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Visit to Somerleyton bridge

Most of us have, at times, suffered a delayed VHF reply from the Bridge operators at both Somerleyton and Reedham and we all have a bit of a moan about the delay.

In fact I raised a complaint about it with the Network Rail management.

To cut a longish story short on 21st November four Club members, - Keith Rowe, Geoff Eason, Andrew Beale and I, - were invited by the local Operations Manager for Network Rail, Adrian Webb, and Carl the duty signalman at Somerleyton to visit the Signal and Control box at the Somerleyton Swing Bridge. They provided a guided tour, showing us their domain, the work involved in operating the bridge and ensuring the safety of all users.

A few facts:

The bridge was built in 1905 to replace a previous single track bridge.

The bridge is manned 24/7 using a 3 watch system.

There are normally 50 train crossings in a 24 hour period, sometimes, due to summer specials, more than that.

In summer there are about 20 openings per day for river traffic.

The bridge takes about 5 minutes to open (or close) but can be “safety locked” when a train is on the line between Lowestoft or Reedham and Somerleyton. When the line is clear and the signalman has decided that it is safe to open the bridge the locking pins need to be unlocked, the bridge raised about 100mm to allow the swing. The swing is then activated. The windless motor started and speed controlled and, when the bridge is “OPEN”, stopped. If left to its own devices like all good windlasses it will continue to pull and the bridge will carry on to complete a 360º turn.

Closing the bridge is a reverse run, stopping at the right place to ensure that the bridge is in the correct position for the locking pins to engage.

The Signalman has overall control of the bridge, the local rail signals, all the unmanned crossing on the fields and marshes and is responsible for all aspects of safety within his area of control.

In the 90 minutes we were in the signal box, 3 trains passed over the bridge and they received at least 6 phone calls.  For each train there is a bell system with one ring for the bridge to accept the train and is answered by two rings from the signal box to the previous station.  The signal box must then send one bell ring to the next station and receive two rings in return to confirm all is clear for the train to proceed.  Whilst we were there we realised how much VHF channel 12 chatter is received giving details of all the Yarmouth port movements including pilot boats so the signal man needs a lot of concentration and often he has no option but to turn their VHF volume down.  This is one of the main reasons we often do not get an immediate response when we call up the bridges to request an opening.  They also told us all VHF radio traffic to the bridges is recorded.

We learned a lot during our time at Somerleyton Bridge.

Train drivers have their own comms system to the bridges.

At Somerleyton Tuesday is maintenance day.

There is a 1:80 gradient on the railway approach to the bridge.

They do have a set of Summer rails for the bridges but, due to cut backs these are no-longer used.

The Environment Agency stopped Network Rail from pumping river water on the bridge to keep the temperature and rail expansion down during hot weather. It may wash oil off the rails in to the river.

The duty signalman is quite a busy person and can’t always answer VHF as quickly as boaters think he should.

A suggested call up system would be:

1.       Call on VHF ch12 (max 3 calls)

         Call Signs are “Somerleyton Swing Bridge” and “Reedham Bridge”

2.       Then a phone call

         Somerleyton Bridge 01502 730510      Reedham Bridge 01603 675372

         If this fails

3.       make 3 blasts on the ships hooter.

And then from us boaters to them when you’re clear of the bridge a call on the VHF to say “Thank you”. It may not be in the voice procedure manual but it does work.

We suggested to Adrian Webb, the Operations Manager, that he might be able to persuade Network Rail to use another VHF channel for Bridge communications. They could for example use one of the intership channels. This would cut down the chatter from ch12 and perhaps make life a little easier for the duty signalman.

It goes almost without saying that the 4 visitors are now converts to the Signalman’s view point and won’t complain so much when a VHF call is not so promptly answered.

 

 

 

Eastern Region Parties

44 people attended the Christmas party on December 3rd at RN&SYC. It was good to have such turnout so this may become an annual event. Three members came in their boats, two by sea and many stayed overnight at the club.

The Laying Up Supper on November 9th attracted 22 people to enjoy the Taster Menu cooked by students at City College. An excellent evening organised by Carole and Geoff Eason.

On November 21st 4 members were privileged to have a visit to Somerleyton bridge to see behind the scenes. Many of us based on the Broads suffer from an apparent lack of curtesy by the swing bridges so it is interesting to hear the other side. Robert Middleton organised this and the group report is on the Eastern Region events page, or click HERE to go straight to the article. 

Eastern Region Christmas Party etc

As there is time to fit another event in this year it has been decided to try something new-a Christmas Party-to be held on 3rd December at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. The menu is one of the best we have had. Just a tip, they have a chef there now who makes wonderful meat pies, proper pies with top and bottom. Orders and payment should be phoned direct to the club, not me, by midday 29th November, Monday to Friday 9-6 and Saturday 9-2. Please let me know if you have not received the email with all the details.

For anyone needing overnight accommodation there are rooms at the club and there is the Hatfield Hotel nearby-01502 565337. The Intrepids will be going in their boats of course!
I hope you will be able to come.
Secondly the 2017 AGM will be held in Norfolk. We have nearly completed a deal with a hotel near Norwich and this will be announced at this year's AGM. As there is no longer a National Events Coordinator the organising falls to the Region so if anyone would be prepared to do this please let me know. There are plenty of helpers lined up, including two other committee members who now live in the area so it just needs someone to mastermind the thing.
Lastly we have all had problems with Reedham and Somerleyton bridges at times but now Robert Middleton has been in touch with Network Rail and is preparing to do battle. What he needs is examples of poor service so if you have a problem please text details to Robert at 07754 916078.

Eastern Region Beccles Weekend

24 boats including Broom Chairman Martin Scot in a large Broom hire boat attended over the Bank Holiday weekend. We had a BBQ on the Saturday evening and a Dinner at Waveney Hotel Sunday. There were daytime ammusements including a fiendish treasure hunt devised by Carole and Keith Rowe, afternoon tea with beautiful cakes such as these baked and iced by Joan Haigh-shown in the photo here.

Also a Sea Safety talk with examples of equipment by Terry Corner, the Sea Safety Officer of Harwich RNLI and a liferaft demonstration on the water by Henry Carter, an RYA instructor and Lowestoft Lifeboat Operations Manager. Great fun and due to popular demand we have reserved all the moorings and the hotel for next year's August Bank Holiday. There was criticism of Sunday's menu so that will upgraded .Details will be issued next year but please note that moorings will  only be bookable  through Jane Neale, and the Harbourmaster will refer you back to her regarding the Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday. Once again a fantastic job by Jane.

Broom Boats East Coast Cruise

Six boats took part,leaving Brundall on 15th June and meeting for dinner in Lowestoft that evening. We set off for Woolverstone 10am the next morning, arriving 2pm, sea state improving along the way. Next stop on the 17th was Titchmarsh, the approach channel for which was quite tortuous, followed by Burnham on Crouch on the 18th. Next day we sailed to Shotley Marina, intending to return to Lowestoft on the 20th. The weather put paid to that so we stayed another night at Woolverstone then went straight back to Brundal in near perfect conditionsl on the 21st arriving 4pm.

Read more: Broom Boats East Coast Cruise

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