1.9.2 Single-track minders
You should read through this subsection, including the activities at the end, and then watch the video ‘Single-track minders’ in the parts indicated by the activities. The video lasts about 25 minutes. At certain points you will be asked to stop the video and complete an activity.
In the 1960s, many of the UK’s passenger and freight railway services were closed down as part of an economic re-evaluation of the railway system. Some lines were dismantled and forgotten, but others attracted railway enthusiasts and preservationists determined to re-open lines and run public passenger services using the old steam locomotives and rolling stock.
There are now a number of these smaller railway companies operating in the UK. They provide an attraction for the public while also functioning as working museums. As a part of the growing leisure and heritage industries, these companies cannot operate without skilled staff knowledgeable about railway practices and procedures. But neither can they afford to ignore the financial side of their business.
Although much of the work is done by volunteers, the railway companies must still operate profitably. Since their services are non-essential in the sense that the railways do not usually carry freight or provide regular passenger services for commuters, they must rely on visitors. Visitors are unlikely to keep coming back for the same train ride, however, so the companies must provide a range of different attractions, such as putting on trains for parties or special occasions and running special events for children during school holidays or at Christmas.
For the people running the railway all this adds up to a demand for flexible operations. The railway must be able to vary its services according to the time of year, to schedule extra trains for special events, and to cope with a continuous programme of maintenance and restoration work. All this, as well as ensuring safety for the travelling public and the railway staff themselves.
The video looks at one such small railway – the Severn Valley Railway – which runs almost 25 kilometres (nearly 16 miles) between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth in the West Midlands of England. Most of the journey is along a single-track line. At busy times, two or more trains may be running in opposite directions. To minimise the risk of a head-on collision, therefore, operating timetables and signalling procedures must be designed carefully.
In the video, you will see how distance-time graphs are used to represent and plan the movement of trains up and down the single-track line. Timetables can then be constructed and checked using these graphs.