Class 15F #3052 Chase

Good day Readers and Friends!

Its been a long while since I’ve posted, but I have gotten up to something worth posting!

Yesterday, myself (currently on Part 1 of my annual leave) and two friends – James (having a rest from University assignments) and Wayne (up from Cape Town) – were blessed to be able to chase a steam loco being transferred from (Reef Steamers) to Hermanstad (Friends of the Rail).

What a great time was had – the sunburn definitely worth it!

Below are a few pics taken along the way!


Day’s beginning



Monkey also wanting in on the action


Metro in business


TFR Class 34s on a Cement Train


Steamy lady


Owner’s details


Ready for departure


Carrying the name of the City: Brakpan on her Smoke Deflectors




Subject Matter Expert

Good morning my friends!

Sorry for my silence for so long, I’ve been quite a busy body at work and must be honest and apologise for forgetting to make a post last month!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a course on becoming an Assessor. All that’s left is for me to complete my Portfolio of Evidence and, once found competent, will a Subject Matter Expert on two SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) Unit Standards, namely:

1) Operate an Automatic Train Protection Signalling System

2) Operate the movement of Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) or Motor Coach
This is our class photo:


Railway Signalling – Part 2D: Token Finale

Automatic Exchange

A few railways developed mechanical systems that enabled faster handover, using catching devices that could be extended from the locomotive cabside just before the train passed the exchange point and which automatically retracted clear after the exchange. These enabled handover speeds of 64km/h (40mph). Mechanical staff exchangers were also used where trains did not stop on the single line sections. These were fitted to both steam and diesel locomotives.

Electronic Token Systems

Developments in electronic systems have led to the development of electronic token systems. Trains are able to run over consecutive single-track sections, with the whole operation being controlled from a single central control room. Every train carries a special electronic unit that receives and sends an encrypted block of data which represents the token. The system is designed such that the control centre can only issue one token for any particular section until it is returned. Trains cannot send tokens to each other. This system allows the whole line to operate without any further signalling personnel. The system has operated without major incident.


Intermediate Block Posts

In certain circumstances it was convenient to shorten the single line sections by providing an intermediate signal box equipped with token instruments without providing a passing loop there. This was done if there was, for example, an important siding connection at the intermediate location. It also enabled following through trains to run at closer headways, but did not facilitate opposing movements.
Because of the greater risk of collision in the event of irregular working, the practice was deprecated in the UK, although some examples did exist. Usually in such cases special interlocking was provided between the two instruments at the intermediate signal box to ensure that trains could not be accepted from opposing directions at the same time.

Long Section Working

In double line working, at times when traffic is light it is convenient to close an intermediate signal box, allowing the signal boxes on either side to communicate directly for train control. On single lines this is more complicated because of the train tokens being identified with single line sections, but the difficulty can be overcome by some form of long section working.

A simple system used separable train staffs which fit together when intermediate block posts are closed, so that a driver receives the train staff for two or more consecutive sections from the first signalman. An alternative system employs special long-section token systems; when long section working is to be instituted, all the short section tokens must be in their respective instruments; by switching to the long-section method, tokens for the long section can then be obtained in the ordinary way. Obviously all the long-section tokens must be restored before the normal working can be resumed.

Unattended Operation

Token instruments can be arranged for unattended operation, when they are operated by the train crew at intermediate crossing loops or at the terminus of the line. This system is widely found in Australia, where traffic density on many lines is low.
In the UK it is known as the “No-signalman key token system”. Examples on the UK national network are the North Devon Line, where the system was brought into use on December 1, 1987, the Heart of Wales Line (commissioned in 1986[4]), the Matlock branch in Derbyshire and the Liskeard to Looe line in Cornwall. Here the train guard not only operates the Tyer’s No.9 electric token instrument controlling the upper section of the branch, but operates the points as well. The lower section is operated on the “One Engine in Steam” principle with a simple wooden staff. Possession of the staff is required to unlock the ground frame controlling the points at Coombe Junction, where the two sections meet. There is no other signalling on the branch except to control entry and exit to and from the main line.

Token Interlinking

After early experience with token systems, it became customary for the starting signal at token stations to be interlinked with the token instrument; on withdrawal of a token, the starting signal lever was released for one pull.
Sometimes an intermediate siding is provided on the single line section, and the token itself, or a key fixed to the end of it, unlocks the points for shunting there. The token is locked in the apparatus there, and the driver cannot retrieve the token until the points have been set to the through running position and locked again. In special situations where the sidings at the intermediate location are extensive, the equipment is arranged for the shunting train to be put wholly inside the sidings, clear of the main line; in this situation an intermediate token instrument can be provided, enabling the driver to surrender the token so that normal through working can take place on the single line while his train is at the sidings.
A corresponding arrangement sometimes applied where permanent way maintenance was carried out by motorised trolley. Usually this used special “occupation key” instruments which were interlocked with the normal token instruments and provided at intermediate places where the trolley might be off-tracked (or stored overnight).

