The Branch Line Society


Signet Solutions (Derby RTC)
Sunday 4th September 2016


Derby Railway Technical Centre is now host to many railway and non-railway businesses. Signet Solutions occupy a small part of the site and provide training in signalling technology to a wide range of companies in the UK railway industry and from abroad. Eleven members walked from Derby station to meet our friend Major Ian Hughes of Green Dragon Rail for a second visit to Signet's facilities. BLN 1245.2082 has a report on the first. After the customary refreshment, the tour proceeded round the rooms devoted to different generations of signalling technology. A training weekend for heritage railways staff and volunteers was in progress.

The first room contained the entrance-exit panel from BR's first (1985) Solid State Interlocking (SSI) -computer based rather than relays, at Leamington Spa. SSIs were originally interfaced to a panel [above: Andrew Harris]as well as the now more common workstation screens. The interlocking cubicle (an equipment rack 19" tall) was next to the panel and course delegates can be trained to deal with simulated faults generated from a laptop plugged into the system. The Leamington installation was replaced after 20 years by updated WestCAD interlockings controlling a bigger area - a BLS party visited the workstation based control room there on 5 Dec 2015 (in August 2016 control was transferred to the West Midlands SCC).

A bank of ex-BR relays dating from 1998.
[Andrew Harris]

There were also several rooms containing relay interlocking technology with facilities for introducing faults for trainees to find and fix. This included equipment that would normally be located in a central relay room, at level crossings and in lineside location cabinets.

Another room had the heavier trackside hardware that technicians would need to work with - including examples of point motors, signals and Train Protection & Warning System transmitters. It was interesting to learn that there is no reflector behind the bulb in a signal head to prevent sunlight giving a false aspect. Having mastered faultfinding in the warm dry training room, trainees would find the real trackside world more challenging. There are manual signal box instruments and equipment, mostly for the heritage railway sector.

The inside of a point motor.
[Andrew Harris]

Outside, the group was shown a mechanical lever frame connected to a facing point with detection slides to confirm the point blades had moved as intended before the associated signal could clear. Ian had to leave us to do a teaching session, so the tour ended with a look (from the outside) at some of the other buildings at the technical centre. A donation was made to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity as a 'thank you' to Signet and Green Dragon for a very interesting and enjoyable visit.