confused between Victorian Railways (railways in the state of Victoria) and
Victorian railways (railways built during the reign of Queen Victoria)!
Knowing from email contact that there was a lot of "proper"
signalling in Victoria, I had asked Andrew in advance whether it would be
possible to visit both a traditionally signalled installation and also a large
mechanical box. Andrew selected some fine examples - Spencer Street and Bacchus
Marsh. Andrew even arranged for a track-walking pass for us all to allow
unhampered photography, and allocated us a whole day of his time which allowed
brief visits to one or two tother locations such as the tram/road/railway level
crossing at Kooyong.
Whilst in Melbourne we saw plenty of three-position
Speed Signalling signalling, much of which is very much
as installed in the early 1900s. Brighton Beach
had some fine examples, together with an early power signal box.
From Melbourne, we backtracked to Adelaide, in order to sample the
pleasures of riding on the Indian Pacific luxury train to Sydney. This
pleasurable journey did not reveal much in the way of signalling initially as
dusk fell before we reached the "interesting bit". However, by the time we
awoke we were in the middle of an area that seemed to be controlled by many
mechanical boxes. Signalling on the running lines appeared to be colour light,
but everything else seemed to be mechanical. Alas, there was no opportunity to
photograph some of the splendid signals. Our sole signalling photograph from
this journey was taken at Broken Hill, and is
included here purely for amusement value.
The remainder of the holiday had little signalling interest,
although I spent some time studying some old Rule and Regulation books which
Andrew donated. We came back with plenty of strong and happy memories, and a
rather heavy suitcase!
The series of articles here give a snapshot view of the
installations I saw, and include a comparison with British practice which is of
course the way I found myself looking at them. Without the patience and help of
Chris and Andrew in explaining both the history and signalling principles
little worthwhile could have been written here, but any errors you may find
will be my own.