Signalling, Electronic Interlocking system completed at Palakkad station

Railway personnel will remember Neale’s Ball Token instrument system with a twinge of nostalgia

Palakkad: Operational efficiency of Palakkad Railway Junction, which functions as a gateway to Kerala, has improved with the completion of yard remodelling and other modernisation works. The electronic interlocking system, which will replace the prevailing route relay interlocking system, was completed on Saturday.

The station now has direct access to platform from its main entry. Practically, it will be an additional platform that can connect trains bound for southern Tamil Nadu via Pollachi. The signalling system for train movement in Palakkad Junction and Palakkad Town stations has been modernised.

The ‘token’ system of signalling in this section has been replaced with track circuiting-based signalling system. Now, the station master can receive or dispatch trains through fully computerised visual display units.

Track length of platforms one and two has been increased from 650 metres to 715 metres to receive long rake trains, especially goods trains. The newly built direct entry platform with ramp facility will be 600 metres long, capable of accommodating 26-coach trains. The length of track number 10, used for loading and unloading goods, was increased to release 42 wagons simultaneously, instead of the prevailing 32 wagons.

The modernisation would help extend trains plying on the Palakkad-Pollachi section to the Palakkad Junction station from the Town station.

Neale’s Ball token instrument chugs into past now!

Neale’s Ball Token instrument system, a proven safety mechanism used by Railways for signalling trains, has become history.

The last of the instrument used in the State in Palakkad railway division has been replaced with the modern electronic track circuiting-based signalling system installed between Palakkad Junction and Palakkad Town stations.

The last train service to be signalled with this system was Train 16343 Thiruvananthapuram– Palakkad Town Amritha Express, which left Thiruvananthapuram Central on Wednesday and arrived at Palakkad Junction on Thursday.

This train was signalled using the ball token instrument for the last time from Palakkad Junction at 7.40 a.m. and at 7.55 a.m. at Palakkad Town station, Railways sources said.

With the non-interlocking work coupled with remodelling of yard at Palakkad Junction station progressing, the ball token instrument system for signalling trains has been replaced completely.

But Railways personnel will always remember this unique system with a twinge of nostalgia. The signal instrument was invented by J.E. Neale, who was the Telegraph Superintendent of the erstwhile Great Indian Peninsular Railway of the Pre-Independent Indian Railway System.

Mr. Neale was the son of John Neale who was the Telegraph Superintendent of the North Staffordshire Railway. It was installed on “Single Line sections in the Staffordshire section.” Designed by Neale, an engineer with the then Great Indian Peninsular Railway (presently Central Railway), it is an electro-mechanical instrument provided at each station on single line railway sections. It ensures safety in train operations by dispensing tokens which are handed over to train drivers as authority to enter a block section. The tokens are spherical steel balls, which are issued in such a manner that only one token can be issued for one direction at a time after ensuring that previous train has already cleared the section and there is no other train between the stations. Each station has one such instrument for each direction, which are electrically connected to similar instruments provided at the adjoining stations on either side. This ensures that only one train can enter the block sections at a time.

The arrangement consists of the usual pair of electrically connected instruments. In each of them, there is supply of balls, lying in four columns fed from the top by a zig-zag path. All of the columns lead to the issuing aperture seen on the bottom left, through which a token is delivered. The outlet is closed by the ‘handle.’

From 1933, the erstwhile South Indian Railway adopted the Neale’s Block Instrument in its Metre Gauge Single Line sections. Soon, it emerged as one of the best safety devices/block instruments in train signalling system.

Two types of Neale’s Block Instruments were used. One is ‘Ball’ token instrument and another is ‘Tablet’ token instrument. Following the advancements made in signalling and telecommunication engineering, higher version and computer-controlled ‘Tokenless block instruments’ are in place for signalling and for train operations from one station to another.


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