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David T. - Meet the Team

Fifth in our meet the team blog post and currently our new newest member of staff at MRW.

Forty five years working in “full” size railway businesses, switch and crossing manufacturer as Estimator / Draughtsman, Production Controller, Supervisor, Production Services Manager and finally Operations Director.

Typically we would translate a 1:200 customer drawing into a 1:50 layout drawing and associated production documentation, procure all materials needed, build the layout, arrange inspection by the client and then arrange shipment by road or rail in a way that what is unloaded first is what is needed first and the right way round to allow it to be put back together in a fraction of the time it took to build in our yard.

Points for St Pancras Station

My role on this layout destined for St Pancras throat was to order all the component parts so that it could be built in a timely fashion and be delivered into its planned possession.

In the early 1980’s all purchase requisitions were written out by hand and all purchase orders typed on three part forms. For its dispatch you had the choice of a 40’ trailer or a 60’ trailer, each had a maximum weight that could be carried and this was worked out in tons, undredweights, quarters and pounds.

Layouts travelling to destination by rail were transhipped into wagons ensuring wagon numbers and contents were noted and that switches in particular were loaded the right way round as it was very unlikely they could be turned around on site.

Imagine being asked just as your first two road trailers left the yard for the local railhead – “do you think we could have this layout by road (Sheffield to South of M25) in two days – we don’t think it will arrive on time if it goes by rail?

So that’s 250+ tons needing 15 – 20 trailers that need loading now!

Of course we did it – that’s what a good team can do. We never missed a possession.

Working for a different company introduced me to some smaller trackwork, turnouts for the UK mining industry, 2’-0” to 3’-6” gauge, sometimes cable hauled wagons needing guidance rollers fitting mid gauge otherwise loco hauled. Similar but very different dispatch arrangements applied to this industry – layouts had to be able to be dismantled into pieces small enough to be slung beneath the cage for delivery down the shaft to its point of use.

My next employment was with British Railways – as a Senior Technical Officer in the regional track design office in Birmingham – this introduced me to track surveying – Hallade surveys were such fun – walking upto 2 or 3 miles bent over measuring the versine every 20 yards. Then came EDM or total station surveys where xyz coordinates of the running edges were determined electronically every 20 metres along both rails of a junction and at least a hundred metres past the extent of the junction to allow a proper “tie in” to be designed.

In those days the majority of surveys were carried out under traffic with just a lookout man with a trumpet for protection. I only experienced one incident, it would have been described as a close call in today’s language. Caught half way along a viaduct south of Northampton no refuge to get to so I threaded myself around the hand railings on the viaduct wall while the train passed at line speed.

Back in the design office the Principle Scientific Officers were using the MOSS system to pick up XYZ coordinates from the survey and producing new centreline alignment designs for proposed works for line speed improvements or junction upgrades.

The detailed 1:200 switch and crossing junction designs were then drawn on by hand using coordinate geometry calculations and radius curves to join the dots up.

Coordinate geometry was either worked out long hand, sometimes with a programmable calculator or for the really adventurous with a spreadsheet – yes they had just been invented.

For a number of years I had my own business working as a Permanent Way Design Engineer either under contract to others or winning small design jobs in my own right.

One of my longer term contracts was on Route 7 of the West Coast Route Modernisation on this I was one of a number of track designers as well as a QA inspector of Switch & Crossing units manufactured for this project.

One of my junction designs shown above is a CEN60 turnout design which has to tie into existing CEN56 track geometry. By this time software had been developed to utilise the xyz survey data and build standard configuration turnouts modified to suit through line geometry into the alignment designs. Inrail and MX Rail were two examples of this software.

It is within the nature of contract work that contracts are sometimes abruptly terminated, during one of these periods of no railway work to be had, I qualified as an HGV driver with a HIAB ticket and had quite a few adventures delivering and picking up weird and wonderful things from all over the UK and Ireland. The image below shows three different jobs, and was the first and only time I managed to merge different images into one using Photoshop. (Other editing software is available)

I took a wheeled tar boiler to the top of a mountain in Wales so that a dam wall could be re-coated, I transported and helped erect a display sign for new industrial units adjacent to the M18 in Humberside and delivered children’s playground equipment to a country park in deepest darkest Staffordshire.

I eventually left work on the railways, privatisation and pressure from construction companies to minimise work content so they could do the work in the time allocated was more than frustrating – design criteria for a good alignment to perform properly for a good number of years seems to be less important than being black listed for not finishing the job on time.

So started a five year spell as a teacher of Design Technology and Engineering – that was the plan anyway. Along the way I found myself in charge of a Drama class, Taught IT and Art for a year in one school as well as D&T / Engineering. I wrote a short play to highlight the need for responsibility taking in manufacturing companies but every time I used it – the person I had in mind (usually the most awkward student) to be the company director and get sent to jail - managed not to turn up on the day!

It didn’t take long to realise that a job as a teacher was no longer about the craft of teaching – politics, policy changes and general stupidity encountered in the management of academies was not the place for me.

Back to working on the railways – and perhaps the most satisfying job I’ve had (after my 17 years in manufacturing) was spent working for the track enhancement section of the Southern Region as was.

A typical question that landed on your desk might be:-

Can you design a scheme to provide 2 two new platforms at this station for 8 car units? Or

Can you design a grade separated junction at these two locations to remove signalling conflicts and improve service reliability?

Track design is the first point of call on such schemes – when you have a layout that works within the rules and at the linespeed’s required, Civil’s have to be allowed a look to see if it can be built and Signalling have to see if they can make it work. Then follows a bit of too and frow to make a scheme that works for everyone, then you put together a suite of design drawings and make a joint presentation to the client and or project sponsor.

Since joining MRW in January of 2024 David has been busy working on a number of trackwork projects some of which are shown bellow.

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