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JOURNAL 194

Limerick Signalling 1910-2017

OLIVER DOYLE

Today’s Limerick Station dates back to 1838 when the present fine station building was completed and the railway extended from an earlier station 740 yards to the east. While the 1838 layout was adequate for the traffic of the day, it had many alterations and additions in the following 70 years. In the early 1900s, a new layout was planned and developed. A track layout and signalling drawing in colour was prepared by the Signal Engineer, Inchicore, signed A. Gordon and dated 11 August 1910. It is approximately 10 feet long and a copy is held at the National Archives, Kew, Middlesex. This was the copy sent to the Railways Inspecting Officer at the time for approval of the work and is perhaps the finest Irish signalling drawing at Kew. The Inspecting Officer was Lt. Col. Sir Horatio Arthur Yorke – who was, in keeping with tradition, a member of the Corps of Royal Engineer

1910 RE-SIGNALLING

The last total layout change and re-signalling project was that of 1910 in conjunction with Foynes/North Kerry trains ceasing to use the “Check Platform” and running instead directly into the station. Check platforms were where trains stopped specifically for ticket checkers to walk along the outside of the train and check the tickets of passengers on board. The layout change also allowed trains to and from Limerick Junction to operate to/from Platforms 1-4.

Four signal cabins were closed (the former Check and Station cabins, Ennis Junction, Engine Shed, and a small Cork & Limerick Direct Railway box). Foynes Junction Cabin (19 levers with 6 spare) was retained, and two new cabins of different design were built, known as Limerick Platform Cabin (later titled Limerick Station Cabin) and Limerick Check Cabin. The former was of brick construction to window level, while the Check cabin was of all wood construction. Both signal cabins were supplied by the Railway Signal Co., Liverpool. The Platform Cabin had 78 levers and 4 spares.

On 25 October 1931, Killonan Junction cabin closed and the junction track layout was removed, the Ballybrophy and Waterford lines between Killonan and Limerick Check becoming two single lines. After the closure of Foynes Junction cabin on Tuesday, 2 February 1932 (Weekly Circular No. 2278 for week ending Saturday, 6 February 1932), a Westinghouse hand generator was installed to operate the remote electrically-powered points, as the location was too far from the signal cabin to be worked by conventional rodding.

Perhaps the greatest test of the capacity of the 1910 track layout and signalling was in 1949 when the Munster Senior Hurling Final was played and re-played at the GAA Gaelic Grounds on the Ennis Road in Limerick. The Ground had recently been refurbished for £10,000 and the capacity had been increased from 15,000 to 40,000 persons. For the first game, between Tipperary and Cork, on Sunday 29 May, eighteen specials operated, with five direct from Cork, two via Limerick Junction, and three via Croom. No service was offered on the Cork, Bandon & South Coast system, but connections were operated from Youghal to Cork and Fermoy to Mallow. In total 8,997 supporters travelled by train to the game. The result was a draw, 3-10 to 3-10, and the replay was fixed for Sunday 27 June 1949, when only fourteen specials operated, as there was a clash with the Golden Jubilee Rally of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association in Croke Park, Dublin, attended by 80,000. However, the fourteen specials carried 7,501 passengers, with the second Cork special having 1,040 on board. Limerick in 1949 had considerable siding capacity and most of this would have been made available for the empty passenger trains to be stored. However, during the games, trains would have been shunted to areas with water hoses, so that the lavatory water tanks could be filled. In an editorial comment the Limerick Leader was very complimentary of CIÉ’s handling of the events.

Before its closure on 3 June 2017 for the current resignalling, Limerick Check Cabin was the largest of the nine surviving mechanical signal boxes on the Irish Rail system – the others are Cork, Navan, Waterford West, Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Tipperary, Birdhill and Roscrea. The Check cabin originally had 47 levers, with another added soon after opening, but later removed. With 6 levers spare in recent years, there were 41 operational levers.

The Station Cabin had its lever frame replaced by an EnEx panel in 1972[1]. The EnEx panel, unique on Irish Rail, allowed the signalman to set up a route by operating a switch at the start and another at the end of a route and the system would make the desired route.

A distinctive feature of the control between the Station and Check cabins was “slotted working” – a system whereby both signalmen had to pull a signal off before the signal would clear to a proceed aspect. The signal cabins were too close to have Absolute Block Working between them using Double Line instruments. This was perpetuated when the EnEx panel was installed and remained until the closure of the cabins.

