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South Kensington

South Kensington

Whilst there is nothing particularly remarkable about this location, there are a number of features that make it of interest.

Firstly it is, particularly during the tourist season and school holidays, a very busy location as it is located near attractions such as the Natural History and Science Museums. It is also an interchange station with the Piccadilly Line and, for westbound passengers, is where the District and the Circle Lines diverge.

But from the point of view of the railway, there are a number of features that make it of interest, some of which are illustrated in the photos below which are courtesy of Phil Wimbush.

Again, to assist in your orientation of the layout of the station, and the signals to which I refer, the following diagram will be of some assistance. Please click on the image itself if you wish to view the 'full size' version.

This picture contrasts well with the more historical style of Train Describer boards as shown on the Earls Court page of this section! It is the current style of 'dot matrix' board and shows an indication not only of several trains and but when they are expected to arrive - again, nothing particularly remarkable about that!

However, if you ever use the station, you may have seen the board suddenly clear itself and the word 'CORRECTION' appear.  This is because this is the first point where the signaller is able to intervene and correct either an incorrect destination or to reflect a re-routing of a train - there are only certain points where this can be done. 

In this picture we are looking towards the west end of the platform, so towards the front of the train. The view that the driver has is of two signals; a conventional station starter and the - a short distance down the tunnel ahead - the 'advance starter' which is also where the District and Circle Lines diverge, so it has a junction indicator associated to it. Normally a driver won't leave the station until he sees the advance starter clear and display the correct route. A Circle driver can only accept his correct route - once he is past the advance starter he's committed to the route he's accepted.  District trains can accept the route the Circle line normally use as they can be put back onto the District road just west of Gloucester Road station, but this is only done occasionally, and the driver would query the route before accepting it.  If the signaller needs to take a 'release' on the advance starter (see the explanation of this on the Earls Court page) the driver will usually remain in the platform, rather than sit in the tunnel ahead; this is more comfortable for the passengers and also helps to prevent congestion building up on the platform.

Although not illustrated in this picture, it is also possible for a train to reverse from this platform, in passenger service, back eastbound.  There is a wrong road starter and monitors at the east end of this platform; their use and purpose is similar to that described on the High Street Kensington page.

This is the station starter on the eastbound platform and much of the equipment is as described in the Earls Court section and which can be accessed by clicking on the image above.

The one piece of equipment shown though that has not been mentioned elsewhere is the 'black box' to the right of the Rail Gap Indicator.  This is the Tunnel Telephone - the red and blue labels attached read 'Private' and Tunnel Telephone' respectively.  In the event of the driver (or other staff) requiring an emergency discharge of traction current the use of this telephone not only gives them direct communication to the Line Controller, but will also discharge the traction current in the section.

It is also possible for a driver to reverse his train back to the westbound, though the procedure is not that of a 'wrong road' starter, and would not be carried out with passengers on board the train.  He would detrain the train and, when this signal cleared, he would depart towards Sloane Square. As he moved towards Sloane Square he reaches a board which states 'Limit of Shunt' where he would stop, secure his train and then proceed to the cab at the other end of the train.  He would then see a shunt signal, and he would wait for this to clear. Once he did he could then bring the train back into the westbound platform at South Kensington, obeying the other signals that he will see en route.

Just by the signal illustrated above is the IMR - the Interlocking Machine Room. You may notice that the letters 'EF' are displayed which is the same as the cabin code of the signal in the previous picture.  The IMR is - effectively - the Cabin.

Tubeprune describes IMR's and their purpose as follows:

"Until the late 1950s, all controlled areas were operated by signal cabins, employing one or more staff to set up routes and record the passage of trains. Since then, there has been a gradual move to centralised control rooms, starting first with the Northern Line and then spreading to most of the rest of the system. There are now very few signal cabins left on London Underground. They have been replaced by Interlocking Machine Rooms (IMRs) and the modern equivalents, Signal Equipment Rooms (SERs). Both are local sites containing all the equipment necessary to control the area but they are remotely controlled from a control centre. The Bakerloo line, for example, has its control centre at Baker Street and the Jubilee Line's is at Neasden"

Visible below the sign is a blue box which carries the following on the attached label: 'Scotch and Clips for use by PSD and emergency use only' (PSD means Passenger Service Directorate - basically operational staff who are trained and licensed to use the equipment).  The purpose of these items are to secure (lock in position) points to enable trains to proceed with the appropriate authority where the signal protecting the points has failed. 

The Scotch is a wooden block that is placed between the running rail and the points blade that is needed to be kept open.  The clip looks similar to a 'G' clamp and this is placed under the running rail and clamps the point blade that needs to be kept closed. Once this has been done and the driver is authorised, he can then move his train though he must visually check that a) the points have been correctly secured in his favour and b) the scotch and clip have been correctly fitted.

These blue boxes will be found at all locations where points are installed and there are sufficient supplies at each such location for the numbers of sets of points installed there.

Update added 31 May 2004

Another feature which I should have made mention of but had overlooked until reminded by one of my readers (thank you Ian) was that, at one time, there were four platforms here.  One is still clearly visible from the eastbound platform, the other can be made out (and the architecture too) from the westbound platform. Both were on the 'other side' of the existing island type platform.

In his e-mail to me Ian said 'I was always fascinated with the disused outer platforms - testimony of the Metropolitan and District Metropolitan's rivalry - and trying to spot the site of the loco shed east of the station from those far back pre-electric days.'

In his book 'Going Green' Piers Connor has a great picture on page 7 of South Kensington Station as it was in the 1890's which helps to put this into better perspective. I believe that the site of the loco shed was on the site of the Permanent Way team cabins to the east of the station; above these are still occupied by London Underground at Pelham Street.  I've visited there a couple of times and certainly at the rear of the building the architecture certainly appear to match that of the old station structure.

It is an interesting area, and some point I'm going to try to get there with my camera to get some pictures to illustrate this.


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