View Full Version : Does anyone know how trains work?

9th Mar 2002, 20:52
What a bizarre question I hear you ask.. .. .Well, a couple of weeks ago I was reading an article in the paper about a train driver who had to stop his train outside Birmingham New Street station and turn back because he "didnīt know the way to Derby".. .. .Now, call me Mr Stupid, but I thought "the way to Derby" is to press "Go" at New Street, let the train follow the tracks, and press "Stop" when you see Derby station. Open doors, close doors, and repeat cycle.. .. .How can you NOT know the way??? Surely all the points are automated and do the hard work for you? How many times have you been hurtling down the runway only to abort the takeoff because you didnīt know the way to the end of the runway? Exactly.. .. .Now, weīre all fairly smart people on this forum so Iīd appreciate any input from anyone who knows how you can get lost driving a train.. .. .Thanks.

9th Mar 2002, 21:02
The drivers have to do route training, and if you like, get a type rating for each route, before they can drive the route by themselves. Therefore if he was rostered onto a route he was passed for, and that route was changed from the normal, that might have caused a problem. If thats the case, regardless of how silly it sounds, keeping safety first, if he was 'lost' for whatever reason, then he was right to stop, no point in press-on-itiss causing an accident.

Al Weaver
9th Mar 2002, 22:11
I'm always willing to learn, especially when it's nonaviation stuff where I already know everything. . .. .But surely the new driver can't steer the train can he? Doesn't all he do is go foward, backward stop and blow the whistle? So to get to Derby, isn't the route laid out by the chap who throws the switches?

Jet II
9th Mar 2002, 22:35
The driver needs to know the route so that he can tell if anything has gone wrong.. .. .The signaller may have set the points correctly, but if they had not moved due to mechanical failure or ice, the driver must be able to tell if he is going down the wrong track.. .. .Its all down to safety in the end.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
9th Mar 2002, 22:54
The driver also needs to know the location of all signals, which ones apply to your track (it's often not obvious),speed restrictions (which are a bit like NOTAMS in that some are permanent but some are temporary), any work in progress, and approaches to stations (trains take a long time to stop so need to know where you are). It's called route familiarity, and trying to drive a train without it would be dangerous at best.. .. .All this maust be recognisable at night, as well, or in thick fog.. .. .SSD

9th Mar 2002, 23:46
Have you seen that Microsoft have released a train driver simulator. Looks like great fun!!!

gravity victim
10th Mar 2002, 01:19
There is an enthusiastic account by a very early train traveller, describing going through a tunnel, which goes something like 'We rushed at the orifice at remarkable speed, it seeming scarce able, in its diameter to receive our conveyance. But thanks to the amazing skill of our driver, we passed safely through, touching neither one side nor the other!

10th Mar 2002, 01:33
Well, what a knowledgeable bunch of folk PPruNers are!. .. .Not sure itīs a good thing that people are willing to admit to knowing so much about trains though.... .. .Thanks for the answers, I have learnt something new today. Two things in fact because I learnt that badger is "tejón" in Spanish too.. .. .Cheers

10th Mar 2002, 11:58
Care to enlighten us as to your fascination with the connection between trains and badgers?,

henry crun
10th Mar 2002, 12:20
To continue the query a step further, are there any badgers in Spain ? <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" />

10th Mar 2002, 13:24
Perhaps henry, Dvr is a recruitment specialist? After all we now have Spanish Nurses working for the NHS, maybe he wants to recruit Spanish Badgers to help drive our trains? Can't be that hard to 'train' them, see green signal, press button, get rewarded with pile of worms, train starts. See red signal, press button twice, get pile of worms, train stops. Sort of a pavlov's badger type of thing!

henry crun
10th Mar 2002, 14:12
Sounds plausible to me, I'm glad you have cleared that up.. .. .I was beginning to imagine all sorts of outlandish. .connections and reasons. <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" />

Standard Noise
10th Mar 2002, 21:06
Maybe the Spanish badgers should actually manage the railways, rather than the UK standard Mk1 chimps that are presently doing the job!. .. .Fly, it's cleaner, more comfortable, and keeps us lot in jobs!. .. .Sleeping's permitted, dribbling isn't!

10th Mar 2002, 21:24
Hi folks,. .. .In my defence, the train question was merely because I had read it somewhere and thought that it must be pretty difficult to get lost on a predefined route that you canīt stray from (ie tracks). I have been proved wrong and my knowledge about the rail industry has been increased 10 fold as a result.. .. .As for badgers, no, there are none in Spain, but there are no duck-billed platypi in London but we have a word for them. Crap example, sorry.. .. .As for my fascination with badgers, well, you know, go out, get a bit drunk, get a bit horny.... .. .Er, what else? Ah yeah, I fully agree the mythical Spanish badgers could do a faaaaar better job than the monkeys in charge at the mo. I donīt care though coz Iīm largin it in Madrid where the public services are exemplary (spelling?).. .. .Will care in June though when I come back...

11th Mar 2002, 00:15
Hi, being a train driver myself, i can tell you a bit more about the situation. It took me a couple of weeks to sign my first route. That was from Brighton to Portsmouth. Its about 50 miles or so away and has about 300 0r so signals. I had to go over the same stretch of track with another driver for a few weeks and then signed up for it after a one on one oral examination that took about an hour and a half to complete. During that exam, i had to 'talk' my way along that route. I had to know where every signal is (very important in the thick fog)all the changes in speed(wouldnt want to go around a 25mph corner at 90mph now would we)all the crossings, radio sections, stations, shut off points (shutting the power off at a certain point before the station) braking points, (important again in thick fog/poor visibility) crossovers, diverging routes (so we dont go the wrong way) gradients in fact, everything and anything about the route we had to know. Now, if this guy in Birmingham hasn't signed for that route then he would have got the sack for going over it. Not good as he wouldnt have a clue were all the speeds/stations etc are.(how would he tell if hes at or near Derby.!!!!!) We have to go over our routes at least once every six months to keep them current. As for the signaler who sets the points up for you to go the right way, well, he/she doesnt know what routes the driver knows. All in all there is a lot more than merely 'pressing forward' and going off into the distance. The times when we earn our cash is when there is really poor visibility, driving in thick fog at speeds of over 100mph is quite an eerie experience i can tell you and you have to be on your toes. Personally, i dont like driving in the dark in the pouring rain at speed, everything is reflected and i have to concentrate that bit harder.!! We dont dont slow down for bad weather. We have to rely on our extensive route knowledge. I personally know hundreds of miles of track and there are some drivers about who have to know most of Britain and that takes some doing. Want to know more just ask..!!!!!!! <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" /> . .. .P.S. If your wondering what i am doing on a Pilots web site, i am doing my PPL at the moment.. . . . <small>[ 10 March 2002, 19:23: Message edited by: Big Red ' L ' ]</small>

11th Mar 2002, 11:34
So driving trains is like flying planes the man or woman at the front has to know what they're doing and where they're going for safety's sake. Nothing is ever as simple nor as complex as it seems eh?. .. .**********************************. .Through difficulties to the cinema

Tricky Woo
11th Mar 2002, 13:44
Trains use less fuel when travelling from North to South.. .. .Downhill, innit.. .. .TW

Feeton Terrafirma
11th Mar 2002, 15:02
Mr Woo,. .. .have you been yodelling to much? Down hill?. .. .Please check the map:

Shaggy Sheep Driver
11th Mar 2002, 15:11
Big Red 'L'. .. .Something I always wondered - how does the signal man know which train is which? Trains don't always work to the timetable, and there are odd movements like light engines or unscheduled ones like taking a broken down train to a repair depot. I was waiting on our local station the other day and a local train pulled into the opposite platform. The signal was red, but a 'SDG' - presumably 'siding' indicator lit, and he moved slowly out of the station into the loop beyond. Then the signal went straight to green, and few minutes later, a London experess Inter City went through at speed. Then another fast train the other way. After that, the local came back out of the loop, across the 'up' line onto 'our' (down) side of the station for the journey into Manchester.. .. .How did the signal man know the identity and intention of the trains on his display? How does he know about, and fit in, an unscheduled movement like a light engine, and how does he know which way it needs to go?. .. .SSD

12th Mar 2002, 03:15
Wotcha, this is quite interesting actually!. .. .Echo SSDīs queries, how does that all work then?. .. .Any chance of "jumpseating" Paddington - Exeter in June BRīLī? hehe.. .. .Also, what is the correct thing to say in this situation:. .. .Youīre on a train and your stop is the 3rd station for example. Would you say itīs 2 stops or 3 stops? Itīs 2 stops where you donīt get off until your station, but the train has to stop 3 times till itīs your go. Hmmmmm.. .. .(Edited to correct apalling spelling (have I spelt apalling correctly?) and to add something I have since forgotten about).. . . . <small>[ 11 March 2002, 22:19: Message edited by: DVR6K ]</small>

12th Mar 2002, 03:34
Only one stop actually.. .The station where you boarded is station number 1.. .The station at which you do not alight is number 2. . .Your destination is station number 3 (the third).. .Of course if it's Mornington Crescent....

12th Mar 2002, 04:01
Youīre right actually, I miscounted in my last post.. .. .So, we have 1 vote for 1 stop. Iīd say 1 but with an inclination to 2 myself, not sure why, just a nice number.

13th Mar 2002, 02:01
SSD,. .. .Trains have ID's like flights have Flight Numbers.. .. .The signalman at his computer monitors sees a schematic of the railway with each train and its location identified.. .. .The train ID can indicate a service type (intercity, local etc.) as well as the individual train.. .. .In the case of computerised signalling, auto-routing may take place - i.e. the computer recognises the train (and its destination) by its ID and sets the points & signals automatically, with the signalman merely monitoring events. In the case of unscheduled movements, the signalman may manually set the route for a train.. .. .Trains also have radios, allowing direct communications between driver and traffic control - so a signalman can simply ask a driver where he is going !. .. .I guess even pilots can make the mistake of thinking somebody elses job is simpler than it is. Imagine, some people think flying aeroplanes is easy <img border="0" title="" alt="[Wink]" src="wink.gif" /> . .. .Regards,. .V.

