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Book Review
Railway Signalling & Track
Railway Signalling And Track Plans
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Railway Signalling And Track Plans
Author: Bob Essery
Pages: 112
ISBN: 9780711032156

There is little more basic in terms of railway modeling than the accurate portrayal of track formations and the use of the appropriate signaling arrangements — and yet these areas are often those that layouts fall flat on. Whilst this may be excusable in terms of those starting out with a rudimentary layout straight from the box, it is unforgivable in terms of those constructing layouts for exhibition purposes. Whilst there may be differing standards in terms of main lines over which high-speed services can operate at speeds of up to 140 mph and those that pertain on a rural branch line constructed under the terms of the 1896 Light Railway Act the basic principles remain the same: to ensure the safe movement of goods and people from point 'A' to point 'B'.

Author Bob Essery has been studying railroads and modeling them for over 50 years. His knowledge is extensive. Although he focuses on English prototype railways of the steam era, the fundamentals are the same regardless of world location and date. Mr. Essery, a stickler for correct terminology and precise authenticity in modeling, frequently qualifies his philosophy in writing this title. While he recognizes that scale railroading is a hobby, he draws a distinct line in the ballast between what could be called ‘toy trains’ and ‘model railroading’. Perhaps his dogma is best summarized on page 6:

    It was the need to understand the earlier years of railway history that led me into the fascinating hobby of research, which has almost become a separate hobby in its own right.

    For this reason I can never understand why modellers use the term 'modeller's licence', which suggests that they are guessing and cannot be bothered to get it right. In your own home or on a club layout I do not object, but if you take your models to an exhibition, where they can influence others, I think modellers should aim for historical accuracy. In making this statement I recognise that I must exclude the vintage three-rail or tinplate layouts often seen at exhibitions, or those built by youngsters who are starting in the hobby - but at the specialist society exhibitions I would expect to see very high standards.

    The problem is that, if errors are made, others may copy what you have done, and thus the mistakes are multiplied. So how are these mistakes to be avoided? The answer is simple: study the prototype and follow the rules. In my view a modeller who wants to create 'realism in miniature' must begin by understanding the rules that governed both the construction and operation of the full-size railway and follow them. In my experience I have found that when modellers adopt this approach, generally their understanding, interest and enjoyment increases enormously.

It has been said that Americans and British are two people separated by a common language. Any Yanks reading this book will be exposed to an expanded vocabulary! Some terms are obvious, some may challenge you. It’s part of the fun. For instance, in the US the track structure that allows a train to transition from one track to another is called a ‘switch’; so as not to confuse that track formation with the tiny lever used to route power, model railroaders know the track piece as a ‘turnout’ – the proper term for the track piece in Britain. A turnout frog is known as a crossing. Mr. Essery populated this book with many prototype official documents to support his terminology. I would certainly like to visit his archives!

Comparing rail systems and supporting apparatus of the UK with those in the US is very interesting to me. It appears that railroads in England were far more regulated from the beginning than their American cousins. At the dawn of railroading England was an established world economic power. America was always short on capital; the design and construction differences of the two systems is amazing.

Despite the title Railway Signalling And Track Plans, the content is different than might be expected in North America. There are no model railroad track plans as the term “track plans” refers to in American markets. Instead, the track plans are diagrams, illustrations and photographs of actual track formations: switches, junctions, multiple lines, and more. It does not end there. You are introduced to generations of different types of rail, fasteners to secure the rail to crossties (sleepers in British terminology), and other rail components. Not only that, the structure of roadbed is explored and illustrated.

Signaling is extensively covered. Comparing signaling systems of the UK with those in the US is very interesting to me. Not that electric lamp signaling was rare though it seems the UK relied on semaphores as their main signaling hardware far longer than US railroads did.

Signals had to be operated and maintained by people and the author does not spare details about the huts and towers and other structures housing the operators and equipment. Not even little huts used during foggy conditions! Signal boxes in England are interlocking towers in America. England minimized grade crossings yet many roads and paths crossed the track at grade. Even the fences protecting these crossings are detailed. Not only just the fence, also images of the operator’s office. One photo shows the control, a large wheel like that used to steer a ship!

Other topics are:

    • Block systems
    • Bridges
    • clearances
    • Lineside features
    • locomotive head lamp classification indicators
    • Stations and gradients
    • Telegraph poles
    • Trackwork glossary
    • Train Staff and Ticket system
    • Water troughs
    • Yard and switching signaling

Be it signaling hand lamps or coal stoves, Railway Signalling And Track Plans is a wealth of information.

So, you are acquainted with authentic and accurate information on building a railway. What about running it? Mr. Essery includes a chapter covering the history of acts, rules and regulations for administering train operations. He further discusses how to integrate those into operating a model railroad.

With 112 pages Mr. Essery presents this remarkable work through a preface, five sections and two appendices:

      1 Historical Review of the Development of Permanent Way
      and Track Formations

      Permanent way in detail
      Glossary of trackwork terms
      2 Historical Review of the Development of Signalling
      Running signals
      Subsidiary signals
      Colour light signals Telegraph poles
      3 Operating the Railway
      A brief summary of some Requirements that could apply
      to modellers
      Working the line
      Working of single lines
      4 Signal Stations
      Development of signal boxes
      Other signal stations
      5 A Modeller's Viewpoint

    Appendix 1: Summary of Legislation
    Appendix 2: References and Sources

The Visual Book
This title is richly illustrates prototype -- even some of model railroads -- subjects with black and white photos, line art, schematics, diagrams and tables. Color photos adorn both covers. Since the vast majority are of stationary objects the photographs are studio quality. Very few “grab shots”. What may be seen as exposure problems I bet is simple atmospherics: this title is of the steam era -- in England -- and there is a lot of smoke and haze in the air.

Graphics include engineering diagrams, and company directives. In short, this book features excellent illustrations.
With vast experience in model and prototype railroading, the author comprehensively introduces the reader to the subjects of prototype rail track design and signaling. With that he shows how to accurately integrate the subjects into one’s model railroad. Mr. Essery presents this wealth of information with a leavening of modeling dogma. I describe his attention to detail not in the often derisive label of “rivet counting”, instead like that of a historian and reenactor. He teaches us how to be railway modelers, not just create a model railroad.

This book was not written for American audiences and there are no tables to match terminology. I wish there were although railroad modelers of an experienced intermittent level should be able to interpret the jargon accurately. The book also lacks much information about how to wire and connect signaling to a block of track.

All in all I think this is an exceptionally useful book for any modeler or historian of railroads, especially the steam era. Just as the United States and the United Kingdom of two countries separated by language, so our railroads are the same system separated by eras of equipment and terminology. I heartily recommend this book.

Please remember to tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this product here – on Railroad Modeling.
Highs: Highly detailed and supported text. Richly illustrated with photographs and graphics.
Lows: This book was not written for American audiences and there are no tables to match terminology.
Verdict: This is an exceptionally useful book for any modeler or historian of railroads, especially the steam era.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9780711032156
  Suggested Retail: £14.99 $19.98
  PUBLISHED: Apr 07, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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