Page 457
Previous/Next Page
Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways
i Location of the Railway
ii Track
iii Bridging and Tunnelling
iv Dams for Engine Water
v Locomotives and Rolling Stock
vi Signalling and Telecommunications
vii 1900/1988-The New Century
viii The Garratt Locomotive
ix Steam Locomotive Practice
x Motor Railcars
xi Signalling
xii Electric Tramways
xiii Electric Railways - Direct Current
xiv Electric Railways - 25 kV ac
xv Diesel Traction
xvi Alignment and Track
xvii Operations

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



Contact us

Signalling and Telecommunications

Throughout the Victorian era, Australia's railway signalling and telecommunication technology was solidly English. There was little real novelty or innovation but again, much in evolution, adaptation and for the thinly trafficked conditions in Australia, simplification.

In one area, however, Australian standards were consistently high -the fundamental attitude towards safety in equipping the railway and its trains, and in framing its operating rules. The head on crash between two goods trains at Emu Plains N.S.W. in 1878 is as convenient a watershed as any to divide the earlier happy-go-lucky era of Australian railway working from the genesis of today's modern railway safety, with interlocked signals and points, working of trains in protected blocks (of distance), and air brakes. The inspiration was the British Board of Trade Rules; the pressure came from the public through Government ownership; the driving force to implement and police the new systems came from the British trained engineers consistently found in the senior management positions of the railways themselves. Thus Australia did not go through the period that America did from 1870 to 1920, where mounting traffics, train weights and speed were paralleled by inadequate signalling rules and often poor staff discipline. Predictably, this resulted in a depressingly frequent cycle of serious moving train accidents, including head on collisions -even though the American systems were fully air braked many years before Australia's.

Outside the suburban areas, signalling technology as such played a relatively small part in this achievement in safety. Insistence upon space interval block working or on carrying a baton to enter a single line section were coupled with the electric telegraph and a modest level of station signals and key locked points. These simple systems were all that were needed for most Australian lines to be as safe as those in the U.K. and in statistical terms demonstrably safer than those in much of Europe, the Americas and elsewhere.

People in Bright Sparcs - Macfarlane, Ian B.

Previous Page Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Next Page

© 1988 Print Edition pages 465 - 466, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher