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Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Signalling Procedure: misc_equip251

How most single lines were kept safe by restricting operation to a single train (One Engine in Steam)

When first built most single lines were kept safe by restricting operation to a single train (One Engine in Steam) and to indicate to the Driver that his train was authorised to operate on the line a ‘Train Staff’ for the particular line would be issued to him. There was only one Train Staff allocated to each single line section and where there were adjacent single line sections the train staffs were given different cross-section shapes (Square, triangular, round, etc). Train Staffs were often extended with an Annett Key for the operation of any locked Ground Frames on section. A typical train staff was normally wooden, approximately a foot long, but with the Annett Key extension was 20 inches long. The train staff diameter was about 3½ inches thick with a brass plate identifying the relevant single track section. This One Engine in Steam system worked well on short lines where it was retained in to the British Rail era, but to avoid restricting train services on longer single lines, the Great Western Railway copied a system being used by the West Midland Railway and introduced the ‘Train Staff and Ticket’ system in 1862 (see 'misc_equip252').

The photograph shows a typical wooden Train Staff with an Annett Key extension and an extract from the Great Western Railway’s ‘Regulations for Train Signalling on Double and Single Lines’, which was issued in 1936 detailing the relevant section on the operation of the One engine in Steam on Single Lines system. In Warwickshire the Great Western Railway used this system on two of their branch lines:

Single Line Branch Train Staff Colour Train Staff Shape
Shipston-on-Stour Branch Varnished Beech Round
Henley-in-Arden Goods Line Red Round

Robert Ferris