Watercress Line

Ladybirds on the Line

S & T Report - Monday 6 January 2014

A depleted S & T "Monday Gang" dragged themselves out of bed today on yet another wet and windy winters morning looking for moderate exercise to lose some of those pounds gained through over indulgence during the Christmas period. Several fault messages had been logged by signalmen relating to telephone problems with the Signal Post Telephones (SPT’s) at Alresford so it was therefore definitely going to be a "Phoo Phoo" day. Before you try to Google this, let me explain. Tradition has it (so I am told) that when telecoms engineers attend a telephone fault and find no dialling tone, the first thing they do is to blow twice into the mouth piece (a phoo phoo sound) and if they hear it in the ear piece, this proves that the phone is not completely dead.

The first task was to attend to a reported SPT problem adjacent to the position light shunt signal in the sidings at Alresford. The signalman had reported that the caller could hear the signalman , but not the other way round. This proved to be an easy problem to fix as the amplifier in the SPT handset was at fault. A replacement unit was fitted and tested. Must be time for the obligatory Monday morning donut – forget about over indulgence for the time being!

The second problem reported was a very noisy line when calling in from the SPT at the Alresford Down Outer Home signal, some 974 yards from the signal box. Yours truly ‘trotted’ out to this signal, at a sedate pace, with Ron and Ken back at the signal box to test the line. When I got there, I found that the signal post telephone was as dead as a dodo - as were many of the hundreds of ladybirds that had also been sheltering from the inclement weather inside the telephone enclosure. Having exposed the interior of the enclosure to daylight, I soon found just as many waking from their winter slumber. Having evicted as many bodies as possible I then changed the handset with a refurbished one and immediately made contact with the guys in the signal box but over a very noisy line. Our expert Ron, suspected a cable problem or ingress of water somewhere so decided to join me armed with a meter to start testing the circuit back towards the signal box. Expecting to find a low voltage at the phone end, we were both surprised at the full 50 volt reading we got. Tracing the problem further, we took the cover off the white plastic BT type connecter box (similar to the ones in your home) only to find it packed with dead and decaying ladybirds. Once these were cleared out the way and we had visibility of the small circuit board, the problem became evident. The moisture from the decaying insects had, over time, corroded part of the printed circuit whereby we were getting a much reduced voltage to the handset. A replacement circuit board was found in the spare stock at Medstead and once fitted, it was satisfying to once again talk to the signal box with crystal clear reception. A fault we will remember... a noisy signal post telephone may be due to ladybirds on the line!

Rod Wicks – S & T Dept.

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