·  LMS  ·  GWR  ·  LNER  ·  Misc  ·  Stations  ·  What's New  ·  Video  ·  Guestbook  ·  About


Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Signalling Procedure: misc_equip237

Equipment for use with the ‘Economic’ and ‘Motor Economic’ Systems of Track Maintenance

Equipment for use with the Economic System of Track Maintenance (from left to right):

  • Photograph of the standard lineside Occupation Key Instrument with key inserted
  • Instructions explaining the use of the Occupational Key Instruments from General Appendix to the Rule Book (dated August 1936)
  • Photograph of a one Occupation Key ‘Control’ Instrument normally located in the Signalbox (top open to show the ‘Control’ and ‘Occupation-Key’ slide mechanisms)

In Warwickshire there were two lines where the Economic System of Track Maintenance was employed:

  1. Moreton-in-Marsh to Shipston-on-Stour Branch line (9 miles, 60 chains maintained). Introduced 1st May 1904 with twelve telephone points – see Shipston Economic System of Maintenance. Replaced with the Motor Economic System of Track Maintenance on 28th September 1931.
  2. Bearley to Alcester Branch Line (6 miles, 78 chains maintained). Introduced 1st January 1906 with nine telephone and occupation key instrument points - see Alcester Economic System of Maintenance.

The article below, transcribed from the Great Western Railway Magazine describes the system and provides some historic details:

Article from Great Western Railway Magazine Volume XLIV No 6 (June 1932)

The ‘Economic’ and ‘Motor Economic’ Systems of Track Maintenance by FC Crook

Great interest is being shown by Dominion and Continental engineers in the ‘economic’ and ‘motor economic’ systems of track maintenance which have been adopted successfully in this country on branch lines where traffic is light and sections extensive. A brief account of the modus operandi may, therefore be of value.

Under the ‘economic’ system the ganger makes his daily examination of the length of track in his charge by means of a three wheeled trolley. Larger (four-wheeled) trolleys are provided for the transport of the gang and materials about the line. It is, of course, necessary to give adequate protection to traffic and also to the permanent way staff and the following arrangements are adopted.

Before a trolley is placed on the running line the ganger withdraws an electrically-controlled key, known as the ‘occupation key’, from an instrument in telephone communication with the signal boxes. These key boxes are fixed at intervals along the section of line. The key can be removed from and replaced in any of the key boxes on the section of line to which it applies, and affords absolute protection to the holder; in fact, without the key in his possession the ganger or other member of the permanent way staff in charge for the time being has no authority to commence any work affecting the safe passage of trains. During the time the key is held by the ganger the signalmen can allow no train to enter the occupied section of line.

On arrival on the gang at the site of the work, the trolley is removed from the line as near to an occupation key box as possible, and after this has been done the ganger places the key in the apparatus and at once informs the signalman by telephone from the key box that the section is clear and normal working may be resumed. The key, being automatically locked, cannot be withdrawn again without permission of the signalman, who is able to release it by means of an electrical device in his cabin connected to the key apparatus. On branches where the electric train staff or similar system is not in use, there is in operation an arrangement under which occupation of the line for Engineering Department maintenance work is given by means of the use of the telephone, combined with the placing of detonators on the line at or near stations or signal boxes, to prevent the entry of trains into the occupied section.

Owing to physical and other conditions – for example, severe gradient, prevailing crosswinds, etc, the economic system cannot be worked on certain of the Great Western Company's branch lines. The effect of these difficulties is to reduce to a considerable extent the rate of movement of the trolleys, with the result that the opportunities of obtaining occupation of the line without interference with traffic are insufficient for the necessary Engineering Department operations.

The ‘economic system’, a system of maintenance which makes unnecessary the employment of flagmen, was first introduced as long ago as 1901 on the Golden Valley Branch (18¾ miles in length), and by the early part of 1928 about 50 miles of the Company's single line branches were being efficiently maintained under this system.

In 1928, what might be termed a ‘rationalised’ economic system of maintenance was given a trial on the Cirencester & Rushey Platt Junction line. This consisted of providing petrol-driven trolleys instead of those worked by hand. It is therefore, known as the ‘motor economic’ system. The method of motivity is the only real distinguishing feature between the two systems.

The physical disadvantages of the economic system accelerated the introduction of the motor system. It was realized also that better results and greater maintenance efficiency with less arduous work to the permanent way staff could be obtained by the introduction of motive power other than man-power. Under the motor system the ganger is provided with an inspection car, and the gang a motor trolley for their conveyance about the line.

The handling of material is a particular feature of the system, as, by means of a trailer trolley attached to the gang trolley, tools, sleepers, chairs, bolts and, in fact, almost every description of permanent way material can be transported about the line.

The trolleys are fitted with sanding apparatus, fire extinguishers, Klaxon horns, and each carries two red lamps, one on the front as a head signal and one on the rear as a tail lamp. These lamps are used whenever the trolleys are required to enter and pass through tunnels. The motor trolley is by no means a complicated machine, and its operation does not require any special mechanical skill on the part of the driver. Whether or not a trolley gives efficient and satisfactory service depends largely upon the treatment of it by the men. It is not enough that a trolley be properly handled in the operation of placing it on and off the line, it must be kept in proper working order. The ganger's inspection car can be removed from the line quite easily by one man, and the gang trolley, which is equipped with a portable turntable and light ramp, can be removed by two or three men. Periodical examination and maintenance of these motor trolleys is undertaken by the Road Transport Department.

The Great Western Railway Company were the pioneers of the use of the motor-trolley for track maintenance purposes in this country. The working of the motor system on the Cirencester and Rushey Platt line proved so successful that before the end of 1928 the system had been extended to cover the section of single line from the former place to Andoversford Junction. By the beginning of 1930 the motor system was in operation over about 70 miles of the Company's single line branches; its growth has been so rapid, that at the present time it is efficiently worked over about 300 miles of single line branches and effecting savings in the Engineering Department maintenance costs considerably greater than those obtained under the economic system.

Consideration is being given to the introduction of the motor system of maintenance, not only on other single line branches but on certain suitable double line branches.

Under the motor system a gang is able to maintain efficiently an average of twelve miles of running line compared to six miles under the economic system. A great advantage of the motor system is the ease with which the trolleys are able to negotiate gradients. This results in the saving of a considerable amount of time by the permanent way staff in getting to and from the site of their work. Another advantage is the convenience and speed with which men may be got together to deal with important repair works to the way and works consequent upon floods, slips, etc.

The motor-driven trolley for permanent way maintenance work has clearly demonstrated its usefulness and proved dependable and safe in operation.

Robert Ferris