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Whistle Codes

Discussion in 'Railway Operations M.I.C' started by ruddingtonrsh56, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Member

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    A google search has drawn a blank, so I wondered whether NP could help!

    What, if any, official whistle codes were there in steam days, and are there any that are still in use in preservation today? Are there any that some railways make use of and others don't?
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Ours are defined in the rule book, which is basically the 1950 BR rulebook, or by other local instructions:
    • One whistle is a warning, and used before starting any move; and when entering a station in which another train is standing on an adjacent track (essentially a warning to anyone who might be "in between" coupling to be cautious before emerging etc); also used at certain defined points on the line, primarily whistle boards on the approach to crossings, and entering / leaving the tunnel.
    • One long whistle - when authorised to pass a signal at danger.
    • Two whistles to indicate to a signalman or shunter that a move has stopped clear of any points.
    • Two crow whistles - when an engine is assisting, rear engine gives two crow whistles to front engine; reply from front engine before starting.
    • Three or more pop whistles is a signal to the guard that braking assistance is needed (primarily used on unfitted trains). Also used for double heading if either driver needs to signal to the other that they need to stop.
    • Series of urgent pop whistles - used if people are line side and don't acknowledge an initial warning whistle.
    Tom
     
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  3. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    There were also certain whistle codes that had to be used approaching junctions to indicate the trains destination, eg for Weston and if you wanted to go to the Excursion platforms at Locking Road
     
  4. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Member

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    Thanks, very good to know. Crow whistles being the -- - -- - -- type, correct?
     
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  5. Wenlock

    Wenlock Well-Known Member Friend

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    Apart from whistle codes for use by drivers, there are of course whistle codes used by shunters (nowadays mainly replaced by radios). The codes current in 1950 were changed I believe in the 1972 Rulebook. Some railways may still be using the older codes.
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Cock-a-doodle-do
    Apart from those Tom has given, which are listed in the rulebook. Table Z of the Sectional appendix listed many more. Here is an example from the LNER N.E Area Sectional Appendix. I've printed off a couple of sample pages; there are 75 pages in the copy I have. All part of a drivers route knowledge!
     

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  7. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    This can be a potential problem in some cases. I think Tom, working to the 1950 rulebook will expect three blasts on the whistle to stop. Me, working on the NYMR rulebook will interpret that as set back. There are many volunteers who work on one or more railways and have to be on their toes as to how the signal is interpreted. Fortunately, you are unlikely to get a stop signal if you are stationary, although you could, in an emergency. Another one is hand signals from a moving train. In the 1950 rulebook, an arm moved up and down means stop. In the 1972 edition it means slow down and stop is an arm held out horizontally, palm facing the driver.
     
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  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes, it is in our rule book (one for go ahead, two to set back, three to stop, four to ease up). I can't remember ever hearing them though; I think any situation where you couldn't see the shunter we would arrange one or more people to relay the signals; or - these days - use a radio.

    The meanings of those ("go ahead"; "set back") are quite interesting; they only really make sense in the context of being coupled to a train at one end of the loco. Presumably the logic is that if you are using audible shunting signals, it is because you can't reliably see the shunter, and therefore the normal signals of "come towards [the shunter]" or "move away [from the shunter]" become meaningless.

    Tom
     
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  9. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Go agead and set back are still in the modern rule book and a question I often ask is 'what do they mean?' For example, you have a loco coupled to some wagons at the smokebox end. What does 'set back mean?' Now turn the loco around so its tender/bunker is coupled to the wagons. Then, the shunter is at the far end of the wagons and again, the shunter is now in front of the loco, perhaps having changed a set of points. Audible signals are in regular use for MU operations, again labelled 'go ahead' and 'set back'. In this case, go ahead is quite obvious and tells the driver to set off going in the direction he is facing. Set back means go in the opposite direction. In the end, it all comes down to coming to a clear understanding as to what the move will be.
     
  10. Ploughman

    Ploughman Part of the furniture

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    There as an incident on a BR Relay site a number of years back when a loco was whistle signalled to move within the worksite.
    The Driver obeyed the signals as given but stilll went off the end of the track and derailed.
    The Drivers explanation, When I am in this cab Move Forward is this way. If I am in the other cab, Move Forward is that way.

    The Moral - Make sure you come to an understanding as to what is required and how.
     
  11. torgormaig

    torgormaig Part of the furniture Friend

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    The meaning should be quite simple. There is (should be) only one person giving instructions during a shunting operation, namely the shunter. The instruction to go ahead means "go away from me". Likewise set back means "come back towards me". And stop (or "red flag" as my Aussie pal insists on saying) means Stop. Simples. It all relates to the position of the shunter who is the man giving instructions. It is irrelevant which wat the loco is facing.

    Peter
     
  12. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    I was always taught these as being 'move away' and 'come towards' - am I wrong?
     
  13. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member

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    I have only had one ocasion when set back was misinterpreted . Basically set back is a propeelling instruction and move away a hauling instruction.

    I did have one strange incident. Having given the RA and the train was leaving the station sudenly came to a halt. The fireman came back to enquire what was wrong which confused me os everything was OK. It transpired that a party of beaters was being controlled by the game keeper by whistle and it was the game keepers whistle the driver had responded to
     
  14. 240P15

    240P15 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a lot for this information Tom! Very interesting:)

    A bit off topic but, If I recall it correctly in france Three long whistles meant emergency stop

    Knut
     
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  15. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    So, which is which, though?
    Indeed, it should be quite simple and, for the most part it is. However, taking your interpretation of 'go ahead' meaning go away from me, if a loco is to haul a rake out of some sidings and the points in front (say for a loop) are set wrongly and the shunter goes to them so set the road before giving any signal, what would he give to the driver? I would give two (go ahead) but you are saying it is come towards me (set back).
    It's a good job they are rarely used.
     
  16. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    Sorry - poorly written post!

    I was always taught that one whistle meant "move away" (from the person giving the signal) and two whistles meant "come towards" (the person giving the signal).

    The BR 60s rulebook has 'go ahead' and 'set back', but the current IWSR one has 'move towards' or 'move away' - I've no idea when it changed
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    So, 'go ahead' means move away and 'set back' means come towards. Whether it is one, two or three whisltes will depend on which rule book you are following. The ISWR have clearly tried to clarify things with their version.
     
  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Where I am struggling in this discussion is the context of why you would be using whistle signals, which is most likely if you can't see the shunter - at which point it is difficult to use meanings of the form "come towards [me]" or "move away [from me]".

    For example, suppose you are shunting in clear daylight, and you can see the shunter (or shunters assistant who is relaying signals). The shunter (or assistant) gives hand signals that have the accepted meaning of "come towards" or "move away" - everything is very clear. Similarly, do the same thing at night and the signals are replaced by lamps, but there are still clear meanings of come towards or move away from the lamp.

    Now do the same thing in thick fog, in which you have lost sight of the shunter. Hand signals and lamps don't work (because they can't be seen), so you revert to using whistle codes. But at that point, the driver no longer knows the location of the shunter - so "come towards" or "move away" from the shunter becomes ambiguous - how can you come towards a point that you don't know whether is in front or behind you? That was the situation that in my understanding led to the change of terminology to "go ahead" or "set back" in the rule book: it is there for a situation in which you do not know the location of the shunter relative to yourself.

    There is another scenario where I can see a big difference between doing things in line of sight of a shunter or not makes a difference. Suppose you are a shunter controlling a movement that goes past your position. You start off by signalling "come towards"; the loco starts to move and as it goes past your position, you turn to maintain eye contact with the driver but change your signal to "move away". That is perfectly comprehensible on the footplate and the driver maintains a smooth movement all in one direction. Now do that with a whistle in thick fog: if you changed your whistle code from a single whistle to double whistles midway through the move, the driver would stop and change direction ...

    In our little world of heritage line operations, we are generally only shunting in very small situations, in which it is fairly easy to come to an understanding of what moves are required. We often have radios available that weren't historically available. So in practice, I think it would be rare to be in that situation. In days past though, shunting a large goods yard in thick fog must have been a relatively common occurrence, hence the existence of those audible codes in the rule book. (There were also shunting bells in some goods yards - we have one at Horsted Keynes).

    Tom
     
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  19. torgormaig

    torgormaig Part of the furniture Friend

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    I agree Tom. I find it hard to envisage a situation where shunting by whistles would occur these days. For a start most poeples current rules books correctly state that if the driver looses sight of the shunter he must stop unless radios are in use, so why would you use a whistle when hand signals will do. If radio shunting is being used a continious commentry is required, but if using a whistle a continious whistle wouldn't work.

    How does the HK shunting bell work? Is it just to warn staff that shunting about to take place or is it to get the shunter to contact the signal box?

    Peter
     
  20. Wenlock

    Wenlock Well-Known Member Friend

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    Although I was only in the offices at Wimbledon, I do recall that there was a shunting gong at Wimbledon West
    Yard. The headshunt there went around the bend of the a diverging line. So a shunt would be sent out of the yard by a gong, stopped by the gong, then called back in by the gong after resetting the points. Once back in sight of the shunter they reverted to visual,signals.

    During my ten years at Hoo Jn, I only recall the shunters using whistle signals on one occasion. To complete a shunt started before the fog got too bad, once the shunt had been put away everyone went into to the cabin to drink tea and await better visibility.
     
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