2017 RE-SIGNALLING

PLATFORMS

Platforms Nos. 3 and 4 and associated tracks were closed from 23:10 on Monday 29 May, a week before the re-signalling closure, to facilitate the platform works and the moving-out of the turnout for the two platform roads, to thereby allow the platforms to be extended. The opportunity was taken to straighten platform No. 3, which had a loop indented into it to provide a locomotive release for North Kerry line trains before the introduction of the AEC 2600-class railcars in the latter part of the 1950s. New friction buffers were installed on Platforms Nos. 3 and 4 only. The friction buffers are 20 metres in front of the former static buffers. Both platforms were extended by 23 metres from the top of the original ramp to the top of the new ramp. The functional length of the platforms was consequently increased by approximately 3 metres. It is proposed to demolish the former Station Signal cabin, an uninteresting and much-altered structure, to facilitate the extension of Platforms Nos. 1 and 2, and the provision of buffer stop arrangements to comply with modern safety requirements, similar to those on Platform Nos. 3 & 4. The old platforms will be removed completely and the new platforms will be of precast concrete units.

Platform

Former

New

No.

length

length

1

158m

173m Proposed

2

161.5m

177m Proposed

3

195m

198.5m

4

128.5m

130m

RESIGNALLING POSSESSION

Two empty passenger trains, one formed by 2x 3-car ICRs and the other a 5-car ICR, were scheduled to leave Limerick at 22:00 and 22:20 on Sunday 4 June 2017 for Limerick Junction, thereby clearing the station of rolling stock. At 23:00, Limerick Station cabin closed permanently. At 22:45 Signalman Conor McNamara at Limerick Check cabin granted the engineers an absolute possession of Limerick Yard, to Ennis on the Galway line, and to Dromkeen, including the loop, on the Waterford line, thereby ending mechanical signalling in Limerick. At 23:30, Limerick Check Cabin closed permanently. Substitute bus services were provided for the duration of the possession, between Limerick station and Ennis and Limerick Junction respectively. Ennis buses did not serve Sixmilebridge, which had a separate shuttle bus service to and from Limerick.

Special arrangements were in place for the three weeks of the closure to stable trains overnight at the platforms at Limerick Junction, including at Platform 1 on the loop track. Portable tail lights had to be fitted to each train and security staff was present.

 

POINTS AND SIGNALS

All points in Limerick are now operated by Clamp Lock point machines. Up to September 2016, six points had been worked by Westinghouse 63 machines, five by mechanical rodding from the Check cabin, and the remainder by electro-pneumatic mechanisms with electric detection. From September 2016, there was a programme to convert all the points to Clamp Lock operation in anticipation of the Re-signalling scheme.

Apart from three signals on the Galway line which remain of the filament lamp type, all signals are new LED type. It is possible to signal laden passenger trains into any of the four platforms, when they are occupied, using signal numbers LK468 & LK472(S), these being the only directional position-light shunt signals in Limerick which can display a proceed aspect for this purpose. Both signals are fitted with a yellow ‘CALL ON’ plate, differentiating them from all other conventional directional position-light shunt signals. The use of conventional track circuits has been dispensed with on all lines controlled from Limerick ECP and these are now equipped with axle counters throughout.

 

ELECTRONIC CONTROL POINT

At 21:06 on Sunday 25 June the new Limerick Electronic Control Point (ECP) was commissioned and all lines which were previously controlled from either Limerick Check or Limerick Station Signal Cabins came under the control of the new ECP. This ECP is of the PC-ECP type and is located in the former Road Freight Building at Roxboro Road part of the Limerick railway complex. The signalling prefix for the new system is LK.

As of 25 June, CAWS did not cover the Limerick station area and the Ennis line, terminating inbound on the Limerick side of signal LK482, and commencing outbound at LK483. From 23 July, CAWS was extended to the station area and the Ennis line, ending after XE006DD outward and commencing inbound at LK424.

In conclusion I wish to thank Anthony Gray, Kevin Walker, Tashev Veselin and Derek Robinson for their assistance.


[1] Signal Box Register, Volume 9: Ireland & Isle Of Man, published by the Signalling Record Society in 2015, states that the EnEx panel was later replaced by a one control switch system, OCS, for reasons of reliability. This is not correct. The original push buttons on the EnEx panel became unreliable and were replaced by three-position switches, similar to those used on OCS panels, but the Limerick installation continued to function as an EnEx panel to the end. Ed.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: May 17, 2018 .

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