13th Mar 2002, 13:59
Excellent reply Big Red L. .Interesting post. .How does the system know at which point on the line each train is? I mean how is the train ID and its place transmitted?

Big Tudor
13th Mar 2002, 17:07
Think Tricky Woo must be right. How else do you explain the fact that it is cheaper to travel from North to South than it is t'other way. Example, Wolverhampton to Luton return. If ticket bought in Wolves = GBP15.00. If ticket bought in Luton = GBP21.00. <img border="0" title="" alt="[Confused]" src="confused.gif" /> <img border="0" title="" alt="[Confused]" src="confused.gif" />

13th Mar 2002, 17:47
Ok, here we go. The uk is divided into regions. I think there are about 6 of them and each has its own big timetable called a 'Working Timetable'. Every train movement is in this publication. It comes out when the national timetables are changed.(Summer/Winter etc..). .. . All trains have whats called a 'Headcode'. The headcode is made up of 4 digits. 1A28 is one example. The number 1 is the class of train. 1=express service(inter-city/high speed trains), 2=local stopping services etc, 5=light engine or empty rolling stock. 3/4/6/7/8/9/0 are determined by the speed of the train(so the signalman can see at a glance what speed the train is capable of.) There are others but i wont list them here.. .The letter is the route/destination of the train, A being the Brighton/London Victoria main line for example, and the number at the end is the number of trains that have been on the route that day. So, 1A28 would be the express from Brighton to London Vic and its the 28th train doing that route that day.. .. . Now, Between each signal is called a 'section'. In this section is a 'Track circuit'. The track circuit is activated by the passing of the train. There is a piece of equipment in the track that picks up/detects when a train is in that section. In some locations, the track circuit is activated by a join in the rail usualy just after a signal, connected by a small bit of copper. When the train goes from one bit of rail over the to the next, it then activates the circuit and the signal in the rear of the train will go to Red.. .When a signal is Red, it is called 'ON' this is because its ON red. When its OFF, its off red so you may see on some platforms an OFF indicator. This is here to help the train guard or platform staff who may be unable to see the main signal aspect(on a curved platform for example.) In the signal box there is a small diagram of the particular bit of track that signalman controls. Each section has a light so he can see where the train is. The 'headcode' for his trains will not be shown so he looks in the working timetable to see what it is. In the bigger newer signal boxes(Power boxes they are called) the signalman has a big panel in front of him(no levers like the smaller boxes, just a load of buttons) that shows his stretch of track. He can see where every train is, just by looking up at his panel. There will be a display in each section showing the trains headcode rather than just a red light like in a smaller box. For movements that are additional, eg,empty stock, light engines etc, the signalman will be told by Railtrack (or whoever they are now) about the unexpected movement.(This is because every train operator has to pay Railtrack a Track acces charge for every train that moves.) Before privatisation, we could just go and get on a engine and call the signalman and tell him where we wanted to go and that would be it. But now, the movement has to be authorised by everyone under the sun.!!!. .Well, i hope thats been usefull and interesting and if you have anymore questions just post them here.... <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" />

13th Mar 2002, 20:20
Big Red īLī,. .. .Thanks for the replies! Itīs very interesting stuff. Amazing to hear what goes on behind the scenes when I jump on a train, itīs a lot more complex than I first thought.. .. .Nice one.. .. .One other thing, you know all the complicated bits of track that you are faced with just before you arrive at London Victoria (all the points etc), do you have to know which bit youīre going to end up on or do you just let the train do all the work and trust youīll end up on the right platform?

Windy Militant
14th Mar 2002, 15:29
Well B*gger me! I thought the driver had to lean out the window and catch a token thingy on a big hoop which gave him right of way. I was really impressed by the Hs 125 drivers I thought you had to have arms of steel and the reflexes of a cobra to drive them things. Now you tell me it's all done by computers and radios! What a let down <img border="0" title="" alt="[Big Grin]" src="biggrin.gif" />

Shaggy Sheep Driver
15th Mar 2002, 19:30
I note that there radio frequencies dedicated to rail cab-to-base communications. Do all trains have radios, and do the drivers have to have an RT licence?. .. .I was on a train between Sheffield and Stockport yesterday that was stopped at a signal. After a while the driver got out to use the phone on the signal post, presumably to talk to the signal box.. .. .Does this mean that not all trains are radio-equipped?. .. .SSD

16th Mar 2002, 12:28
Well i did post a reply to this thread yesterday all about radios and points etc but it hasn't gone up so i will have another go at it later as i am on nights this week and cant be arsed right now to go into great detail.(Just got in from work.) More later..!!!!! <img border="0" title="" alt="[Smile]" src="smile.gif" /> . .. .------------------------------. .Private Flying Forum Moderator. [email protected] . . . <small>[ 16 March 2002, 07:34: Message edited by: Big Red ' L ' ]</small>