Working by Pilotman

A variation of the token system is working by pilotman, where the place of the token is taken by a person who is designated the pilotman. This system is instituted if there is a failure of the token apparatus, or on double lines when one line is blocked and all the traffic in both directions is to be worked over the other line. The pilotman (identified by a red armband with “PILOTMAN” in white letters) rides on the locomotive, or if another train is due to follow, the pilotman must personally instruct the driver to proceed through the section. The signalman must not pull the starting signal off until instructed by the pilotman to do so. The pilotman rides on the locomotive or in the driving cab of the last train to run in the same direction.

Thus pilotman working is analogous to the “staff and ticket” system, described above, where the pilotman himself becomes the token and his verbal instruction is the equivalent of the ticket.
It is sometimes necessary to provide the pilotman with a personal locomotive to cater for disruptions to the service. In such a case the pilotman’s locomotive is usually coupled to the front of the actual train, but practice may vary depending on local track layout, types of trains etc.

The use of a pilotman for such purposes pre-dates the use of tokens.

Railway Signalling – Part 2C: Collection of the Token

Tony Attwell of Friends of the Rail collects the tablet for the section between Rayton and Cullinan – Nathan Berelowitz

In a basic railway situation, the token can be collected personally by the driver at the start of his work on a branch line, and surrendered by him at the end of his work there.
Where the single line section is part of a through route, then it is likely that each passing train would require to surrender and collect a token at each token station. Where the trains stop at every station this is a convenient arrangement, but where some trains run through without requiring to make a call, it was necessary for the signalman to exchange tokens with the fireman (in the case of steam trains) as the train passed at slow speed. In the case of driver-only operated trains, a dead-mans hold over button was provided, so the driver could exchange the token without the emergency brake being applied.


A large staff could be handed over without any special apparatus, but if the system in use employed miniature staffs, tablets or key tokens, these were usually placed in a leather pouch attached to a hoop, and the fireman could put his arm through the hoop held up by the signalman, and vice versa as the locomotive ran past. In UK practice the permitted speed for this was 15 mph (24 km/h) in daylight, but there are stories of drivers anxious to make up lost time when running late, and passing the exchange point at much higher speeds; bruised upper arms were common among signalmen and firemen on such lines.
Fixed token exchange apparatus was used on some railways. Trackside equipment was fitted near each signal box to hold the pouch containing the token and to receive the token pouch that was being given up.

Railway Signalling – Part 2b: Token System

 Oom Japie Terblanche holding a hoop and token from his collection. He’s overall from his days as a Steam Locomotive Fireman (40 years ago) still fits!

This blog post is dedicated to Oom Japie Terblanche.

Electric Token

The staff and ticket system was still too inflexible for busy lines, as it did not allow for the situation where the train intended to carry the actual token was cancelled or running very late. To provide for this, the electric train token system was developed.

Each single-line section is provided with a pair of token instruments, one at the signal box at each end. A supply of identical tokens is stored in the instruments, which are connected by telegraph lines. A token can be removed from one instrument only if both signalmen co-operate in agreeing to the release. Once a token has been removed, another cannot be removed until the token which is “out” is replaced in either instrument. In this way, it can be ensured that at any one time, only one token is available to be issued to a driver. Tokens belonging to adjacent sections have different configurations to prevent them being inserted into the wrong instrument.

Various tokens in Oom Japie’s collection

In the next blog post, we continue looking at the Token System. Thank you for reading!

Railway Signalling – Part 2a: Token System

A South African ‘Van Schoor’ Token machine. Picture by Dylan Knott

A ‘Token’ is a physical object which the Driver of a train is required to have before entering a particular section of single track. The token is clearly marked with the name of the section it belongs to. A token system is used for single track lines because of the greater risk of a serious collision in the event of irregular working by signalmen or train-crews, as compared to double track lines.
The operation of a bidirectional single track line has a few problems, the most serious of which is the possibility of two trains traversing the line travelling towards each other, each driver unaware that the other is using the line. The simplest method of controlling such a line is to have only one train operational, on the basis that a single train cannot collide with itself, and in the absence of another train, there is nothing else for it to collide with. Such a system was known as ‘One Engine in Steam’. Such schemes were used, and indeed still are used on some branches of rail networks, and on various heritage railways. The main problem with such a scheme is that it is best suited to a completely isolated branch of single track line. Where the section has to be integrated into a larger railway system, it becomes exceptionally limiting in the level of operations that it allows, and the opportunity for a mistake to be made, and an ensuing accident to occur, is high.
Instead, reliance is placed not on employing only one engine but on having a single physical object available for the single track section, and ruling that only if an engine driver is in physical possession of that object may they enter the single line section. That object is known as a token and is marked to indicate to which single track section it belongs.

