Block Bell Codes - SignallingWA

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Block Bell Codes

Block Working in WA

What were Bell Codes?
Bell Codes were not the same as the Morse Code used in Telegraphy and Telephony which consisted of series of 'short and long' buzzes or rings. Bell codes used by the Western Australian Government Railways (W. A. G. R.
) consisted of a series of 'Beats' separated by a pause of time. An aubible example is given at the bottom of this page.

Why were they used?

Signalmen and other staff at stations and sidings, used Bell Codes to speedily transmit pre-determined messages from one location to another that were both brief and descriptive. They were given and received in a prescribed way according to the Book of Rules and Regulations (see the table below), and gave the required train working information as well as lessening any unnecessary 'banter' - and therefore distraction, between the signalmen and other staff.

Where were they located?
In Signal Boxes, Block Bells and Plungers, (if not fitted into block instruments), could be located in almost any place, but mostly they were situated on the long shelf (known as the 'Instrument Shelf') over the levers. When there were many levers, a duplicate set of plungers were provided that were connected in 'series' so that either plunger could send a Bell Code.
At stations where there was a 'Station Frame' (outdoor lever frame), the Staff Intruments were located away from the weather in a room in the station buildings and
at remote stations or crossing loops, Electric Staff huts housed the instruments and the block bells were mounted on brackets on an inside wall near the Staff instrument.


How did they work?

Bell Codes were sent by the pressing 'in' of a plunger fitted into its own wooden case, or fitted into the Winter's and Dowson's Block instruments (or a 'tapper key' on single line Staff Instruments). Bell Codes were received on Block Bell units. For each press of the plunger or key, the Bell at the remote location would give one ring.
Note: Some models of early W. A. G. R. Instrument Shelf Block Bells show evidence of their being fitted with 'tapper keys' similar to those used in English Signal Cabins.

When there was more than one Block Bell, how did a Signalman know which one rang?
There were several shapes of Block Bells, each giving its own tone. In most signal boxes, there would only be two Block Bells, and they were set up in such a fashion in each signal box so that the same shape / tone of the bell would indicate the direction of the signal being sent. An example of this, is that that on the Perth to Fremantle line, each signal cabin had the 'round' bell on the 'Up' (Fremantle end) of shelf over the levers, and all of the 'oval' shaped bells were positioned on the 'Down' (Perth end) of each signal cabin. This aided Signalmen whenever they worked in the various signal cabins along the line, and it did not matter whether the signal cabin was orientated differently to its neighbour. The Bells usually had a letter stamped inside to denote the tone of bell they were. The shape of the bells on the South West (S. W. R.) line differed from the Eastern (E. R.) line bells by being a 'conical' (Up End) and a 'cylindical' (Down End) shape as can be seen here in this photo of the bells fitted to the Winters Block instrument at Cannington.

Note: Bell Codes shown with an * indicate that those signals are NOT preceeded by the Call Attention signal.

Double Line Working - Winters; Dowson's and Lock and Block instruments

Bell Code

Beats on Bell

How to be given

Call Attention

1

1

Is Line Clear for...

   

(a) Express Passenger Train?
     Through Passenger Train?
     Relief Train?

4

4 Consecutively

(b) Ordinary Passenger Train?
     Mixed Train?

4

3 pause 1

(c) Fast Goods Train?
     Livestock Train?
     Perishable Train?

5

5 Consecutively

(d) Empty Coach Train?

5

2 pause 2 pause 1

(e) Through Goods Train?
     Through Ballast Train?

5

4 pause 1

(f) Shunting Goods Train?

3

3 Consecutively

(g) Locomotive and Brakevan?

4

1 pause 3

(h) Light Engine or Light Engines coupled together?

5

2 pause 3

(i) Ballast Train requiring to stop in section?
    Rail Motor Car?
    Self Propelled Per Way Appliance?

5

1 pause 2 pause 2

Train Departure

*2

2 Consecutively

Train Waiting

7

3 pause 4

Bank engine in rear of train

*4

2 pause 2

Assisting engine in front or two trains coupled

*6

2 pause 2 pause 2

Train arrival, or obstruction removed

3

2 pause 1

Obstruction - Danger

*6

6 Consecutively

Blocking Back - INSIDE Home signal

6

2 pause 4

Blocking Back - OUTSIDE Home signal

6

3 pause 3

Section Cear but Station or Junction Blocked

*13

3 pause 5 pause 5

Stop and Examine Train

*7

7 Consecutively

Cancelling "Is Line Clear?" or "Train Departure" signal

8

3 pause 5

Last Train Signalled Incorrectly described

8

5 pause 3

Train Passed without Tail Disc or Lights

*9

9 consecutively to the BOX IN         ADVANCE;
4 pause 5 to the BOX IN     REAR.

Train Divided

*10

5 pause 5

Shunt train for following train to pass

*11

1 pause 5 pause 5

Vehicles running away on right line

*14

4 pause 5 pause 5

Vehicles running away on wrong line

*12

2 pause 5 pause 5

Cancel bank engine in rear of train

12

8 pause 2 pause 2

Speak on Telephone

*7

4 pause 2 pause 1

Opening of signal-box

15

5 pause 5 pause 5

Closing of signal-box

17

7 pause 5 pause 5

Testing Bells

16

16 consecutively

Testing Controlled Signals

20

5 pause 5 pause 5 pause 5

Special Attention

12

4 pause 4 pause 4

Cancel Back Lock

9

4 pause 1 pause 4

Release Switch

6

1 pause 4 pause 1

 
 

Single Line Working - Electric Staff - Large and Miniature types

Bell Codes additional to the above, used specifically for Electric Staff Working

Bell Code

Beats on Bell

How to be given

Release Staff for Shunting

7

5 pause 2

Shunting completed - staff replaced

7

2 pause 5

Shunting in rear of departing train

6

5 pause 1

Shunting in rear of departing train completed

6

1 pause 5

Vehicles running away

*12

2 pause 5 pause 5

Engine of last train broken down in section

6

2 pause 1 pause 2 pause 1

Relief engine to remove breakdon in section

12

4 pause 2 pause 4 pause 2

Return Bank Engine

*9

2 pause 3 pause 4

Bank Engine returned with key

9

4 pause 1 pause 4

Cancel Bank Engine in Rear of Train

12

8 pause 2 pause 2

Testing Instruments and bells

16

16 consecutively

Transference of staffs by Maintainer

16

4 pause 4 pause 4 pause 4

 
Winters Block working - a simulation set in the Maddington Signal Box Circa 1969

This audio file is an example of Winters Block working on the South West Railway - (suburban section. It is a simulation set in the Maddington Signal Box Circa 1969 that was created, performed and recorded by Ric Edwards (speaking and playing the part of the Maddington Signalman) and C J E French in the preserved Claremont Signal Cabin using genuine Winters Instruments during 2003.

 
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