Österreichische Bundesbahnen

by John Hinson

Looking west towards Vols station
Photograph 8/55, by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Võls was located on the Innsbruck - Arlberg main line, which was single throughout. It was a typical Austrian single-line passing station - a long loop arrangement with a controlling signal box at each end. The signal boxes were operated under the control of the Station Master using the Rank system of Station Block. By this means, the Station Master would direct to signalmen as to what was required of them. In this respect, the boxes were (by British standards) acting as little more than ground frames, comparable perhaps with the Highland Railway's system.

This general view was taken from the Innsbruck end of Vols station looking west. The east end box can be seen on the left, set back from the lines, whilst the west end box can just be made out as a speck in the distance.

West end signal box at Vols
Photograph 8/55, by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

This view shows the west end box, looking towards Arlberg. The three running lines through the station (and a siding) converge here, but only one signal is visible; this applies to all lines. The signal is typical of the Germanic semaphore type found in several European countries, with a circular "blob" at the far end of the arm and striped post. The arms, unlike British practice, protruded from the right-hand side of the post, so the signal as seen here applies to movements proceeding away from the camera.

Interior of box at west end of Vols
Photograph 8/55, by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

Inside the box at the west end, we see a double-wire frame controlling the points and signals. This is an adaption of the Siemens & Halske standard design, with wheel and chain levers. The small rotating levers on the front of the interlocking table act like the T-bars on the Dutch HSM frames - they lock a route and release its signal, and are standard S&H equipment. The equipment above the far end of the frame is the Rank Station Block equipment which receives signals from the Station Master as to the route required. The illuminated indications on the right are probably the indications from the Station Master's office.

Rank Station Block apparatus
Photograph 8/55, by Dr J W F Scrimgeour

This view shows the Seimens Station Block apparatus in the Station Master's office.

Directions are given to the two signal boxes as to which routes are required from here. The authority to the signalmen to admit trains onto the required track is given by the S&H instrument on the right. This has three block locks for each end box, one for authorising arriving moves, one for authorising departing move, whereas the third one was used by the signalman to lock the points after an authorisation and before clearing the corresponding signal.

In front of the locks, on top of the desk, are two copper knobs on slides. These are set for the line for which a move is to be authoised. These slides block each other in such a way that no two trains can be accepted on the same track, and arrival and departure movements mutually exclude each other. The locking levers on the front of the interlocking table selected an arriving or departing move. After selecting the movement you push the relevant block lock, turn the AC generator crank in the side (no batteries needed in this system!), and its twin opens in the outer box. The signalman, or rather pointsman as he would be called here, can then set his points, move the relevant miniature route lever, lock it with the third block lock, and finally pull his signal. Because the Station Master is also in charge of the Telephone Block working he will obtain a clear block before authorising a departure. After the completion of the movement the pointsman will restore everything and block back, releasing the central console.

There were only four signals necessary for these arrangement - two two-armed homes with co-acting distants and two starters, all completely "multifunctional". Two permanently-manned boxes were required when the station got its boxes in 1904. Rebuilding it as a single middle signal-box later was never considered.

The single line itself was worked without any form of block instrument, by a system called Telephone Block. Many single lines in Europe were worked by this system, which required a strict discipline of telephone messages, and it has proved adequate for lines with relatively little traffic and some lines still operate by this system today. In comparison with British practice, it seems horribly unsafe, but it can also be argued that British branch lines were expensively over-signalled.

Additional notes by Harald Mueller and Michiel Rademakers

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson