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TITLE
Staff of Inverness Signal Box, 1997
EXTERNAL ID
NRM_NBNW_KL_DS080540
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
DATE OF IMAGE
May 1997
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Chris Hogg
SOURCE
National Railway Museum, York
ASSET ID
20026
KEYWORDS
railway
railways
Staff of Inverness Signal Box, 1997

Members of Railtrack (now Network Rail) signalling team were photographed in May 1997 in the Inverness Signal Box. The box controls the Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) signalling for both the Far North line and Kyle line. It also controls part of the signalling route for the Highland main line and the line to Aberdeen.

Before RETB the Far North line, a long, remote single-track line between Inverness, Wick and Thurso, was controlled by traditional electric token instruments at each station, but in January 1978 the signal telegraph pole route was brought down by bad weather over more than 64 km (40 miles) of track. The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of restoring the links between the instruments was by radio, so each machine was fitted with an external controller containing a unique microprocessor code so that the effect of a dedicated link to the machine at the other end of its section was maintained. The manual issue of the tokens continued as before. The next step was to run an experiment with the instruments moved from staffed signal boxes to the cabs of trains. The line selected for this trial was the line from Dingwall westwards to Kyle of Lochalsh. The contract was placed with Westinghouse and the system was brought into use on 28 October 1984, with the control equipment situated at Dingwall. Over the next four years, control was transferred to Inverness and the Wick and Thurso line was included in the scheme. This closed the signal boxes along the lines and no more manual tokens were issued to the drivers.

The RETB works with the train driver reporting their arrival at the token exchange point, relaying their position to the signaller by radio, and requests the token for the next section of line ahead. If the signaller is in a position to do so, they will issue the electronic token applicable to the section ahead. Simultaneously, the driver must operate a button on apparatus in the train cab to receive the token. The token is then transmitted to the train by radio. The computer controlling the system prevents conflicting movements.

In the same way as with the traditional system, when a physical token with the name of the section engraved on it would be carried in the cab, the electronic token is received and displayed by name on the train equipment. This token is the authority to occupy the single line, and it cannot be removed from the train until the driver releases it. After receiving the token, the driver is then given verbal permission to pass the stop board and enter that section; the stop board is used instead of signals and therefore needs no electrical supply. The fixed distant board on the approach has a single permanent Automatic Warning System (AWS) inductor which gives a warning in the cab regardless of the signal box instruction and has to be cancelled when passed. The whole line can be operated by just one or two signallers and needs very little infrastructure other than the track itself, making it very cost-effective.

Background
Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.

'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.

We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:

Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
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Staff of Inverness Signal Box, 1997

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

1990s

railway; railways

National Railway Museum, York

North by Northwest - The Kyle Line

Members of Railtrack (now Network Rail) signalling team were photographed in May 1997 in the Inverness Signal Box. The box controls the Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) signalling for both the Far North line and Kyle line. It also controls part of the signalling route for the Highland main line and the line to Aberdeen.<br /> <br /> Before RETB the Far North line, a long, remote single-track line between Inverness, Wick and Thurso, was controlled by traditional electric token instruments at each station, but in January 1978 the signal telegraph pole route was brought down by bad weather over more than 64 km (40 miles) of track. The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of restoring the links between the instruments was by radio, so each machine was fitted with an external controller containing a unique microprocessor code so that the effect of a dedicated link to the machine at the other end of its section was maintained. The manual issue of the tokens continued as before. The next step was to run an experiment with the instruments moved from staffed signal boxes to the cabs of trains. The line selected for this trial was the line from Dingwall westwards to Kyle of Lochalsh. The contract was placed with Westinghouse and the system was brought into use on 28 October 1984, with the control equipment situated at Dingwall. Over the next four years, control was transferred to Inverness and the Wick and Thurso line was included in the scheme. This closed the signal boxes along the lines and no more manual tokens were issued to the drivers. <br /> <br /> The RETB works with the train driver reporting their arrival at the token exchange point, relaying their position to the signaller by radio, and requests the token for the next section of line ahead. If the signaller is in a position to do so, they will issue the electronic token applicable to the section ahead. Simultaneously, the driver must operate a button on apparatus in the train cab to receive the token. The token is then transmitted to the train by radio. The computer controlling the system prevents conflicting movements.<br /> <br /> In the same way as with the traditional system, when a physical token with the name of the section engraved on it would be carried in the cab, the electronic token is received and displayed by name on the train equipment. This token is the authority to occupy the single line, and it cannot be removed from the train until the driver releases it. After receiving the token, the driver is then given verbal permission to pass the stop board and enter that section; the stop board is used instead of signals and therefore needs no electrical supply. The fixed distant board on the approach has a single permanent Automatic Warning System (AWS) inductor which gives a warning in the cab regardless of the signal box instruction and has to be cancelled when passed. The whole line can be operated by just one or two signallers and needs very little infrastructure other than the track itself, making it very cost-effective.<br /> <br /> Background<br /> Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.<br /> <br /> 'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.<br /> <br /> We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:<br /> <br /> Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.