Page 1 of 1

Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 9:41 am
by the green mile
The 'Turning the TPO' thread has inadvertently wandered into the subject of banking. Guilty M'lud!

I believe that the only banking that would have taken place in my patch during my career would have been the Lickey. That is stretching it a bit as I never had much involvement beyond Worcester, except when the class 37 bankers derailed when crossing over at the top around 1980. As such, my practical experience of banking procedures is extremely limited. I can only remember experiencing it once when I was a youngster. That would have been at Evershot on a through service to Weymouth with a 4-6-0 at the head, which we would have joined at Horfield. I recall dropping the window by the leather strap in the rearmost vestibule and leaning out to watch the banker buffer up. A vague memory but probably a 41xx class prairie tank. There followed a series of whistles (early digital communication?) followed by the banker opening up and me falling over due to the sudden jolt. It seemed such a time consuming process. Was time allowed in the schedule for this?

We had a number of regular banking operations in the Bristol area. There was Fishponds (or Whitehall) bank between Barrow Road and Fishponds; and Filton bank between Stapleton Road and was it Horfield or Filton? A bit further afield we had heavy up coal trains being piloted through the Severn Tunnel to Pilning then banked up to Patchway. What was the thinking there? Were there any others? Did it happen through Devonshire Tunnel on the S&D or was assistance provided by piloting?

Presumably there was a standardised form of whistle codes but I have never seen an operating notice describing these. How was the requirement for a banker determined? Was it down to the power classification of the train loco versus the trailing load or was it down to the driver's judgement to 'give it a go' or to whistle up for assistance as he approached the box?

Quite a few gaps in my knowledge here which I'm sure some of you can fill.

Roy

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 11:34 am
by Robin Summerhill
Given that nobody who ever worked on steam traction is likely to be left in railway service (for example someone who joined the railway aged 15 in 1968 would be 67 this year), a lot of this is going back beyond living memory. However, a few things that I was told, or read in books, or had witnessed myself, appear below.

Generally speaking, what was banked and what was not depended on the weight of the train (this would have been specified in the notes in the WTT or elsewhere), and the discretion of the driver. If the train was under the minimum weight for a banker it wouldn’t be banked except in exceptional circumstances that would be arranged locally on the spot (eg a poorly steaming engine); if it exceeded the minimum weight it would generally be up to the driver if he took assistance or not – of course, if he were to get it wrong there may well be a stand up meeting without tea and biscuits coming...

In addition to Fishponds, Filton and Severn tunnel banking, I have read and heard tales of an Avonmouth yard shunter banking freight trains up to Clifton Down. I may have heard of banking through Hallen but I can’t remember for certain, and I am not sure about the gradient going that way.

There was a banker stationed at Brimscombe to bank freights up to Sapperton tunnel (there was a sub-shed at Brimscombe for this purpose). I have seen a 41xx tank sitting there for that purpose c.1964.

As regards the S&D, most passenger trains, and virtually all of them post-September 1962, were well under the minimum load for bankers. Freights were banked to Combe Down, and also from Radstock to Masbury. Logically the same would have applied going north from Evercreech to Masbury but again I don’t know for certain.

As far as I know, in steam days the only place where taking a banker was compulsory was at Bromsgrove, and photographs exist of three or four coach trains being banked up there. My father always held that this was more a safety measure to prevent any runaways through broken couplings. This sounds plausible but whether it is true or not is another matter.

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 1:47 pm
by railwest
>>>As regards the S&D, most passenger trains, and virtually all of them post-September 1962, were well under the minimum load for bankers

And if not, they would have had an assisting engine on the front not the rear anyway.

>>>>Freights were banked to Combe Down, and also from Radstock to Masbury. Logically the same would have applied going north from Evercreech to Masbury but again I don’t know for certain.

There were certainly procedures laid down for banking Up freight trains from Evercreech to Masbury, but I don't know to what extent this happened compared with the Down trains.

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 2:20 pm
by the green mile
Robin Summerhill wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:34 am

As far as I know, in steam days the only place where taking a banker was compulsory was at Bromsgrove, and photographs exist of three or four coach trains being banked up there. My father always held that this was more a safety measure to prevent any runaways through broken couplings. This sounds plausible but whether it is true or not is another matter.
Something I never noticed on the Lickey was the presence of catch points with a substantial sand drag like we had on Filton Bank. There was definitely a sand drag at the top on the south end of the crossover which included a short length of track between the up and down lines. This allowed the bankers to sit clear of the main lines until they could be given a path to come back down. That's where the pair of 37's came off. We managed to pull them back on with a set of pulleys known as the Kelbus Gear. One end was attached to the track with rail clamps and the other end to the drawhook of the rescuing loco via pulleys giving a 6 to 1 pull ratio on the casualty.