Tokens have existed in a variety of physical forms:

– staff
– tablet
– ball
– key

Railway Signalling – Jack the Baboon Signalman

Written by Pieter du Plessis, from the website:

When the Cape Government Railways opened the first railway line to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town during the later part of the 1800’s the town Uitenhage was established. The railway station became world renown when the local railway guard James Edwin Wide had a working baboon Jack the Signalman that assisted him in his daily tasks.

James Wide, better known amongst the locals and friends as Jumper Wide due to his habit to jump from one railway wagon to the other and sometimes also swinging from wagon to wagon. Sadly one day, while working as a guard, whilst jumping from one truck he slipped on the canvas and lost his balance and fell underneath the moving train. As a result of this accident Jumper Wide lost both legs at the knees and in the process nearly also lost his life. As a result of this accident Jumper could no longer work as a guard for the Cape Railway Government and became unemployed for a while. He begged and pleaded for the authorities to employ him but to no avail. His determination and his perseverance forced him to make his own pegged-legs from a piece of wood that was strapped onto his lower half of his body. He then proceeded to make himself a trolley with an intricate hand apparatus that made himself a little more mobile.
Jack was again employed for the railway company as a signalman and one Saturday morning while visiting the Uitenhage market place, a popular meeting place of coffee dealers, merchants, transport drivers and hunters he noticed a oxwagon being led into the market by a young baboon that acted as “voorloper” (Oxen leader). Jumper Wide pushed himself closer and introduced himself to the owner of the baboon and after some demonstrations Wide was convinced that this intelligent animal could serve him in a useful capacity. Having pleaded with the owner and partially because of the sympathetic feeling towards the cripple man the owner reluctantly parted with his favourite pet and thus started one of the most amazingly friendships between animal and man.
As Jumper Wide’s cottage was about half a mile from the station, and found the walk and the moving of the trolley so difficult he started to train Jack to push him on the track. Jack learned quickly how to push his master to work in the morning and again at 5pm from work to his cottage. Jack would push the trolley uphill and when the trolley made up speed downhill he would jump on under great excitement and get a free ride. Jack also learned how to lift the trolley on and off the track and also “manhandled” the old condemned railway sleepers as he tumbled them over and over from the dump yard to the kitchen door where it will be used as fire wood. Jumper were warned by the previous owner that Jack were given every night a tot of good Cape brandy and should you for some reason fail to remember he would sulk the next day and refuse to have anything to do with you. No doubt Wide remembered this very well when on one occasion Jack refused to assist his master to get to work.
At the signal-box at the station Jumper kept an important key that unlocked the points to enabled the locomotive drivers to reach the coalsheds. Whenever a locomotive driver needed to load coal he gave four blasts on his whistle and then Jumper Wide would totter out on his crutches and stumps and hold up the key. Jack watched this performance for a couple of days and then one day when the locomotive driver blasted the familiar four blasts Jack rushed to the signal box and grab the key and went outside where he hold the key up for the driver to collect.
As the days, weeks and months progressed Wide and Jack’s friendship and understanding grew together. Jumper started to train Jack to change the signals on the various blasts from the locomotive drivers. When finally Wide were convinced that Jack could now be able to change the signals and also various other tasks he put the baboon to test. Each time one of the drivers would give a signal Jack would change the signal without once making an error.
Much to the amazement of locals and passengers who stood in awe marvelling the spectacle of a boon working at a station. The inevitable happened one day when a prominent lady on route to Port Elizabeth were horrified when she saw that the signals at the station were changed by a baboon. Fearing for her safety and fellow passengers the incident were reported to the authorities in Cape Town who at first could not believe her story. The system manager and a delegation that consisted of an inspectorate visited the station and Jumper Wide and Jack were dismissed from duty. Again Wide pleaded and fortunately or maybe a case of curiosity forced the system manager to test the ability of Jack. A locomotive driver were given secret instructions and all present waited to see if Jack will past this strenuous test. Each time that the driver blasted a different signal Jack would change the correct signal and points without fail. Jack even looked around in the direction of the oncoming train to make sure that the correct lever and signal were changed. Jack has passed his test with flying colours and were duly employed by the authorities and from that day became known as Jack the Signalman. Bot not only did he get his monthly rations from the government but he also received an employment number.
Around Jumpers cottage Jack also learned to perform other tasks such as removing rubbish and sweeping the kitchen floor and other smaller tasks. He turned out to be also a very good watchman and any intruder were greeted by a fierce guard who could frighten the wits out of every person.
During 1890 Jack got sick and contracted tuberculosis and died, Wide was inconsolable to the loss of his friend as they were inseparable. Jack’s skull is on display in the Albany Museum in Grahamstown and a photographic museum were established at the old Uitenhage Station.