Lower Hutt - Melling Signalling History

Today Lower Hutt - Melling is a boring section of railway but the changes to the signalling over the years offer an interesting insight into NZGR signalling practice.

Note that the Melling loop was north of the present station, with the south end points in the middle of what is now the road to the Melling bridge. The present road bridge was opened in 1957 and replaced an earlier suspension bridge several hundred metres north.

Melling diagram


The date is that on the S & I - not necessarily the date the changes were commissioned.

Pre 1922 Passengers

1922 Switchlock Siding at Melling

1927 Melling converted to an Unattended Crossing Station

1940 Prepare To Reduce To Medium Speed indication introduced at Lower Hutt

1954 Melling Loop Closed

1958 Control Transferred to Petone Signal Box.

1983 One Signal Remains

1996 No signals

2014 Signal Returns

Melling Pre 1922

Opened for Passengers.
Rail Heritage Trust of NZ document Dates_and_names.pdf states that Melling was opened for passengers on 11/1903.

Melling Siding.
Evening Post 11th Dec 1908 refers to the Melling Settlement.

Evening Post 2nd October 1909 refers to the Melling Siding.

Does this mean that the siding was installed in early 1909?

Was this a loop or single ended siding for ballast traffic?

Melling a Station.
The Dominion 20th March 1911 quotes the Minister of Railways as saying that Melling has been a station for only 12 months.

Ballast Siding. Evening Post 9th April 1915 - In response to a request made by the board [Hutt River Board] to the Railway Department, the District Engineer wrote to the effect that the shifting of the ballast siding in in the riverbed at Melling would be carried out by the Department on the board executing the agreement in connection with the working of the pit.

Melling pre 1922

Melling A Halt. Evening Post 10th July 1909.. BROUGHT BEFORE THE MINISTER. Air. Wilford, M.P., besought the Minister for Railways last night to have a shelter shed for passengers erected at Melling's siding, in the Hutt Valley, and also to have a plank for passengers put over a cattle stop in the vicinity. The Minister agreed to have the plank of Mr. Wilford's political platform attended to, but he expressed a belief that if a shelter shed was put up the department would be pestered, almost immediately, with requests to have the place declared a station. He considered it was too close to the Hutt station to permit of that being done. Mr. Wilford suggested that the shelter shed could be put up on a specific condition that the place would not be declared a station

Switchlocked Siding - 1922

Single Line Automatic. In 1922 Single Line Automatic Signalling (SLA) with upper quadrant semaphores was commissioned between Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt.

Melling was a switchlocked siding approximately 1700 yards north of Lower Hutt in the Lower Hutt - Pitcaithly's section. The siding was equipped with safety-trap points and points indicators at each end. Lower Hutt was a permanent signal-cabin with a ground frame at the north end.

Terminating Trains. The following appeared in the Evening Post on 11th May 1927:

In connection with the request that the 4.40 train be run on to Melling the Railway Department points out that the present siding facilities at Melling station preclude the request being acceded to, Melling is not equipped as a crossing station, and single line working operates beyond Lower Hutt. The fact that no crossing is involved at Melling in the morning enables the new 7.53 a.m. train to be dispatched from that station. In the evening the extension of the 4.40 p.m. train to Melling would detrimentally affect the running of other trains which carry heavy passenger traffic. A liberal train service is being provided in connection with the opening of the new Hutt line, and the fact that tickets will be interchangeable by either route will give Melling residents a much improved train service.

Lowwer Hutt 395

Points Indicators. Note that according to the list of symbols in Semaphore To CTC an open square is a Woods sleeper lock. However, S & I 395 (September 1922) states that:

At service, private or ballast sidings, and sidings off loop lines, points indicators will work with safety-trap points at both ends of all such sidings......

I have therefore interpreted the open square symbol as a points indicator.

Comments And Questions

  • Up intermediate 872 was normal clear (usual practice) but Down intermediate 873 was normal caution because the normal position of 2 Lower Hutt Down Home Main Line was Stop. Was 873 electrically interlocked with the Down Home signal?
  • Did the Lower Hutt signalmen have any indication of an approaching Down train? Unlike Tablet or Lock & Block territory a signalman did not know if a down train was in the adjacent section - it could have been anywhere between Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt.
  • The Lower Hutt Down Home signal may have been a power operated two position semaphore. The diagrams are unclear.
  • Trains could cross at Melling if one was locked in the siding. The train in the siding could not leave until the other train was clear of the Lower Hutt - Pitcaithly's section.
  • Signal 32 was called an Advance Starter - the term Departure must have come into use later.
  • There were more than one set of intermediate signals - was the installation more correctly described as Automatic Permissive Block (APB)?

Unattended Crossing Station - 1927

Unattended Crossing Station. In 1927 Melling was converted to an unattended crossing station in Single Line Automatic territory. The Lower Hutt - Pitcaithly's section was split into two: Lower Hutt - Melling and Melling - Pitcaithly's. Intermediate signals 872 and 873 were dispensed with.

Melling Ballast-Pit. The 1927 S & I shows a siding off the loop at Melling.

Evening Post 29th July 1931 - The engineer reported that the reconstruction of the Melling railway siding and the small bridge had been completed. A good job generally had been carried out, and the siding was now ready for Iho ballast trains. The estimated cost had been 220, and the work had actually cost approximately 221. This was also considered satisfactory by the board [Hutt River Board].

Melling Unattended

Power Frame At Lower Hutt - 1940

Lower Hutt Changes. In 1940, as a result of road construction, the Lower Hutt signal box was replaced with a power frame in the station building. The mechnical two-position semaphores were replaced with three-position Upper Quadrant semaphores and the points were converted to power operation. 32 Up Advance Starter and the ground frame and cross-over were removed.