Roy

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 7:07 pm
by buxton4472
I was just a year or so too young to see Big Bertha banking on the Lickey but remember quite well ascending the bank with two or three panniers on the rear. This was always the case with up express trains but I also remember in around 1962 marvelling at the relative ease with which a Peak took a similar load up the Lickey with no banker and breasting the summit at around 30 mph. While I think of it, how did trains from Avonmouth via Kingswood Jcn fare regarding a banker to Fishponds. Was a banker used and was it put on at Ashley Hill Jcn?

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 8:22 pm
by buxton4472
I have just found an addendum pasted into my battered old LMS Sectional Appendix 1937 (Midland Division) which reads as follows :
"Engine Shed Sidings - Banking of Passenger Trains. Indicators are provided positioned outside the Up Main Line at 11, 12, 13 and 14 coach lengths in advance of the Up Main Starting signal and the indicators are numbered accordingly. Drivers of passenger trains requiring assistance must bring their engines to a stand opposite the board concerned until the assisting engine has joined the train"
There is no mention of whistle codes for trains requiring a banker when passing either Bristol East or Engine Shed Sidings boxes.

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Sat May 02, 2020 2:03 pm
by buxton4472
A bit further afield we had heavy up coal trains being piloted through the Severn Tunnel to Pilning then banked up to Patchway. What was the thinking there?
My guess is that as there was a very significant downward grade to well under the Severn, it could have been difficult if not plain dangerous to maintain contact by the banker with the train until the upward grade within the tunnel. I know there was a down loop at Pilning. If there was also an up loop, up freights could lay up there whilst the pilot loco detached and ran round to the rear of the train, assuming of course that the track layout and signalling at Pilning allowed such a manoeuvre. Has anyone got a GWR-era or early BR(WR) sectional appendix which might give clues?

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Sat May 02, 2020 7:19 pm
by the green mile
I agree, that seems totally logical when descending into the Tunnel But from a line occupancy point of view, I wonder if it might not have been more expedient to leave the pilot loco on the front until Stoke Gifford, always assuming it was heading east and not south of course. Two locos together struggling up through the single bore Patchway Tunnel might have been rather unpleasant for the crews.

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Sun May 03, 2020 9:47 am
by buxton4472
It also occurred to me that non-fitted heavy coal trains would have benefited from the extra braking capability provided by the pilot loco on the descent into the tunnel. I wonder also whether the pilot loco from STJ was not the same loco that banked to Patchway.
I have just spent a few minutes perusing a winter Bristol District 1960/61 WTT. All up freights leaving STJ (with the exception of fully fitted class 4 trains) show the attachment of an assisting engine ('AE' in timing column) at STJ. All such trains also called at Pilning Junction for an average of 5 minutes or so and this would correspond to the detaching of said 'helper'. In the reverse direction ALL down freights called at Pilning High Level for 10 minutes for what were shown in the WTT somewhat vaguely as 'Severn Tunnel Purposes'. (The non-fitted freights also had brakes pinned down at Patchway Stop Board (I think this was on the split-level section of track before Patchway tunnel). 'Severn Tunnel Purposes' could have included checking for hot-boxes (wouldn't want any incidents in the tunnel) but it could have also included the addition of a pilot loco, especially as the pilots from up freights had to get back to STJ and with so many freights running at that time line occupancy would have been at a premium. Being a signalman at the Pilning boxes at the time must have been a fairly physically and mentally demanding job!

Re: Banking in the Bristol Area

Posted: Mon May 04, 2020 8:00 am
by the green mile
I had another look at Terry Nicholls' video again yesterday. There are a few sections covering the workings between the Severn Tunnel and Patchway including references to freights being piloted and banked. The narrator states that at Pilning the pilot loco comes off and runs round to become the banker. He then refers to the banker running light back to STJ. However, a bit later he refers to the banker running back from Patchway to Pilning. Maybe the intention was to say 'towards' Pilning (en-route to STJ) or maybe if there was another train waiting to be banked it would go straight to the back with the pilot loco going back through the hole.

In all the sequences, the banker/pilot loco was a 41xx Prairie tank.

I will watch it again to see if I an pin it down further but maybe the whole process wasn't as black and white as we assume. Is there anyone still out there with first hand knowledge?

One thing is for sure. as you mentioned B, it must have been a challenge being the signalman at Pilning.

Roy