New Indication. 1 Up Home at Lower Hutt was able to show the new indication Prepare to Reduce To Medium Speed. Signal 1 displayed medium speed to the loop so I assume the new indication was for the scissors crossover (not shown).

Departure. The up signal controlling entry into the single line section was classed as a Departure signal, rather than as a Starter. Low speed lights replaced the mechanical shunting signals. Pilot keys and telephones were shown on the diagram.br>

Melling Ballast-Pit. The 1940 S & I shows a siding off the loop at Melling. The following instruction is in the 1947 Working Timetable (WTT):

Traffic will be worked to and from the siding on behalf of the Maintenance Branch and Hutt Rver Board. Loaded wagons are to be drawn from ballast-pit. The ganger of the length will advise the Stationmaster, Lower Hutt, if at any time the pit is unsafe for working.

melling 1940

The 1947 WTT also included the following instruction:

Special Push Plunger at Melling A special push plunger marked "A" is provided in a lock-up box on the releasing switch box standard, located near the "Down" main line points, at Melling for the purpose of allowing the "Up Departure" signal at Melling to be replaced from the "Clear" to the "Stop" position, thus allowing the "Down Departure" signal at Andrews (Pitcaithly's) to go to the "Clear" position after a train or engine has shunted outside the "Down" main line points at the former station. Guards of all trains terminating at Melling must, after the engine has run from the main line to the loop or vice versa, in the process of reversing, use the plunger. The opening of the switchlock door will cancel improper use of the plunger.

Melling Loop Closed - 1954

Melling Loop Closed. Melling loop and the section north to Haywards was closed; colour light signals installed; a new Melling passenger station built to the south and the branch was electrified. 9 Down Departure (Melling) was controlled from Lower Hutt. 24 Up Home (Melling) worked automatically - the low speed indication was cleared on the approach of each train whether the Melling platform is occupied or not.

Instructions from S & I 690 (February 1954):

For the purpose of lifting disused track north of Melling by work trains "All Trains Stop" boards have been provided for trains in both directions. Permission to pass these boards must be obtained by telephone from the Lower Hutt Signalman.

For the time being the loop and other track connections at Lower Hutt not shown on the diagram will remain and turnouts not in use wil be secured for the running road.

Single Line Automatic Signalling. Melling - Lower Hutt is a "block section". Regulation 18(a) in the 1943 Rule Book defines block section as - the section of single line extending between any two adjoining crossing stations.

Regulation 34 Crossing Orders does not apply to the the Lower Hutt - Melling section.

Lower Hutt 690

Control Transferred To Petone - 1958

Lower Hutt Signal Box Closed. In 1958 control of the Melling Branch was transferred to the Petone Signal Box.

The Lower Hutt yard remained (points at Wellington end of station) but the Lower Hutt to Hutt Valley Junction section was now single track.

Station Limits. The Branch was now within Petone Station limits so the down Departure signal was reclassified as an Outer Home. The practical effect of this was that it was no longer necessary to issue a Mis.59 Authority To Pass Departure Signal At Stop to authorise a train to depart Melling on a Stop signal.

Station limits are not defined in the S&I circular. The text attached to the S&I states:

For the purpose of the Rules and Regulations, Melling, Lower Hutt and Petone will comprise one interlocked station under the control of the Signalman, Petone.

I cannot find any reference to Station Limits in the 1943 Rule Book, which was applicable at the time.

Lower Hutt 824

One Signal Remains - 1983

Melling Up Home Removed. The Melling Up Home signal was removed, leaving just 80 Down Outer Home. This change coincided with the removal of all structures at Lower Hutt and the closure of the Lower Hutt yard. In 1927 there had been nine semaphore posts with ten arms in this section.

Push To Return. Many years ago I remember seeing a push button on the up platform at Petone to set the route for Melling. I cannot remember the year. A similar button is still in place at Melling, although long out of use.

Station Limits. Station limits are not defined in the S&I diagram. Signal 80 is an Outer Home so applying definition 2(h) in the 1965 Rules and Regulations Melling station is outside Petone station limits. However, the text attached to the S&I states:

For the purpose of the Rules and Regulations, Melling, Lower Hutt and Petone will comprise one interlocked station under the control of the Signalman, Petone.

In September 1990 the Lower Hutt - Melling section was identical (S&I 2142).

Lower Hutt 1969

No Signalling: One Train Working - 1996

Last signal removed. By 1996 the signal at Melling had been removed.

Track Circuits. All track circuiting was removed from the Melling Branch. The signalling at Hutt Valley Junction was modified so that a train was "checked in" as it entered the Branch and "checked out" as it returned to the main line. This was based on the setting of the points at the main line crossover and the occupancy of certain track circuits.

All telephones were removed - a change which was also made in the rest of the network following the introduction of radio.

Station Limits. Station Limits are not defined in the S&I diagram. Applying definition 33(b) in the 1988 Rules Melling is within Petone station limits.

No Authority. Melling - Wellington trains may have operated without authority.

Lower Hutt 2500

A Signal Returns - 2014

Petone Re-signalled. In 2013 Petone was re-signalled, Petone Box closed on Tuesday 24th December 2013 and Train Control assumed control of the Branch from Thursday 26th December 2013. Axle counters were installed on the Melling Branch. A signal was installed at Melling, after an absence of about seventeen years.

Station Limits. Station limits are defined on the S&I diagram. The Branch, including Melling, is within Petone station limits.

Signal 203 is classed as a director so Melling Station is clearly within Petone Station Limits - in earlier years the down signal at this location was classed as an Outer Home which confused the issue.

Melling signal returns

Last Updated: Thur 23rd January 2014

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